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June, 2012

  1. A new Seventh Street and Roosevelt looms: part 1 of 2

    June 15, 2012 by Connor Descheemaker

    Back at the end of April, I first addressed the new development proposals for the Seventh Street corridor, reaching from Garfield to Portland Streets along the East side of the street.

    Just this week, after several months of talks with the City of Phoenix and Garfield neighborhood residents, representatives from Circle K and Vintage Partners (the two groups behind the two development proposals) attended and presented at the monthly Evans Churchill Neighborhood meeting.

    Below is the first in a two-part post on what I learned from the developers, focusing on Circle K’s proposed new location on the southeast corner of Seventh and Roosevelt. Check back in the coming days for part two on a newer, rougher proposal for the northeast corner of the same intersection.

    What should the entry to the Downtown look like? (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    The corner of Seventh and Roosevelt Streets, where these developments center, is an extremely vital corridor for all kinds of traffic.

    Going southbound, the road beckons travelers into Downtown Phoenix toward sports, offices, performance and dining. Going northbound, traffic leads to the freeway, which goes to the East and West Valleys, along with toward Midtown and Uptown via Seventh Street. Eastbound, Roosevelt Street enters the Garfield neighborhood, an historic working-class neighborhood, currently caught in the midst of gentrification, home to students, artists, immigrants and others. Westbound, Roosevelt provides entry to the Evans Churchill Neighborhood/Roosevelt Row, a growing arts community still beholden by numerous vacant lots.

    Two developers are currently aiming to entirely reface the intersection, reclaiming a set of run-down buildings and a long-running restaurant on the north side, and demolishing the former Llantera shop along the south.

    What the developers decide to do will no doubt set up the urban form of both neighborhoods it borders, and show visitors what Phoenix has to offer its drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

    The first to present at the meeting was a set of three representatives from Circle K Stores’ Arizona Division, sharing their vision for a new, greatly expanded gas station and convenience store taking up the entire southeast corner of Seventh and Roosevelt Streets.

    First and foremost, the new location would require flattening the recently-closed tire shop and its adjoining buildings, and replacing them with a large new 8-pump, 16-car-service gas station, most similar to the Circle K on Seventh and Buckeye according to the site’s planner.

    The site would not expand southward or take over the historic muffler shop and other buildings closer to Garfield Street.

    The current Circle K location on the northeast corner (deemed by many to be ill-fitting for the driving needs of the area) would be vacated, and left to an undetermined future use. Since the current location is leased rather than owned, it is out of Circle K’s control what happens to the site after the business is moved.

    The proposed new location, according to planners, is of a more “urban” design. Based on meetings with the Garfield neighborhood association, designers created an architectural plan to address the adjoining area’s history and character. This would be reflected in the convenience store’s arched roof and metal awning, and the entire property being given brick trim to match the surrounding homes’ construction.

    Along the back wall, the representatives noted the possibility of working with local artists to design a mural to beautify the alleyway of the store, something that has already been done at a Circle K in Tucson.

    The streets and auto entries to the plaza represent the greatest changes to the existing footprint of the corner.

    Designers plan to add shade trees and low-lying shrubs to the Seventh Street sidewalk, separating pedestrians and cyclists from traffic on one side, leaving a curb along the side of the gas station.

    Roosevelt Street, on the other hand, would see a much greater adjustment to its current design, with Circle K eating up a small plot of land currently designated to the City, and utilizing to expand landscaping and create a bus-designated zone, aimed at moving the bus out of the busy street to reduce traffic interference. This process, called abandonment, would transfer previously public land to Circle K to be used at their discretion.

    Finally, the alleyway would be moved back a few feet to accommodate the convenience store’s footprint. Through this and other driveway modifications, deliveries and other access points would be restricted to less-crowded entries to the complex along the south and northeast sides.

    The design, according to the representatives, should be considered 70-80% complete as of our viewing, with applications and designs currently beginning their approval process with the City of Phoenix. If all goes according to plan, the Circle K could be open in about a year’s time.

    The central criticisms of the project arose in regard to Circle K’s basic intent: a car-centric business at the entry to a supposedly pedestrian-centric downtown. Several attendees felt the very existence of such a mammoth gas station and convenience store to be antithetical to Downtown Phoenix, and specifically the visions of the Garfield neighborhood and Evans Churchill/Roosevelt Row.

    Additionally, attendee and transportation expert Sean Sweat voiced his concerns on the burial of the bus stop, thereby delaying the bus’s return into traffic and hurting scheduling.

    And now the discussion goes to you: does a development like this work within the vision for the future of Downtown Phoenix, specifically in the neighborhoods it adjoins? Can the character of the area be maintained with new construction, especially a gas station and convenience store?

    From a business perspective, Circle K’s current, tiny, crooked location on the northeast corner of Seventh and Roosevelt is ill-equipped to reach its maximum potential for the number of drivers which pass its pumps every morning and evening. But with two other gas stations nearby, does this new location serve the community in which it will be built?

    This new Circle K will certainly change the current view of Seventh and Roosevelt Streets. But how it does so is yet to be determined.