In 2011, funding became available from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for cities to do smart growth planning. Phoenix had forward thinking civic leadership, staff, and community partners poised and ready to collaborate and seized the opportunity with a proposal for a bold, transformative program called Reinvent Phoenix. Curt Upton (pictured right) of the City of Phoenix Planning and Development Department was a key leader in the design and creation of this long-term collaborative project with two main goals: create an attractive investment environment in transit-oriented development (TOD) districts along the light rail, and maximize the community benefits from these investments.
Upton points out, “These were very competitive grants. Hundreds of cities applied and only 8% were selected.” Not only that, he adds, “Phoenix was awarded $2.9M, the 4th largest grant in the country.”
At the time of the grant application (2011), Upton contends that Phoenix was still hurting from the recession and “there was a strong feeling that we needed to try something different, to have a time out and think about how to develop our city differently. We’d just invested in a huge light rail project, and we needed to make the most of it.”
Thus was born Reinvent Phoenix. The Planning Department was the lead applicant, but “it was very much a collaborative process,” said Upton. “We needed about eight other city departments to participate in the process – streets, parks, art & culture, public works, etc….and we also had to reach out to community partners.”
They began by asking a bold question, “Can we create and implement a vision that can demonstrate a better Phoenix?….As the light rail expands, through this vision can we create a new model for how we develop our city that includes best practices, walkability, and equity – where everyone benefits?” The vision was “not just a place where wealthy people go, not just a café scene or art scene, but daycare facilities, decent housing and healthcare for the people who work in the cafes and neighborhood businesses.”
“HUD awarded us the grant because of both the ideas in the plan and the partners that were brought into process,” said Upton, who emphasizes that these partnerships are significant not just for the purposes of the grant, but in order to have a long-term impact on the city. “That was the hope,” said Upton, “to bring partners into almost a movement, using civic leadership to create coalition.” From Upton’s perspective, “building these partnerships upfront means that everyone has ownership in the outcome. Everyone is invested in the vision and the road map that creates investment and equity for the long term.”
This collaborative model helps dispel what Upton calls “every planner’s fear….that we’ll spend hours, months, energy and dedication to create a plan that just collects dust on a shelf. No one wants that.”
Reinvent is a transformational program – so it needs to have legs over decades. In order to do that it required upfront civic leadership and community engagement instead of top down planning. Upton says, “It’s much harder to do, but if you put the upfront work in, it pays dividends going forward. It’s important to build broad community ownership, so that many people support the plan over time.”
What are Curt Upton’s thoughts about the long-term impact on the City from the Reinvent Phoenix program? He says, “I hope that it helps position Phoenix to benefit over the next couple of decades. There’s a unique historic occurrence in cities going on right now. Two large demographic groups – millennials and baby boomers are converging on the real estate market and they both want the same things – walkable neighborhoods with amenities close by.”
Regarding baby boomers, Upton notes that “A whole generation will be over 65 in the next two decades. Increasingly they will be looking to get out of the suburbs and find ways to live that aren’t as costly and are easier to navigate if you don’t want to or can’tdrive.”
He adds, “At the same time you have the millennials coming in with a different set of preferences than the previous generation. And it’s not just going to be a fad. This younger generation is looking for a different product than in the past.”
Upton just returned from a conference in Seattle where he heard the phenomenon described by a real estate fund manager described as “planes in the air, looking to land.”
He explains, “Investors want to invest, but they are looking for good places to land. Cities can position themselves for investment by creating the right conditions for investors to land.” He adds, “Reinvent helps Phoenix take advantage of this historical opportunity to make our city better.”
Upton is a Phoenix native and has spent the last nine years with the City Planning and Development Department. Wednesday, April 29, was his last day, however, as he has been lured to a new job in planning in Denver.
“Denver is similar to Phoenix, but a little ahead of us. It’s an opportunity. I’m a Phoenix native and have lived here my whole life, but I respect the work they are doing in Denver and it is a chance to learn stuff.”
“Nine years ago I took the job with the city for the opportunity to do important work.” In reflecting back, he is grateful for the entrepreneurial, hands off management in the department that empowered him and his staff to do just that.
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See First-ever Stand Up 4 Transportation Parade on April 9
Transportation agencies in Arizona unite in support of critical federal funding legislation
Valley Metro, along with Arizona’s local and state transportation agencies, will host a transportation vehicle parade and media event on National Transportation Infrastructure Day, Thursday, April 9.
The American Public Transportation Association is launching Stand Up 4 Transportation, a national movement aimed at educating elected officials about the importance of transportation infrastructure investment and the need for sustainable federal funding before the current transportation bill expires on May 31, 2015. Anyone can sign the online petition to support transportation infrastructure funding at valleymetro.org/connected or follow activities at #StandUp4Transportation or #SU4T.
“A reliable federal funding source is critical to maintain and expand our streets, bridges, public transit and aviation facilities,” said Steve Banta, Valley Metro CEO, on behalf of event partners. “Preserving and improving transportation infrastructure revitalizes communities, enhances quality of life and creates jobs.”
Who: American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Arizona Chapter of Associated General Contractors, Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Arizona Transit Association (AzTA), City of Phoenix, Dunn Transportation, Friends of Transit, Grid Bike Share, Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), Maricopa County Department of Transportation(MCDOT), Mountain Line (Flagstaff), Sun Tran (Tucson), Valley Metro and Yuma County Area Transit
Sponsors: Alternate Concepts, Inc., First Transit, HDR and Sundt Stacy & Witbeck Joint Venture
What: Transportation vehicles* that support crucial transportation services and projects in Arizona will travel on Central/1st avenues
*Public transit buses from Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma; Mountain Line vanpool van; ADOT snow plow; construction equipment and more!
When: Thursday, April 9, 10 a.m. Vehicle parade, 10:30 a.m. Media event
Where: Parade travels from Hance Park to Civic Space Park along Central/1st Ave. Best view of parade: southeast corner of Roosevelt St./1st Ave. Media event & vehicle display: Civic Space Park
Why: The current federal transportation funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), is set to expire on May 31, 2015. Without a long-term federal transportation funding bill, Arizona’s infrastructure will face tremendous uncertainty for vital transportation services and projects. Transportation is the backbone of our local and national economy. A long-term transportation bill is needed for better and expanded transportation options and to continue to support the economy.
Remarks: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton; U.S. Congressman Ruben Gallego; Maricopa County Department of Transportation Director Jennifer Toth; Additional elected and private sector leaders.
Image courtesy of Valley Metro.
There are lots of conversations these days about how to preserve, enhance and contribute to an authentic sense of place in our urban core. And while not all projects are as successful as some would like, increasingly we’re seeing innovative, adaptive reuse renovations along the Central corridor.
These projects incorporate our unique history and provide vital new use opportunities for 21st century enterprises: education, research and development, and diverse businesses. Not every building will be preserved, but as we speak an interesting renovation/adaptive reuse project with glorious potential is taking shape in the vintage Uptown Plaza on the northeast corner of Camelback Rd. and Central Ave.
Uptown Plaza, with its modern brick, masonry and steel midcentury modern construction originally opened on August 25, 1955. It was constructed by Del Webb and was the first “suburban” retail shopping center outside of downtown Phoenix. From the beginning, the unique mix of midcentury design details, along with a variety of shopping and dining options made it a popular destination for Phoenicians. Uptown was home to everything from Jerand’s of Arizona fine fashions and Bostrom’s department store, to the national grocery chain, Piggly Wiggly (currently AJ’s Fine Foods).
Over the years the center has suffered from a series of stucco “improvements” and the once vibrant corner has experienced vacancies and under-use for a long time now. Local developer, Vintage Partners saw a unique opportunity to bring the center back to life. Vintage Partners Principal, Dave Scholl approached the center’s owners to sell them on the concept of a comprehensive revitalization that would restore much of the midcentury modern elements and re-attract a mix of local, regional and national tenants to create a jewel destination in uptown.
As Scholl puts it, “When you see someone like a Craig DeMarco invest in an area, you see the chance – the risks he took, how he’s been rewarded and how the neighborhood has appreciated that reinvestment. And I think a little more is a good idea.”
Designed by Nelsen Partners (Kierland Commons, Scottsdale Quarter), the renovation plans are still being finalized as Vintage Partners and builder Kitchell Contractors determine how much of the original red brick façade (including many interior walls) can be preserved. However, the end results will combine a restoration of the classic lines and low-slung shapes with verdant new landscaping and modern amenities, including rebuilding the original 15-foot shade overhangs with cantilevers to achieve a sleeker, less cluttered look.
In its current deconstructed state, many of the old painted signs for the earlier businesses have been uncovered and, in talking with Scholl, we wondered if those elements would be retained. Unfortunately, it appears that keeping those painted signs will be problematic, since they would conflict with the new tenant signage. Scholl and the contractors believe that these painted signs were actually under the original neon signs. If you look closely you can see dozens of holes in the brick around these signs where it appears that the neon was affixed. The goal according to Scholl however, is “to preserve as much of the original brick with the worn patina of time as possible.”
While many people are familiar with the work that Vintage Partners did renovating the corner of 7th Ave. and McDowell, Scholl points out why this project should have a happier outcome.
“Our vision is to peel all this stucco off and get back to the original brick. Unlike 7th Ave and McDowell, this center was built with baked brick. 7th ave and Mcdowell was built with sand brick – not baked. Sand brick is allowed to dry in the sun, which makes for very brittle bricks, which crumbled when we began to take the stucco off.” He adds, “and because it was built in the 30s, it didn’t have any steel to reinforce the brick. Uptown was built in the 50s and in just those twenty years building standards had changed. Uptown was built with baked brick and reinforced with steel.” So far, so good. As they peel off the layers of stucco, the underlying brick is still strong and viable, which means much more of the original character of the center will be maintained.
“The center has a great anchor with AJ’s,” said Scholl, “The next best anchors in retail are great destination restaurants. We’ll be picking out four to six great destination restaurants, and then filling in with soft goods, gift stores, etc.”
A really exciting change will be taking place in the far back corner of the plaza. In the original center, the back corner was actually connected, there was no courtyard. Over the years, changes were made, and the buildings were separated. Vintage is planning to open up this space even further, increasing the width of the walking area by putting in a big lawn in the middle with restaurants spilling out onto the space with outdoor dining patios. With the right tenants, it will be a great addition to this increasingly walkable, bikeable neighborhood.
In working on this project, which is close to his heart, Scholl says that he “feels like an archeologist.” He adds, “I’ve lived in Phoenix for 43 years, and I can remember when McCreary’s drugstore was on that corner (pointing to the current remains of Boston Market).”
Most of the work on the plaza will be completed by September 2015 and new tenants will be able to get in and begin building out their spaces soon after, so Scholl anticipates these businesses will begin opening in early 2016. Some of the current businesses will remain, including AJ’s. Vintage Partners will be working with them on renovating the exterior of the store, which will hopefully be followed by AJ’s themselves renovating the interior of their store.
And Vintage has just contracted with Modern Manor vintage furnishings owners, Kylie & Ryan Durkin, to help restore the authentic midcentury modern charm to this landmark center. “This project is a rare find to midcentury fan boys like us,” says Ryan Durkin. “We’re looking at incorporating some of our favorite designs from the 50’s into the center’s ecosystem.”
In our wild west, tear-down, build new, expand-out kind of city, we’re only now beginning to grapple with the challenges of preserving our unique places. Some success stories, like the recent renovation of the old Beefeaters into the Newton, the Upward Projects work on Windsor, Federal Pizza, Postino’s, and Joyride, are shining examples of thoughtful renovations that incorporate the past, while looking to the future. We’re hopeful that Vintage Partners’ renovation of Uptown Plaza will continue that momentum.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
The Perks of Participating in Valley Bike Month
Trade in your four-wheels for two! April is Valley Bike Month and there’s so much to gain by getting involved. Bicycling can be used for short trips or to extend a transit trip. Bicycling can lead to increased fitness and fun, and it’s also a great way for families and friends to spend time together as they pedal their way to a favorite local destination. Visit sharetheride.com to learn more and track your bicycling trips to enter to win prizes.
More people are catching on to the benefits of bicycling to work. Six percent of Valley commuters bike at least one day a week. Bikes also help extend a transit trip whether on bus or light rail.
The Benefits of Riding
- EASE ON DOWN THE ROAD
Bike instead of drive and then connect to a bus or light rail to complete your trip.
- BETTER HEALTH
Burn more calories and reduce the risk of heart disease. Less stress, too!
- SAVE MONEY
Cyclists save on commute costs and many businesses offer special deals to riders.
- CONSIDER THE ENVIRONMENT
Reduces emissions that cause air pollution, reduces fuel consumption and traffic congestion.
Valley Bike Month Events
For a list of all Valley Bike Month events visit sharetheride.com. Find a bike buddy, track your bike trips and enter to win great prizes!
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
Phoenix Festival de España Annual Celebration of Spanish Arts & Culture Returns to Downtown Phoenix March 21 & 22, 2015
Phoenix Festival de España, sponsored in part by APS, will take place in the heart of the Downtown Phoenix art scene at Phoenix Center for the Arts (1202 N 3rd Street) and will feature Flamenco workshops for youth and adults, delicious Spanish food, culinary demonstrations, presentations on Spanish culture, live performances, and more!
Dance and music groups from throughout the Valley will perform in 30-minute intervals throughout the day on the festival’s outdoor stage. Local and nationally-acclaimed Spanish historians, scholars, and curators will present lectures and workshops with a Spanish flavor. The Festival will also feature art exhibits, costumes, jewelry, and a beer and wine garden. Admission is FREE for the whole family.
In addition to the fantastic dance and music performances outside all weekend long, Sunday’s festivities will include a screening of the documentary “Flamenco Flamenco” by Carlos Saura at 2pm in the Phoenix Center for the Arts Third Street Theater. Festivalgoers are encouraged to stay into the night for a very special closing flamenco performance, “Luz De Dia,” also taking place in the Third Street Theater at 6pm.
“Luz De Dia” features internationally acclaimed guitarist, Misael Barraza Diaz, with special guest from Madrid, international flamenco star, Nino De Los Reyes. Ensemble includes Macarena Giraldez, Olivia Rojas, Jason Martinez, Mele Martinez, and Angelina Ramirez. Tickets are required for entry to both “Flamenco Flamenco” ($10) and “Luz De Dia” ($15). Those wishing to attend both events, can purchase a combo ticket for $20.
Additional sponsors include Otro Café, Crescent Ballroom, Jobot, Monica Robles Art + Design, Northwestern Mutual, PAZ, Arizona Commission on the Arts, ACEAZ, and the City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation Department.
For an updated list of performers, presenters and workshops, please visit www.phoenixcenterforthearts.org.
If You Go
Dates/Times: Saturday, March 21, 2015, 12-6pm & Sunday, March 22, 2015, 12-8pm
Anticipated Attendance: 2,000
Where: Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 N. 3rd Street, Phoenix AZ 85004
Parking/Transportation: Limited street parking available. Avoid the hassle and take METRO Light Rail to the McDowell/Central Ave or Roosevelt/Central Ave. Bike racks are also available. Parking is also available in the Phoenix Center for the Arts parking lot (enter from 3rd Street).
Presenting Organization: Phoenix Center for the Arts and Flamenco Por La Vida
Supported By: APS, City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation Department, Otro Café, Crescent Ballroom, Jobot, Monica Robles Art + Design, Northwestern Mutual, PAZ, Arizona Commission on the Arts, and ACEAZ
Information: email@example.com or 602-254-3100
Images courtesy of the Phoenix Center for the Arts.