I was glad to attend the community charette on Hance Park redevelopment last week, and have an active discussion over possibilities for the parks future. I used that time and format as an opportunity to voice my desires as a downtown resident over some possible amenities and ideas for the park. However, the entire process that night seemed mainly about white washing a fundamentally flawed park and very little discussion took place on fixing the problems. Therefore, I hope that many of the structural concerns I list below are being discussed and addressed through other forums and meetings. This is a great opportunity to fix some of our past mistakes, and truly improve downtown livability.
Most great urban parks serve as a connector. They should drive pedestrian traffic in and through to other places. A great park cannot just be a destination. A great park also has to serve as a detour and refuge on the way to somewhere else; and can we for once have a parking lot free space in this city..
In my opinion the park has the following functional flaws. First it lacks identity, despite having so many great existing key assets. Second the orientation of those assets, and the parks general urban connectivity problems, serve as a hindrance, creating an isolated space. It is my concern that without fixing these two issues, all the hard work and great intentions of many people may create a great show piece for a few years, but not a day to day functional urban park.
-Identity and Key Assets
Consider the following list of key assets. (I am sure that I have missed some)
- Central Phoenix Library
- Phoenix Center for the Arts
- Irish Cultural Center
- Jewish heritage Center
- Japanese Friendship Garden
- Phoenix Trolly Museum
- Two Light Rail Stops within 1/2 mile
- Linch pin connecting Downtown and Midtown
The park is at the intersecting center of a modern diverse Phoenix, and it needs to be a park celebrating and exploring our Arts and Culture, who we are, and who we want to be. This seems intuitive to me given the buildings, events, and neighborhoods surrounding it. The other Identity issue to be solved is whether this is truly an urban park? If this is an urban park, for urban residents, workers, and visitors then get rid of all the parking lots. Yes, I am suggesting that people should have to walk or bike a block or two, to enjoy the park and amenities. Even the library and culture centers have to re-evaluate, eliminate, and share parking resources.
-Orientation and Connectivity
Not one of the assets listed above integrates or focuses it’s activity or entrance onto the park. It is obvious that all of these stakeholders treat the park the same as they would an 8 lane Interstate.
While the library is mainly mentioned in this regard, it at least has windows on the park and retains the ability for better integration. The idea for indoor/outdoor reading and cafe space is always welcome, and I also wonder if the lower roof structure on the South side could be accessed or utilized as vertical space?
The Phoenix Center for the Arts is already well connected and feels a part of the park. I would however, like to see Moreland Street become more of a shared space style corridor allowing the adjacent properties to blend into the park and become future homes for other art, culture, and entertainment centers. The Jewish Heritage Center would front the park if not for the parking lot and subsequent worthless turning circle. Also the residents along Culver St. should not have to cross a parking lot to access the park.
The Irish Cultural Center, and The Japanese Friendship Gardens, need to have their primary entrance, or at least a secondary entrance onto the park. May I suggest replacing the parking lot between them with a flower garden entrance to both facilities. Japanese flowers, and sunflowers could return a bit of what has been lost, also Irish wildflowers are appropriate for many celebrations.
Then there is the Trolly Museum. I wish I could have attended the revitalization meeting to hear the ideas put forth. I don’t have any ground breaking ideas here just two ghostly notions that need to be written down. First the obvious then and now contrast between the light rail going by the historic Phoenix trolleys. Second during the park meeting it was mentioned that many great urban parks have an interactive or moving element. It would be great if the park redevelopment somehow highlighted this moving piece of our history.
While the park needs to serve the city and all of its residents during special occasions, it needs to serve the surrounding community every day of the week. This is how you bring new residents to a city and into a downtown, and this is how you create new property tax revenue from empty lots. You improve the quality of life, and you create permanent investors in the community. We need to be creating a park that people want to live around and bike or walk through, not just a park that people happen to drive to once a year for an event.
Jeffery is a native Phoenix area resident and lives in the Downtown Evans Churchill neighborhood. He has a Masters in Globalization and Development from The University of Sussex – Institute of Development Studies and a Political Science B.A. From A.S.U. He currently works as a Project Manager for a Phoenix based small business. All opinions are strictly his own. All rights on written and creative ideas are reserved.