Comments and Concerns over The Hance Park (Deck Park) redevelopment.

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)

    1. Central Phoenix Library
    2. Phoenix Center for the Arts
    3. Irish Cultural Center
    4. Jewish heritage Center
    5. Japanese Friendship Garden
    6. Phoenix Trolly Museum
    7. Two Light Rail Stops within 1/2 mile
    8. 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.

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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.

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4 thoughts on “Comments and Concerns over The Hance Park (Deck Park) redevelopment.

  1. Bob Graham

    RE: the Trolley Museum – The Museum would like to feel welcome at their current location but they don’t. It is likely that they will be moving to Grand Avenue as a part of GARP. It would be great if they could run the trolley around the park, however there are significant technical challenges to that, because of the tunnel.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: 2013 Review and Update | phxdowntown

  3. James

    Not sure if you’ll see this given the length or time that’s past, but it’s sad to read this post after viewing the final version and knowing how little of what you mentioned was addressed.

    The eastern portion of the park is almost completely dedicated to special events with a stage/amphitheater and space for food trucks, etc. Otherwise, it’s an open field of grass.

    The western part is a little better in that it’s provided elements that visitors can use year-round, like a zip line.

    Unfounately, the success of the park is dependent on private investment which should have never been the case if the park or developments around it were designed appropriately to begin with. IF the museum garage with retail is built, IF the firehouse finds an investor to turn it into a brewery with beer garden extended into the park, IF vendors for food/drink see financial potential in setting u
    Beneath the bridge, IF the 2 empty lots and historic home on each side of Portland Place are developed…. Holy Cow, that’s a lot of private investment to bank on to activate a park in the center of the 6th largest American city and with the public amenities at its front door that you already so accurately summed up.

    In the end, the proposal failed for me as soon as it loaded. The number one issue to be solved is visibility and accessibility, and calling the entrances “arroyo plazas” makes them no more of an appropriate intgration into the urban fabric, nor does a massive art piece that will likely never be fabricated this decade or in its current form, if ever.

    If they spent all the budget:

    – Buying out the Center for AIDS, demolishing it, extending the park in its wake, creating a large welcome sign, installing a kiosk with 1) History and general info, 2) map of amenities, and 3) digital screen with upcoming programming, 4) space for community ads
    – Turning the concrete mess south of the museum into an integrated, shaded reading area with water feature (and entry of course to the museum)
    – Convert Moreland into a multiple-use path: pedestrian, bike, skateboard, shaded on both sides with mature desert trees with a grand entrance off 3rd Street and similar kiosk to Central; multiple entrances downward would be included obviously, and signage wold be placed along Roosevelt for the park
    – Construct a basketball court between Moreland pathway and lower grass level
    – Construct a skateboard park wherever it logistically works best
    – Turn the middle portion of the parking lot off Culver into a two-story garage 3 if neighborhood allows); grates with flowers would disguise it, and the lower level would include retail that was entered through the park’s path, or had a back patio extending into the park.
    – Removing the 3rd Street parking for a smaller, 3-story structure at the northern edge, allowing room for a stage/amphitheater/special event space
    – Plant mature desert trees on both sides of the path
    – Replace parking lot off Portland with underground structure, allowing existing parking lots to be green space and connect the Irish Center.
    – Convert the empty lot west of Portland Place into temporary surface lot for Japanese Garden (when developed, underground garage will he built); remove existing parking lot with a grand entrance and kiosk.
    – Incorporate the JFG and ICC into the park through back entrances and/or exhibits
    – RFP for restaurant use for historic home adjacent to Portland Place; priority placed on authentic Japanese cuisine
    – Remove as much of the Central and 3rd walls and replace with bollards for more visibility
    – Add lighting and ask local artists to brighten the tunnel
    – Turn the awkward 6 square section into a central shaded path (shaded via solar structures) with a botanical garden on one side and exhibit honoring our other sister cities/countries
    – Convert smaller museum parking lot off 2nd into vendor stalls, and RFP for 1 to provide refreshments every F-Sunday; the rest ould be used for food trucks, or artists, etc. as wanted; create a permeable surface eating area adjacent with picnic tables, benches, etc. Provide shade via umbrellas and solar shade structures.
    – Signage, signage everywhere! Signage on Roosevelt, Culver, 3rds, Central, 1st St… Signage within the park announcing the amenity and pertinent info (Trolley Museum, culture centers, etc,)

    I know that’s a lot, but it has to be cheaper than the other plan and is much more feasible in terms of work effort. Signage, parking structures, and RFPs are much easier than boulders, massive sculptures, zip lines, a raised grassy area, etc.

    Reply
    1. jwadesherman Post author

      Thanks for the thoughts James. There are aspects I like and dislike about the final master plan. I will say that the process was one of the best community outreach consultations I have ever seen. Unfortunately some of the adjacent facilities had demands that took priority over the communities opinions.
      We are in an age where private money seems to be all that exists for large projects like this. We will see what parts of the proposal come to fruition, but luckily there seems to be growing developer interest in many of the adjacent properties. We do need some form of sustainable endowment for the park (like most great parks have) otherwise it will always be subject to economic cycles..
      JS

      Reply

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