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Seventh street corridor looking at transformation

April 27, 2012 by Connor Descheemaker

In the past several years, the Downtown-to-Midtown corridors along the 7’s have seen some major changes.

First, the legendary Emerald Lounge and original location of the Lost Leaf were forced to vacate their quarters in an historic brick building on the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and McDowell. The two local establishments would in time be replaced by a Starbucks and a Pei Wei, most recently joined by another neighborhood-favorite in SideBar.

More recently, along the north side of McDowell leading into Seventh Ave., the local flower shop, antique market, and Willo Bakery left the neighborhood. Then finally, the death blow came with the departure of My Florist Café and its famed grand piano, leaving many wondering about the impending fate of the “My Florist” sign which had dominated the corner for decades.

Currently, the property is in the throes of being remodeled, with a handful of temporary tenants in place and a Habit Burger outpost in development, just as the next-door property was leveled.

Across the street, the nondescript beige plaza once used for Tom Horne’s campaign headquarters was redeveloped into a fast-casual chain dining mecca, with a flashy new paintjob and expanded footprint. Where the small modern furniture outpost known as D.A.’s Modern once held sway, there is now a Five Guys Burgers, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Chipotle Mexican Grill, How Do You Roll? Sushi and locally-based chain ZoYo Neighborhood Yogurt. The first non-franchised tenant for the plaza is only now arriving in the form of Vovomeena, a new breakfast concept from DJ Fernandes of Tuck Shop and Astor House.

Now, a new major redevelopment is in the works at Seventh Street and Roosevelt.

Looking eastbound along Roosevelt Street toward Seventh, where the proposed development will be located. (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

Though details are still cloudy at the moment, this past Tuesday the Garfield Organization Revitalization & Economic Development Committee focused its monthly meeting on a new proposal that would transform the entire outlay of Seventh Street from Portland to Garfield.

The development is confirmed to include a massively expanded Circle K, replacing the current, smaller one already on the corner. As many as 20 pumps will now fill the corner, with hinted-at plans to create a restaurant plaza similar to the one at Seventh Avenue and McDowell.

Among the potential casualties for the new construction are the Llantera shop, bus depot, a barber shop, laundromat and most notably, the popular Tacos de Juarez, which features a well-known mural by local artist and neighborhood resident Lalo Cota.

Although none of the buildings are technically historic, this vital thoroughfare (already featuring three gas stations within two blocks, mind you) would be permanently reshaped. A gas station would now welcome residents and visitors into what is supposed to be Phoenix’s arts hub, and one of its oldest, most vital neighborhoods, Roosevelt Row and Garfield, respectively. A potentially-vital multi-modal transit corridor would be dedicated to the automobile for the long term.

Though nothing is set in stone at the moment, based on Phoenix’s history with such developments, things will begin moving very quickly.

And so, readers, what are your thoughts? I will continue to update you as plans for the development are revealed. Please feel free to notify me in the comments or via E-mail what has changed in the plans, along with who to contact with regard to questions on the development.

Blogger’s Note: The initial post read that the first local tenant to occupy the plaza at 7th Avenue and McDowell would be the new Tuck Shop venuture. It has come to my attention that ZoYo Neighborhood Yogurt is a locally-based chain currently in the process of expanding and franchising nationally. The post has been edited to reflect this error.


38 Comments »

  1. A 20-pump gas station is the antithesis of the walkable, bikeable type of neighborhood that should be cultivated in that area.

    • kate Kunberger says:

      I’m a Roosevelt Historic resident: you can imagine my chagrin when they plopped a suburban fast-food strip mall into the intersection of 4 of Phoenix’s premier historic neighborhoods! This new development (like the fast-food strip mall on 7th Ave) is obviously designed to service the commuters, not the downtown community. Listen PHX: We downtowners prefer bicycle shops to gas stations; Jobot to Starbucks; Carly’s to Quiznos. I’ve loved to see and have avidly supported the fabulous goings on in that area (Co-Hoots, 5th Street, Valley of the Sunflowers, Roosevelt Row). With one fell swoop, PHX once again erases the efforts of grassroots, neighborhood-based, local-livability centered development!
      Aargh PHX: one step forward, two steps backward.

  2. Tyler Hurst says:

    I cringe at the thought of this, but can we do everyone, especially those who aren’t in love with building solely because they’re old, a favor and stop talking about how beautiful or important the Garfield district is?

    For all that the Roosevelt area has done to improve itself over the years I’ve been here (and they’ve done a ton) Garfield is the same dump it has always been. Sure, there are highlights, but it’s mostly full of run-down buildings lived in by poor people (being poor does make a person bad, but it definitely prevents them from supporting the local art economy).

    Vote no against this Circle K expansion, but by god please stop lauding Garfield.

  3. olllllo says:

    Get the gas stations to pay for the remediation of the underground gas storage tanks in some of the abandoned locations throughout PHX including the Circles building.

    That might be a fair trade-off.

  4. Jill Christiansen says:

    I’d like to know who to contact about the development plans. We as residents have a duty and a right to fight for the image and sustainability of our city.

  5. Steve Weiss says:

    Good article with one mistake, ZoYO is an Arizona-based company,with corporate office in Chandler.

    • Connor Descheemaker says:

      Mr. Weiss,

      Thank you for the correction! I was unaware that their offices were in Phoenix. The post has been corrected to reflect your point.

      -Connor Descheemaker
      Blogger, Vanishing Phoenix
      (480)326-6551
      Connor.Descheemaker@asu.edu

  6. Miouo says:

    I don’t live in the Garfield district anymore but I am a nearly daily visitor to the area this article talks about. A giant Circle K would really not add any real value to the community and would just mean the other two gas stations would probably eventually close and leave more blight. I really hope the people who do live in the area have the desire and the power to stop the madness! :-/

  7. If this happens, it would prove that Phoenix isn’t a place worth living in.

  8. David Jensen says:

    The author needs to do a bit more research as the old gas station at 7th & McKinley IS HISTORIC as recognized by City with an historic overlay. However, this Circle K transforms gritty nasty blight into glossy spit-polished blight. The neighborhoods should oppose this monstrosity.

    • Connor Descheemaker says:

      Mr. Jensen,

      The development proposal I have heard talk of does not extend to 7th and McKinley, only from Portland to Garfield, as noted in my article. I am not aware of any plans to touch that particular building. The two gas stations within the boundaries I noted are relatively new builds.

      Thank you for your input.

      -Connor Descheemaker
      Blogger, Vanishing Phoenix
      (480)326-6551
      Connor.Descheemaker@asu.edu

  9. Julie Baier says:

    Agreed, this type of development is antithetical to the walk able, bike able downtown that many residents want and that would help business. Sens fled downtown for a property with free parking. Also, many of us are rabid localists, and will not support chain businesses.

  10. Dt8th says:

    The author is mistaken that those buildings to be demolished and replaced by a huge circle K are not historic. There are two huge historic buildings (the warehouse portion of the tire shop) hiding underneath the aluminum metal cladding. These are brick buildings dating back to at least the 30s. Instead of catering to commuters with gas pumps, these could be rehabbed similar to other great historic buildings to the south. Do not support this project Phoenix!!

    • Connor Descheemaker says:

      Dt8th,

      I stated in my post that the buildings are not technically historic. I am not denying that they are historic in terms of years, but according to the Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and any sort of certifying committee, they currently hold no value for preservation. This could change in the future (possibly with your work!), but at the moment they are not on any register for their historic merit.

      Thank you for your readership.

      -Connor Descheemaker
      Blogger, Vanishing Phoenix
      (480)326-6551
      Connor.Descheemaker@asu.edu

  11. Deaf258 says:

    We don’t need 20 gas pumps in Downtown area! I was bitterly disappointed when I saw the new development take away the original appearance of the old shops on 7th Ave & McDowell. If it keeps up, then people will see Phoenix as a ‘new’ city which lacks history. I don’t see how tourists would be attracted to Phoenix if there are nothing historical left to visit and look at. Smart to shoot Phoenix in the wings & feet!

  12. Scott Hohl says:

    Sweet! That Corner has been in dire need of a remodel for decades. It is touching to be in love with businesses like Agencia Llanteras, and buildings like the relocated schoolhouse housing Tacos de Juarez, but they are not what will bring economic activity to the area. The bigger gas station will be a boon, causing people to stop at that corner for gas instead of the station on the north side of Portland. And let’s face it, the lot is right next to the single biggest freeway entry to downtown. Like it or not, folks drive and need gas. They have to drive to come patronize any downtown business, so why not make it more convenient?
    If the warehouse portion of Agencia Llanteras can be converted into restaurants, like the development at 7th Ave and McDowell, that would be a great way to both preserve and enjoy the building. The bus depot and the little strip mall that used to house the N&M market and the laundromat are nothing worth preserving and I see nothing wrong with replacing them with something nicer. There is no way for busses headed south on 7th Street to enter the bus terminal, so they all turn right on Roosevelt and head down 6th street to make a U-turn. That is loud and unneeded traffic on 6th street.
    Add to all that the nice residential development directly behind this site, as well as others on Roosevelt, just east of this site, that are struggling and languishing. This development will greatly enhance their ability to attract new residents into downtown.
    All in all, I really see no down side to this and am very happy they are planning to do it.

    • No downside? haha – sounds like a Circle K shill.

    • FeelinRoosevelta says:

      Although I enjoy the look and feel of the old brick buildings I will support the leveling of the buildings this author has mentioned. A newer circle K, that many of you may despise, would be head and shoulders above the trash that we have now on that corner now. Also, im all for getting rid of the bus stop, the laundry mat, the barbershop (and the makeshift signs), and taco’s De Juarez! You all can’t be both for revitalization and preservation?!? If we want local business to survive we need more traffic. The traffic that is coming now to the OLD circle K and those businesses do not support our local shops. Sorry. Get with the times!!

  13. Jody Gnant says:

    Tyler / Steve and others:

    It’s nice to see your comments and representation here. Thank you for posting.

    Do any of you know if someone has yet built a forum for the neighborhood to continue discussions on these types of developments?

    It would be great if we all could continue these discussions somewhere.

    And since I’m not there every day, please please feel free to keep me posted on how I can help, or if there is vital information on this development.

    Thanks again.

    Jody Gnant

  14. PJ says:

    I live in Garfield and hope to live here for a long time. I also work at ASU and shop, go to the gym, attend Mercury games, and otherwise consciously spend the bit of money and time I have downtown. Too many don’t appreciate Garfield–and at least 1 individual above mentions it being a “dump” and that people are “poor” and so can’t support the local economy. Us “poor people” still have to buy things and we like beauty, good transportation, and tend to already live on a human scale, ride bikes, and otherwise do things others start doing as a trend or as something “new” and then make it a part of their life

    I don’t know yet what I think about the proposal, but I’d like to at least enter into this discussion that many in Garfield have supported downtown businesses when no one wanted anything to do with downtown. Tire shops, corner stores, galleries closer to 7th St than Central, churches, and community groups are regular destinations for residents. And while few consider these when then say “downtown businesses,” the ice cream trucks, local vendors, and places mentioend above are indeed “downtown businesses” that are appreciated here and help people earn livings and make life enjoyable for residents. And yes, having fewer resources also means that fewer in Garfield may gravitate towards sites like this to weigh in; doesn’t mean we aren’t here and care.

    Especially when discussing potential significant changes to the area, please be careful about dissing a place that is filled with people and homes that have survived the really tough years and contributed in ways that may not be visible to some but are nonetheless important. Where some see a “dump,” many of us see potential, history, and opportunity. Some good stuff is going in in Garfield “on the other side of 7th” where change has indeed come slower–especially in a bad economy. Can things get better? Of course. But increasing divisions and marginalizing residents of what is arguablly the oldest “historic” neighborhood in Phoenix is NOT the way to build a great downtown.

    • Tyler Hurst says:

      It is a poor neighborhood. That’s not an opinion. http://homes.point2.com/Neighborhood/US/Arizona/Maricopa-County/Phoenix/Garfield-Historic-District-Demographics.aspx

      There’s no question the residents of Garfield care mightily about their area and shop, play and eat within it, but the survival of new places always depends on money, something that most Garfield residents don’t have to spare.

      But lack of money doesn’t mean they don’t contribute mightily, but a sense of community and the ability to know your neighbors doesn’t pay for expensive food and drinks.

      • PJ says:

        I won’t belabor the point, but I do understand what poor is, more than most who would engage in this discussion and don’t need a website to know my neighborhood’s demographics. But the idea that the only thing that grows an urban area like Phoenix is expensive destinations misses important considerations, facts, and analysis. Phoenix needs to be careful of arrogance and playing only to the high end when trying to create *sustainable* change downtown that won’t disappear in the next downturn or economic cycle. Survival of businesses depends a good deal on demand, affordability, and filling a need–whether the business is a Circle K, Hanny’s, or an ice cream truck; regular, repeat business by local residents should not be overlooked–or marginalized as barely relevant. Lots more “poor” folk than rich, after all.

        I look forward to seeing what happens and simply want to expand the perspectives included here.

        Signing off now…

        • Tyler Hurst says:

          Phoenix defines success as growth. Growth is not possibly without money. Regardless of how awesome the neighborhoods around downtown Phoenix may be, without any sort of financial clout they can’t do much.

          I lived in downtown Phoenix for six years, most of the time making under $30k/year. I understand how the economy and city works, but I also accept that without money, things can’t be changed, buildings can’t be built and homes can’t be saved.

          Why do you keep putting “poor” in quotations?

        • Tyler Hurst says:

          And your responses mean a helluva lot less when you’re not willing to sign your name or attach your picture to them.

  15. Daniel Almaraz says:

    What exactly is wrong with the 7th Ave & McDowell redevelopment?

  16. Larry Wanger says:

    I’ve lived at 7th Street and Portland for over two years now and believe that redevelopment from my street and south along 7th is needed. I am not a fan of an expanded Circle K but the current store certainly does not add anything to the neighborhood. I currently do not frequent the businesses mentioned as possibly being torn down to make way for a new block of restaurants. If the proposed development can incorporate locally owned establishments versus national or regional chains they might be places I spend money at. One way or another, redevelopment is needed here. I would like the city to work on making this area more pedestrian friendly as well. My wife and I often cross 7th to walk downtown or to businesses in the area and it could certainly be made safer for foot traffic.

  17. kiel o says:

    Can we all agree that if the Circle K was instead replaced instead by a QT this would be okay? amirite??

    No but seriously, how awesome would it be if they bulldozed the whole area, replaced it with nice green grass and made it a food truck corral?

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