Last year, Roosevelt Row/Evans Churchill property owners proposed developing a new Business Improvement District (BID) for their area to the City. In April 2014 the Phoenix City Council approved funding for the group to assess the viability of the opportunity. Read our previous story here.
Following months of work, the group is coming together to host a Community Forum on Thursday, May 28, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Roosevelt Community Church. The Forum will showcase the success of BIDs in other cities, and outline the proposed investment for Roosevelt.
With the help of long-time BID professional Nancy Hormann of Hormann & Associates, the property owners have been working hard to determine a work plan and budget that will both support the arts character of the area and encourage thoughtful economic development to support their collective vision.
“This is a peer-to-peer process,” says Hormann, “Over the last 12 months, through focus groups, surveys, one-on-one meetings, and group workshops, the property owners determined the type and level of services needed to make a difference in their district. This forum is the first time people who are not property owners are being invited to listen to what’s going on.”
The forum will feature an introduction by Dave Krietor, CEO of Downtown Phoenix, Inc., a panel of three BID professionals sharing stories of the remarkable impact BIDs have had on their respective cities, and representatives from the Roosevelt BID Working Group, who will share the work they’ve done over the last year.
So what exactly is a BID and why is it important? A BID is a public/private mechanism that allows property owners within a defined area to fund district-specific improvements, services and activities through a self-imposed and self-governed property assessment. These assessments provide services that are above and beyond what the city can provide. And they’ve been very successful. Over 1500 BIDs are currently active in cities throughout North America and their success stories are impressive.
Currently, the only existing BID in Phoenix is the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, which covers 90 square blocks of the downtown core.
Dave Krietor articulates what this has meant for Phoenix. “The core BID came from a vision created by the Phoenix Community Alliance back in the late 1980’s. Downtown business leaders saw what was happening in other cities and recognized that creating a BID would be integral to revitalizing our downtown.” He adds, “You only need to look at what’s happened in downtown to see that the core has been reinvented. The BID created a focal point and a center of gravity to revitalize downtown. Now this powerful, effective tool is available for property owners in the Roosevelt/Evans Churchill district to take advantage of to improve and sustain their neighborhood.”
But “seeing is believing” and the BID Community Forum will provide an inspiring vision of what can be accomplished. Three BID professionals will share stories of how their districts have developed and the significant impact they’ve had on their respective cities, including: Jimmy Parker, San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter executive director; Elizabeth Studebaker, Midtown Sacramento; and Allison Harnden, a longtime BID professional who has worked with 45 BID Districts nationwide. In addition, Roosevelt/Evans Churchill BID working group representatives including Greg Esser, Roosevelt Row CDC, Tim Sprague, Habitat Metro LLC, and consultant Nancy Hormann will provide a quick overview of the Roosevelt area work plan, budget and assessment, outline next steps, and take questions from the audience.
If you go:
What: BID Community Forum
When: Thursday, May 28, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Where: Roosevelt Community Church, 924 N. 1st Street, Phoenix
Cost: Free and open to the public.
RSVP: Space is limited. RSVP requested here.
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Roosevelt Row CDC Receives Significant 2014 ArtPlace Grant for Creative Placemaking
An innovative new model for affordable artist live/work spaces will be coming soon to Roosevelt Row thanks to ArtPlace America. Today, ArtPlace announced Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation (CDC) as one of 55 national grantees to receive significant funding to support the nationally-recognized artists’ district. Roosevelt Row CDC will receive $90,000 to support a creative placemaking shipping container pilot project, addressing the ongoing need for permanent affordable housing for artists in downtown Phoenix.
“Thanks to ArtPlace, we are once again demonstrating the huge impact that an artist-driven district can have in fostering a healthy, vibrant downtown community,” said Vermon Pierre, Board President of Roosevelt Row CDC. “This project is exactly what Phoenix needs to further support the critical role of artists in our urban core.”
The shipping container pilot project is one step towards a broader portfolio to make Phoenix a more artist-friendly community. The project will consist of renovated and refurbished containers, providing permanent creative spaces where downtown artists can create and exhibit their work to the community while also providing an affordable place to call home in the heart of Roosevelt Row. The containers will also offer street-level activation through storefront gallery spaces. This project supports Roosevelt Row CDC’s mission to create a livable, walkable vibrant arts community through collaborative and creative efforts that encourage sustainable growth and innovation for future development.
“Investing in and supporting the arts has a profound impact on the social, physical, and economic futures of communities,” said ArtPlace Executive Director Jamie L. Bennett. “Projects like these demonstrate how imaginative and committed people are when it comes to enhancing their communities with creative interventions and thoughtful practices.”
The pilot project will be located in the downtown community along Roosevelt Street as an example of what is possible for future development in the arts community. In addition to building the pilot project, the goals of the effort include making shipping containers, or “cargotecture” more accessible by establishing “open source” plans.
“We’re tremendously excited to take this effort utilizing shipping containers for creative placemaking to the next level, in partnership with the City of Phoenix and other collaborators,” said Greg Esser, artist and co-founder of Roosevelt Row CDC.
Photos courtesy of Roosevelt Row showcasing the Hot Box Gallery opening, grant-funded from their first ArtPlace award.
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eye lounge: a contemporary art space [sic] celebrates 15 years of exhibitions and welcomes new arts venture
In 1999, a group of graduate art students at the Arizona State University School of Art were concerned with the lack of opportunities to exhibit contemporary artwork in Phoenix. In response, they founded eye lounge: a contemporary art space, an artist-run collective dedicated to creating exhibition opportunities for artists. In 2001, the group moved into its permanent location at 419 East Roosevelt Street in a building owned and managed by founding members Greg Esser and Cindy Dach. This year marks the 15-year anniversary for the collective.
Since its founding, the venue has hosted more than 500 one-person and group exhibitions. Many member artists have continued on to representation in commercial galleries in Arizona and nationally and to tenured teaching positions throughout the U.S. eye lounge was a founding gallery of the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation.
Significantly more opportunities exist now for emerging and established artists to exhibit in downtown Phoenix than ever before. “The relocation of Bentley Projects and, more recently, Lisa Sette Gallery from Scottsdale to downtown Phoenix bode well for the maturation of the downtown Phoenix arts scene,” says Dach. “The vibrancy of this area is almost unrecognizable now from where we started.”
In an effort to create new opportunities for incoming artists to establish roots in the Roosevelt Row Artists’ District, eye lounge is reconfiguring its building footprint to welcome a new artist venture into the space. Beginning June 2014, ASU School of Art alum, photographer and educator Stephen Gittins will open his business, Capture 12, in 417 East Roosevelt, the western bay of the building.
“We’re very excited to have Capture 12 join the space,” says Esser. “Capture 12’s classes, workshops and exhibitions will add even more street level activation to this storefront on Roosevelt Street. This area has a strong history of supporting photographers, and this neighborhood, with its murals and authentic ‘funky’ building fabric, has become one of the most photographed areas of Phoenix.”
The new configuration more closely echoes the original purpose of the two individual storefronts built more than 50 years ago. Esser explains, “We’re very fortunate to have met the adults who grew up in each of the buildings that we have renovated in this neighborhood. The Beck family lived in the home which now houses Made Art Boutique. In 1949, when this was a very vibrant pedestrian-focused mixed-use neighborhood, the Beck family built the eastern storefront addition. One year later, they completed the western storefront addition. The family’s son, though he left the area decades ago before it went into decline, now comes back to his old neighborhood to attend First Fridays and purchase artwork and is thrilled with how the area has evolved.”
The parking lot to the west of eye lounge housed a separate craftsman bungalow-style single family home until the late 1960s. Plans are underway to develop additional new artist venues at this location. Events and a publication to mark the 15-year anniversary of eye lounge are currently in development.
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“We should always assume that things can be better.”
Cindy Dach wears half a dozen hats at least and has been a key player in the revitalization of the Roosevelt Row area. She is a board member of Downtown Phoenix, Inc.; co-owner and general manager of Changing Hands Bookstore, which is about to open a Phoenix location in Uptown (Camelback Road and 3rd Avenue); owner of Made Art Boutique on Roosevelt and 5th Ave.; co-founder of Eye Lounge, a contemporary artists run collective on Roosevelt Street; co-founder of Arizona Chain Reaction (now Local First Arizona); co-founder and board member of the Roosevelt Row CDC; and one of the driving forces behind the annual Pie Social, the RoRo Chili Festival, and the Feast on the Street, just to name a few.
She and her partner, Greg Esser, moved to Phoenix from Denver in the mid-nineties and immediately set about seeking community. Even finding brunch back in those days was a challenge. “We always ended up at IHop, because there weren’t any other choices,” said Dach. They began taking steps to build the community they craved by creating Eye Lounge, which was originally an artist collective exhibiting at various locations.
After a while, they discovered inexpensive property in a blighted area along Roosevelt Street, and in 2001 they bought a building, rolled up their sleeves and create a permanent gallery for Eye Lounge. In reflecting on that time, Dach said, “Wayne Rainey and Kimber Lanning had begun doing things on Roosevelt then as well. We didn’t originally know each other, but we were all focused on creating a place for the arts and artists, and so we found each other.”
The impact of creating a community for artists and the arts on Roosevelt has been exponential. First Fridays went from a few hundred urban pioneers willing to seek out galleries on Jackson Street, Roosevelt Street and Grand Avenue, and exploded during those early years. Thousands of people now flock to Roosevelt and the area supports several galleries, retail stores, coffee houses, and restaurants.
“We didn’t originally know each another, but we were all focused on creating a place for the arts and artists, and so we found each other.“
Along the way, Dach and her cohorts established the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization to further the unique cultural character and creative assets of the Roosevelt Row Arts District. Fellow Roosevelt Row and Evans Churchill District neighbors worked together to create innovative grassroots community building events, such as the annual Pie Social, and the Chili Festival.
In addition to infusing the area with the arts, Dach and others recognized the negative impact of the empty lots and created A.R.T.S. (Activated Reuse of Temporary Spaces) initiatives to focus on activating these dead spaces. To date these programs have included the creation of a temporary A.R.T.S. Market on First Fridays, the development of the innovative Valley of the Sunflowers project, and support of The Lot: What Should Go Here? Pop Up Park at 2nd Street and Roosevelt.
Dach believes that the development of the ASU Downtown campus and the coming of light rail have been key to the rebirth of the area. “It started with the nursing school. Suddenly you noticed lots of young women with ponytails out and about,” says Dach, laughing. “But as more and more of the schools moved downtown they brought a whole range of young people into the neighborhood,” she continues. “And they are looking for things to do and places to hang out.”
Dach believes that Downtown Phoenix, Inc. can make Phoenix more competitive. “The ratings system for development is good and DPI can help us grow the city in a smarter way.” Her advice for the organization? “DPI needs to allow for diversity in the widest possible sense to participate in change-making.” As she puts it, “We should always assume that things can be better.”
Cindy Dach, along with fellow DPI board members, Kimber Lanning, and Tim Eigo represent a powerful, grassroots movement that has brought a whole new kind of energy and promise to downtown. Their place at the table speaks to the impact they’ve had in creating the community they were seeking all those years ago.
In addition to her commitment to Roosevelt Row, Cindy is a staunch supporter of bringing a great bookstore to central Phoenix. It took eight years for Tempe-based Changing Hands to find the right location and circumstances to open a Phoenix store. Dach is confident that Phoenix can support the venture. “Phoenix is ready for a bookstore, but I think we have some bad habits to break.” She explains, “It’s very obvious and for good reason the Phoenix community has been buying their books online. I hope they don’t experience sticker shock and that they realize that it’s not just the book they are buying at full retail value, they’re buying the experience, they’re buying the store, they’re buying the bookseller who’s going to recommend the book.”
“But as more and more of the schools moved downtown they brought a whole range of young people into the neighborhood. And they are looking for things to do and places to hang out.”
Ultimately, Dach believes that Phoenix is not only ready, but deserves a great bookstore. “Phoenix deserves another great community gathering place; we have some great gathering places, but we’re ready for another model and I think the bookstore could be it.”
When did Dach realize that Phoenix was her place? She says it wasn’t one moment, but a series of little moments. “I remember working on Eye Lounge and going to Portland’s covered in dust and having conversations with people about what downtown needs. I began to feel like maybe I do have a place here. It really was like ‘if you build it they will come.’ I began to feel that I did have a purpose, to be involved, and that it’s fun to be involved.”
Dach believes that one of the most amazing things about Phoenix is the people. You say ‘hey, I have shovels and we need to clear this lot’ and, lo and behold, they show up. Phoenix just wants to know how to help.”
When asked about the possibility of an Enhanceed Municipal Services District for the Roosevelt area, Dach said, “In my head it can be great to see a community being able to take care of itself, because these services just don’t exist now. You can whine and complain and ask for them, but they’re not coming and at the end of the day it’s going to come down to the community having dialogue. What I love about the process we’re about to enter, it’s going to be the best way to engage everyone.”
This morning, the Phoenix City Council Downtown, Aviation and Redevelopment Subcommittee unanimously approved the first step in creating a new Enhanced Municipal Services District (EMSD) in the Roosevelt Row/Evans Churchill community just north of the downtown core.
The subcommittee recommended that the City Council authorize a contract not to exceed $90,000 with Downtown Phoenix, Inc. to create an in-depth study involving extensive outreach to property owners over the next 8-12 months. The money for the study will come out of the Downtown Community Reinvestment Fund, created for just such purposes.
The focus of the study will be to develop the EMSD concept for the area, to determine the boundaries of the new district, to identify the specific services to be covered, to determine the costs, and to create the governance structure for the EMSD. The recommendation will go to the full City Council for approval next week.
Greg Esser, Roosevelt Row CDC co-founder and board member sees the EMSD as a “valuable tool to make a lasting impact in this area.”
What exactly is an EMSD and why is this an exciting development for downtown? In simple terms, it is a public/private partnership that is developed to provide enhanced services to a specific area above and beyond basic city services.
Since 1974, when the first Downtown Development District (in the United States) was formed in New Orleans, more than 1500 districts like these have been created and are reshaping public management across the country. Key to their success is the unique public/private partnership model that generates revenue and provides the collective clout that comes from speaking with one voice.
David Krietor of Downtown Phoenix Inc. spoke in favor of the study at the subcommittee meeting saying, “These (public/private) organizations are tried and true all over the U.S. for promoting vibrant downtowns.”
Different states have different formation models for these entities and they are known by a wide range of buzzy acronyms. The most common catch-all label for them is BID (Business Improvement District). In Arizona, the formation model is called an Enhanced Municipal Service District or EMSD.
In 1990, the first EMSD in Arizona was created in downtown Phoenix. Known as the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, it brought a stable funding stream through a tax assessment on property owners within a 90-block area in downtown. This money paid for the creation of an enhanced security and hospitality program (Downtown Ambassadors), “Clean Team” maintenance, event facilitation, parking and transportation coordination, streetscape and urban design, and marketing for events. It brought focus, investment, people, and business into downtown. While this successful EMSD was improving the downtown core, something remarkable began happening just beyond its borders. The Roosevelt Row arts district was coming to life.
Just over a dozen years ago, artists, arts entrepreneurs and urban pioneers began creating and nurturing a thriving, vibrant arts district along Roosevelt Row in the historic Evans Churchill neighborhood. Over the last decade, these intrepid dreamers, including Kimber Lanning, Wayne Rainey, Greg Esser, Cindy Dach, Carla Wade, Kevin Rille, Vermon Pierre and a host of others have been building their ties, engaging with their neighbors, developing innovative partnerships, creating “must attend” events, and gaining national recognition as one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in our city.
In 2012, the neighborhood was granted a prestigious ArtsPlace Award to undertake a visioning process to create an even more vibrant, healthy community in the Roosevelt/Evans Churchill neighborhood. Out of this in-depth process, involving dozens of public meetings, events, surveys, and one-on-one conversations with residents, business owners, and visitors, the neighborhood developed a vision for the area that included the key element of creating this new EMSD.
Kevin Rille, president of the Evans Churchill Community Association, who was a key participant in this visioning process said, “We have a dynamic and engaged group, and this has been an incredibly inclusive visioning process.”
Vermon Pierre, president of the Roosevelt Row CDC added, “Piggy-backing on what Kevin said, we’re proud of the unique character of the area, and this study will assess the level of interest in owning and developing our part of the city.”
This new vision for a Roosevelt Row Artists’ District was introduced to the public at a launch party at The Nash on February 20, 2014.
From the beginning, the successful activation of the Roosevelt Row/Evans Churchill neighborhood has been based on the dedicated work of committed volunteers. The creation of the new EMSD will bring in revenue and create a professional organization to take their success to the next level. Approval of this study will be an important step forward for the neighborhood, and an even more important step for the overall growth and vibrancy of downtown Phoenix.
Editor’s Note: The original title of this story did not include Evans Churchill. This oversight has been corrected.