A few students linger by the fountains as the sun sets. Others march through the urban park on their way to the light rail without stopping for a second glance, and a dance organization practices on the main stage. A few clusters of people sit around silver tables, and some transients mill about. And the “Her Secret is Patience” art piece hangs prominently overhead.
Nearly two years after its opening, there are mixed feelings over whether or not the Civic Space Park has been a success, but many agree that more visitors would help the park fulfill its role as a spot for community gathering.
The park, which is across the street from the Downtown campus and sits on nearly three acres, opened in April 2009. It offers a pasture for students to hang out in but is also uninviting due to safety concerns and a lack of visitors.
Students said the park has provided them with a scenic background to practice videography, a spot to drink coffee with a friend, fields to throw and catch Frisbees on and much else.
Edward Jensen, an urban and metropolitan studies senior, said he regularly enjoys coming to the park on sunny days.
“A couple times a couple friends and I have decided we’re going to grab a blanket and have a picnic here,” he said.
Jensen said he thinks Civic Space has lived up to expectations and will continue to get better.
“As more and more people use the space for their events, that positive word-of-mouth advertising will work and more people will use the space,” he said.
The park, which is run by a coalition including the City of Phoenix, ASU’s College of Public Programs, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership and the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA, has worked alongside other local projects to revitalize downtown, said David Roderique, president of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.
“Having a wonderful amenity like that for the people down here is again part of that whole rebirth of downtown,” he said.
But Civic Space, which cost $34 million and was funded primarily by 2006 Parks and Historic Preservation bonds as well as the Phoenix Parks and Preserve Initiative, could still continue to improve, Roderique said. The park would benefit from regularly having the type of turnout it does on days with events or nice spring afternoons.
“The biggest thing is just having it active,” he said. “So more events, more activities, more things going on will continue to help.”
One of the major reasons some people don’t visit the park as much as those responsible for it would like is safety concerns.
Jessica Gomez, a criminal justice sophomore, said she used to visit Civic Space on a daily basis, but she now tries to avoid the park after she was approached by a man who she believes may have been on drugs and who solicited her for sex.
“There are still safety issues despite seeing a security guard walking around,” she said. “It needs more safety procedures.”
Though there are three police forces that patrol the area, other students also mentioned instances of insecurity at the park that have driven them away including feeling that the park is not well lit, feeling unsafe around homeless people at the park and not feeling secure simply due to the park’s lack of visitors.
David Urbinato, a public information officer for City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation, said that having more regular park visitors would increase the sense of safety at Civic Space.
“When you populate a park, when there are more people who move to an area and become regular users of the park you see a lot of worries and the safety issues kind of recede,” he said. “It kind of comes full cycle because as people feel safe, they use the park more often.”
But Urbinato said the park is still very new, adding that it is going to expand in the coming year and that it sits square in the middle of all the changes going on in downtown Phoenix.
“A year is a really short period in the life of a park,” Urbinato said. “The park really is very much in its infancy.”
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