Because of its dynamic use of space in downtown Phoenix, Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation has been named a finalist for a national grant for creative placemaking.
The Creative Placemaking Grant is funded by ArtPlace, a collaboration of federal agencies, national banks and foundations that aim to support projects that use art and culture to increase the viability of communities.
ArtPlace intends to boost a community’s economic opportunity and enhance its vibrancy, said Tim Halbur, the group’s director of communications.
“We’re looking for the confluence art can create –– that energy in a neighborhood that makes things happen,” he said.
Roosevelt Row CDC is one of 126 finalists chosen from 22,000 applicants. It is the only organization in Arizona to place as a finalist.
Of those chosen, only a quarter will receive grant money, Halbur said.
ArtPlace will offer a total of $15 million to be split among the awarded projects.
Each applicant can request an amount of up to $1 million. Roosevelt Row CDC applied for $150,000 to complete several projects.
Halbur said ArtPlace chose Roosevelt Row CDC as a finalist because the group felt the corporation understood the goals of creative placemaking.
The community development corporation is motivated to develop the empty spaces that are concentrated along Roosevelt Row.
“We’re creating a blueprint for future development,” said Greg Esser, Roosevelt Row CDC board member and associate director of the ASU Desert Initiative.
Esser was the first to learn of the grant.
“We’re integrating social cohesion by doing little projects,” he said, emphasizing the extensive artist live-work space and cohesive infrastructure in downtown.
Cindy Dach, Roosevelt Row CDC acting director, said these projects can combat the vacant lots rampant in downtown Phoenix and create a “walkable, affordable, urban arts district.”
One such project is the A.R.T.S Village, which also would make use of vacant lots in downtown Phoenix. The village would sit on the 100,000 square feet of empty space at the corner of Ninth and Roosevelt streets.
A.R.T.S. stands for “adaptive reuse of temporary space.” The development would be made from shipping containers or air streamers, which are similar to trailers, to serve as artist’s studios, cafes, and retail and performance space.
The containers or trailers would be designed by artists and provide an anchor for the downtown community, Esser said.
Roosevelt Row is currently negotiating with the owner of the lot to lease the space, and Dach said the owner has been receptive to the idea.
The corporation is working on an additional project that would organize a one-time community dinner along a closed-off street. A table would seat 2,400 people and feature food only from local farmers to promote the local food movement.
The location for the community dinner is not finalized, but Esser said areas near Margaret T. Hance Park and First Street are being considered.
Roosevelt Row CDC would also use awarded grant funds to design its own streetscape for Roosevelt Row.
Although the city is currently designing ideas for the street, Dach said the corporation wants to be more involved with the planning.
“We want to work in coordination and complement to the city’s design,” she said. Dach mentioned wider sidewalks, better signage and parking, and a community garden as ideas being considered.
Winners of grants funded by ArtPlace will be announced in May. At the same time, the group will introduce “vibrancy indicators,” a method to determine the success of the projects it funds. Halbur said the indicators will evaluate progress of the funded projects.
For projects that aren’t chosen, Halbur said ArtPlace will still find ways to offer support.
Esser said Roosevelt Row CDC plans on moving forward with its projects even if not selected for a grant.
“It’s about an infrastructure that supports people who want to make a community,” he said.
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