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Posts Tagged ‘Roosevelt Row’

  1. Downtown Feast Provides Fitting Tribute for Lost Icon of Arcology

    April 15, 2013 by Connor Descheemaker

    Looking southward from Matthew Salenger's "Desert Islands" installation during Feast on the Street. (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    Looking southward from Matthew Salenger’s “Desert Islands” installation during Feast on the Street. (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    This past Tuesday, Arizona and the world lost one of its greatest and most unique creatives in Paolo Soleri.

    Over his 93 years of life, Soleri was hailed as many things. A visionary, a poet, a philosopher, an architect, a hippie, an idealist, a communist, a control-freak.

    Dwelling for many decades of his life in the Arizona desert, Soleri was given the perfect canvas on which to paint his multi-faceted urban ideal.

    Taken together, his major projects Arcosanti and Cosanti served as the unreachable societal ideal for communing in harmony with both nature and urbanity.

    His drawings and sketches took on an equally monumental scale. The drawings still able to be seen took up entire scrolls dozens of feet long, spanning entire walls when hung end to end.

    But perhaps most notably, none of Soleri’s work ever became mechanical. Each stroke of the pen was done with artistic flourish and vivid color, reflecting both creative unrest and a desire to express the fullness of nature in his work.

    Soleri’s work fell under the banner of organic architecture, and he first came to Arizona after college in Italy to learn from its most famous practitioner: Frank Lloyd Wright.

    After studying at Wright’s famed Taliesin West, rather than become another acolyte, Soleri rebelled.

    He carried out a few commissions, and then began speaking out almost immediately against the very principles upon which his former teacher Wright built his reputation.

    Rather than spreading out and making the car the center of everyday activity, Soleri craved hyper-urbanism, but not in the typical sense. Instead, he founded the philosophy of arcology, the intersection (even linguistically) of architecture and ecology.

    Soleri’s hyper-dense structures would form a new vision of the city in direct contrast to Wright’s famed Broadacre City, which ended up forming the basis of American suburban growth in the late 20th century.

    All based around the apse (a quarter-sphere structure), Soleri’s Mesa City concept would house tens of thousands of residents, but all over an incredibly small footprint. Sweeping, interconnected architectural forms would spring out of the ground and unite residence and business seamlessly.

    Through this unique design, and especially its footprint, all residents would co-exist in an extremely egalitarian form, with everyone having equal access to nature. All parts of the city faced outward, and were each near to the edge of the city and therefore in constant interaction with the surrounding environment.

    The forms which Soleri’s buildings and sketches took are truly unmatched in any era of architecture or design.

    Above all, he desired for man to live in community, both with one another, and with the nature on which they so heavily relied.

    Iconic, and wholly built to fit the Arizona desert in which they were built, Soleri’s Cosanti and Arcosanti stand unparalleled, now tributes to the natural, holistic vision of their creator.

    (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    This past Saturday represented downtown Phoenix’s most grandiose attempt ever to engage community and environment.

    Roosevelt Row CDC
    , in partnership with ASU Art Museum and School of Sustainability, hosted its first (hopefully) annual Feast on the Street.

    The event centered around a massive, half-mile-long dining table, lined with 2000 chairs taking up First Street in downtown Phoenix, from ASU Downtown’s Taylor Place residence hall to Margaret T. Hance Park. And spaced evenly along the table were information cards and examples of plants native to the area.

    The dining table was flanked on both sides by over a dozen food trucks, a beer garden, a farmers’ market, bucket plants, seed bags, “bike bouquets”, gardening demonstrations, and numerous other local food purveyors and advocates.

    While Phoenix has long been perceived as a place which shuns density of any kind, the dream of those organizing the event and many of its participants is to finally re-adopt the walk, bike, and train, and rebuild the city’s urban core around these principles.

    Historically though, Phoenix was a tight, accessible city with shaded, wide sidewalks, and a popular streetcar line to boot.

    The area directly surrounding the Feast would not appear to many as the epicenter of an urban revival, but those pursing with a fine-tooth comb would find many glimpses of success in the dozens of independent businesses which have cropped up around First Street in the area known as Roosevelt Row.

    Food, in the case of this event, was used as the catalyst for localism and community, and education about the flora and fauna of the Arizona desert to produce harmony between the modern, built world, and the natural one which existed before and will continue to exist if we embrace it.

    And it was these ideals to which Paolo Soleri so desperately clung throughout his near-century of service to the practice of arcology.

    With the Feast’s open embrace of locality and the natural environment the city of Phoenix, it would seem, is finally taking its first tentative, temporary steps toward the embrace of ecology in urban form, dreamt up so long ago by Soleri.

    One could even faintly trace the Feast’s lineage to the numerous potlucks and community dinners held amongst students, apprentices, employees, and visitors to Cosanti and Arcosanti over their many decades of existence.

    A fitting “fine” to the Italian expatriate’s time in the Sonoran Desert.


  2. DeSoto Building Begins Long Journey of Renewal

    November 30, 2012 by Connor Descheemaker

    At the corner of Central and Roosevelt streets just north of the downtown Phoenix core, sits a sizable old warehouse. The vague remnants of a sign signaling “Antiques” appear on its southern wall. With a collapsing roof, plain brown paint job, and patches of its skeleton exposed to the elements, to the untrained eye the DeSoto Building’s beauty escapes many.

    Facing Central Avenue, the DeSoto Building’s former grand entry (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    Earlier in 2012, after roughly a decade of dormancy, a banner appeared briefly on the building’s West façade: Motley Design Group.

    The prominent local architecture and preservation firm’s involvement in the building’s preservation brought cheers from across the community. And almost immediately, speculation began as to what form the structure would take in its next incarnation.

    Earlier this year, I sat down with Motley principal architect and co-founder Robert Graham, who told me all about the streetside wonder’s past, present, and plans for its future.

    Constructed in 1928, the building was exactly its namesake: a DeSoto car dealership, specifically C.P. Stephens DeSoto Six Motor Cars. With massive street-facing windows and a sizable indoor showroom, the shop was a distinct part of Central Avenue’s emerging car culture, joining numerous other dealerships and repair shops between Van Buren and McDowell.

    Through about 1955, the building served as a car dealership, with business owner Stephens eventually adding Plymouth cars to his offerings.

    Over time, with the decline of the Central Corridor, the building was adapted into other uses, leading to the division of its interior, the covering of its street-facing windows and the addition of garage doors on its northern and western sides.

    The rapidly-eroding final sign of the DeSoto Building’s last life. (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    More recently, the building was an antique shop, with pioneers of the Phoenix arts community like Beatrice Moore recalling its assorted wares.

    The front façade peels. The southern part of the roof is partially collapsed. The interior is gutted and what remains of its former offices is fading fast. But its great hope remains.

    Its location could not be more central, beckoning visitors from Central into the ever-vibrant Roosevelt Row arts district, celebrating the strength and character of the past while integrating into the blooming present.

    Now, the building is owned by a man who made his living in trucking, and has begun investing in real estate.

    After wintering in Phoenix for some time, and maintaining a private, historic garage along a funky stretch of Grand Avenue, this man decided to invest in something more permanent, “want[ing] to get more involved,” in the words of Graham.

    The historic structure’s crumbling facade. (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    And so he hired Graham and his firm, Motley, to rehab the facility as a sort of “hobby project”.

    According to Graham, he wants to save the interior as much as possible, and to that end, the trusses inside the structure have held up remarkably well.

    Now, with plans and renderings beginning to appear, Graham says there are three options for the space:

    1. Find photos and rebuild the structure just as it was.
    2. Construct a sort of “placeholder” design, adding certain modern features.
    3. Remodel in a totally new light, while still maintaining compatibility and the historic integrity of the building.

    In analyzing what to do next, Graham asked himself, “What are the essential elements of the building?”

    For a veteran of preservation and architecture, character is the foremost concern.

    Currently, the interior of the building is being stripped of its non-essential parts and any remaining detritus, with plans being shown to the Evans-Churchill Community Association and the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission as they emerge. Even temporary uses for the external walls have been discussed as the building undergoes its transformation.

    For the time being, the structure remains dark, but through propinquity, it has already been claimed for art.

    An anonymous wheatpaste, perchance left to care for the building. (Connor Descheemaker/DD)


  3. Seventh and Roosevelt Streets Transformation Continues: Part 2 of 2

    August 31, 2012 by Connor Descheemaker

    So sorry for the delay. The school year has begun, Downtown Devil is back to publishing daily, and Vanishing Phoenix is back to its weekly schedule.

    This year, I have lots planned for the blog, including guest posts, more historic building spotlights, musings on the Valley’s history and a new monthly feature where you, the reader, determine the content.

    Today, I return with the long-awaited sequel to the never-ending drama of development on Seventh and Roosevelt Streets. First, a few updates on the proposed Circle K, relocating to the southeast corner of the intersection.

    This past week, the agenda for the upcoming City of Phoenix abandonment hearing was revealed, with a pending application from MD Partners, LLC, the developer behind the Circle K project. The shorthand for the application reads as such: “Approximately 3,534 s.f. of excess ROW along the south side of Roosevelt Street, east of 7th Street, adjacent to the parcels addressed 917 and 925 N. 7th Street.”

    What this means for surrounding residents, is relatively large indent where the sidewalk currently sits, making room for a recessed bus stop. Following my initial repost of the memo on Facebook, a reader shared a few photo illustrations to show the space that would be taken up.

    The red area indicates the location of the proposed abandonment zone, where the current bus stop will me moved. (Photo illustration courtesy of Vanishing Phoenix reader W Brent Armstrong)

    The abandonment process will be discussed this Wednesday in front of the Abandonment Hearing Officer, with the final decision to directly affect the footprint of the impending development.

    Watch in the next week or two for a full report from the Downtown Devil on the development’s progress.

    And now for the northeast corner, the location of the current Circle K, Tacos de Juarez, a laundromat and a barber shop.

    With the proposed move of Circle K, one developer, Vintage Partners, is already lining up to purchase the entire block and turn it into a new, modern commercial development.

    Vintage Partners has recently gained attention for its work in developing the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and McDowell Road, which Vanishing Phoenix covered back in April and May. After purchasing the midcentury plaza, the group changed the face of the entire corridor, welcoming six new fast-casual restaurants to the historic neighborhood, five of which were franchises.

    Though the plaza had long been rundown and was undoubtedly improved, there was a major outcry in the community for the inundation of chain and chain-like restaurants in an area long identified by its unique, local businesses.

    Similarly, residents of the Evans-Churchill and Garfield Neighborhoods expressed concerns about the takeover of a largely-ethnic and arts-based corridor with a gentrified, franchised plaza.

    At the moment, Vintage Partners is only making offers to the various building owners along Seventh Street and slowly working to build a cohesive vision for the area.

    As they continue this process the development firm is gauging interest in the community, and putting their feelers out among potential tenants for the plaza.

    With these two potential vision-altering projects being proposed, there will certainly be an outcry in the community, for better or for worse. So, readers, to you: what do you think about these developments? Could they be better integrated into the flow of the neighborhoods? Or are they already going to serve a vital enough purpose?


  4. 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.


  5. 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.