Saturday’s Second Annual Reincarnation Tour was just one recent Phoenix neighborhood-oriented event to demonstrate grass roots and partially goverment-funded revitalization efforts. The walking/biking tour focused on the Lower Grand Avenue corridor and featured several historic buildings adapted to a variety of new uses up to Fillmore Street.
Planner Leslie Dornfeld of PLAN-et and landscape architect Jim Coffman of Coffman Studio spoke about harnessing the Greening America’s Capitals program, a collaboration between the EPA, HUD, and DOT, through which Phoenix acquired some funds for the Lower Grand Ave. area in 2011. Boston, Indianapolis, and Washington, D.C., have also benefited from this program.
“First and Third Fridays are big and they’re sort of what make this place go,” Dornfeld said to a crowd of AEC industry people at Bragg’s Pie Factory. That’s thanks to the Grand Avenue Merchants Association (GAMA).
It Started with the People
“In 1998, a federally funded Weed and Seed project, which aimed to reduce violent crime by ‘weeding’ out offenders and ‘seeding’ community services, kick-started a partnership between city, federal, and state agencies, as well as the local faith community, residents, businesses, and nonprofits,” the Greening America’s capitals site reports. “This partnership has led to a 40 percent reduction in violent crime over the last 10 years.”
The city brought Dornfeld on to help plan for a more sustainable streetscape, making the corridor more ped- and bike-friendly and eco-kind. She incorporated charrettes, much like the City of Phoenix Planning and Development department is doing in its MyPlanPhx activities, right there are Bragg’s, the starting point for the Reincarnation Tour as well. In these charrettes Dornfeld asked the public’s opinions that led to or will lead to the following revitalization methods:
- improved street lighting
- benches and rubbish bins
- better parking (which Dornfield suggests accomplishing by painting diagonal parking stripes rather than adding new lanes, such as this BloomingRock blog post mentions)
- improved infrastructure for better capture stormwater runoff
- better wayfinding methods.
It’s a Biking Thing
Biking was a big part of the charrettes. That’s why Dornfeld and partner Jim Coffman, a landscape architect and principal of Coffman studio, have suggested something simple as a bucket of paint. Painting bike lanes, it appears, not only clearly delineates the spaces but also reduces the urban heat island effect.
Revitalizing this corridor increases economic development and makes the place safer, but it also keeps Phoenix’s history alive. Three other historical districts are nearby, and, like this, contain architecture dating back to a century ago. Two buildings along Grand are part of the National Register of Historic Places and the Phoenix Historic Property Register; five more are eligible for such listings. Helping the neighborhood preservation and improvements would demonstrate exactly what the City of Phoenix says about wanting to build character around the city. Supporting GAMA and the corridor’s development helps manifest the very Phoeinvention the city claims it wants.
Other Plans Invigorate Historical Charm
Tour participants enjoyed lunch at the new urban pizzeria Cibo, a nearly century-old bungalow adapted to a restaurant with several semi-private and outdoor spaces. Meanwhile Motley Design Group‘s Robert Graham gave an informal presentation of his adaptation of the house. He discussed the veritable ocean of unpainted wood his firm was able to salvage. He also discussed by the Grand Avenue Rail project, a proposal to bring a trolley along Grand and into downtown.
Personally, I hope there’s an economically feasible way to run it. I hope Dornfeld and Coffman can materialize their plans more fully. Both seem in line with the city’s claims to want to reinvent itself efforts. They would bring GAMA’s efforts to fruition. If done well– and without governmental pretzel logic– it seems a doozy of an economic boon to the city and the neighborhood.