Proposed downtown dog park location gains momentum

Community advocate Sean Sweat has pushed for a dog park in downtown Phoenix since August 2010, with three proposed locations near the ASU Downtown campus. (Madeline Pado/DD)
Community members gathered Sunday to discuss the potential location of a dog park in downtown Phoenix, the third attempt at finding a location for the potential park that has been discussed since August 2010.

Community advocate Sean Sweat, who has led the dog park effort since its inception, said the park would make downtown more inviting to residents.

“If someone wants to go to a dog park now, they have to get in their car and drive. That’s not the point of living downtown; the point of living downtown is you shouldn’t have to drive,” Sweat said.

Sweat has promoted the idea of a dog park since the site of the Ramada Inn was slated to become a parking lot outside Taylor Place in August 2010.

Sweat opposed the lot, claiming downtown already had excess parking. He suggested a dog park would be a better use for the space, considering the location and number of residents nearby.

The Phoenix Board of Adjustment rejected this proposal last November.

Sweat then focused efforts another ASU parking lot on McKinley Street, an unsuccessful bid as ASU refused to give up the space.

Sean Sweat's plan for a downtown dog park consists of two sections along First Street leading up to Margaret T. Hance Park. (Photo illustration: Sean Sweat)
Sweat is now focusing his energy on a section of First Street north of Roosevelt Street. The location would benefit a majority of downtown residents, Sweat said. Along with easy access for residents, the location would draw people into Margaret T. Hance Park and attract pedestrians to nearby businesses.

“It will create pedestrian corridors. People will see businesses and businesses will get more use and suddenly you have a pedestrian-(oriented) downtown, which is my goal,” Sweat said.

The current proposal has the park split into two spaces with separate areas for small dogs and larger dogs. The sections would be approximately 16,000 square feet and 40 feet wide.  Traffic would be directed southbound and parking could be added along Portland Street.

Not everyone supports this location, however. Cynthia Peters, Parks and Preserve administrator, claims the First Street location would be too difficult.

“There may be some issues with that. It’s too small, we’d have to bring in water and electricity, the ability of the staff to maintain it, if we can even grow grass on the site. It’s all kinds of things,” Peters said.

Peters said funding would have to come from the Parks and Recreation department and other fundraising methods.

Sweat is exploring alternate ways to make the park profitable. He currently estimates the park has the potential to raise $62,000 per year through memberships and sponsorships.

Other locations have been considered. Last year former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon created the Ad Hoc Downtown Dog Park Citizen’s Committee, which had 76 members, including Sweat. The committee made recommendations for the park’s location, including Margaret T. Hance Park.  Sweat claimed that the committee was a political railroading and was designed to be ineffective. The committee required a 75-percent consensus on any recommendation.

Robert McClellan, a former Ad Hoc Committee member who attended the Sunday meeting, agreed. Owner of an English Mastiff named Buckingham; McClellan says he wants to see more green spaces downtown and believes a dog park is the way to achieve this.

Although he supports the idea of a dog park, McClellan does have concerns about traffic on the First Street location.

The location is also receiving resistance from Michael Twenty-three, director of the Firehouse Gallery art space on First Street. Twenty-three created a Facebook page Sunday night in opposition, and the page had over 50 fans on Monday.

Twenty-three said the park would not be good for his business and that downtown needs to be more accessible to artists.

“Our goal is to create and build a nexus for the creative people downtown,” he said.

Hance Park is also an option. Peters said the park location would be more manageable as it is already an established park.

Sweat, however, disagrees.

“It [Hance Park] serves no one downtown. It’s in a bad location, there are not many people living around it and it’s on a bad side of the highway,” he said.

Sweat believes a better solution would be to connect the dog park to Hance Park through First Street.

“It is something vitally needed for Hance Park because it makes a connection between the active portion of downtown and … Hance Park,” he said.

Sweat has met with several members from the city, including Karen Williams, deputy director for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Williams said the question is, “How can we make downtown a place where people want to live, play and work?”

Williams knows that it is a challenge, but believes it is necessary to look at opportunities for green spaces for dogs.

The First Street option has not been formally presented yet, but Williams says there will be an opportunity when the Margaret T. Hance Park Master Plan Steering Committee meets in February.

Despite the difficulties, Sweat is determined to see his vision of a downtown dog park realized.

“My mission is to make downtown a place that people can live easily without a car — a place people will move specifically because of how vibrant and diverse life can be here without a car,” Sweat said.

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  1. For clarification, the specific portion of Hance Park being referenced when I said that, “It’s in a bad location, there are not many people living around it and it’s on a bad side of the highway” is at 5th Avenue north of I-10. I wasn’t referring to Hance Park generally.

  2. As a resident in the neighborhood, I’m opposed to this downtown Dog Park plan. It isn’t adaptive reuse, it’s gentrification at its worse, negatively impacting business & residential on 1st Street.

    Saying it’ll connect Roosevelt w Hance park is “too little, too late”, considering supportive structures (1 theater, several store fronts & 1 apt complex) were razed within the last few years, leaving the entire block a series of empty lots. Building a park NEXT to a park won’t change that dynamic.

    I’d suggest either find part of (the ginormous) Hance Park that can be designated as a dog park area, or adaptively reuse an underused park that exists (Roosevelt Park @ 837 N 3rd Ave might be worth a look), rather than needlessly tearing up part of the community to make it happen.

  3. If you are opposed to the dog park Sean Sweat is purposing you are hurting Phoenix. Look at the big picture folks.

  4. Oh for god’s sake it’s a damn dog park. If it had already been there before no one would even blink an eye. I am so tired of this uppity community trying to micro-manage every piece of land to fit their ideal image of life. Downtown & Central are made up of hundreds of types of people and sometimes you need to give a little to maintain community. These people losing their sh*t because it’s “bad placement” or too close to an art gallery are being ridiculous. Dog parks are clean, visually appealing places that create a sense of community engagement and activity. Your life will not shatter to pieces because there is a dog park near you.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with Tegan. I have dogs and it would be nice to not have to drive somewhere if I want to take them to a park. There are lots of dog owners in Phoenix, specifically in this area, who would be able to walk or bike with their dogs to the park. Twenty-three, which obviously is not his actual last name, is an artist whose wife works in the Firehouse and I believe they also own the spot, not just direct what happens there. These pretentious people who are stressing creativity and who normally stress community, given all the events they host, are trying to shutter themselves off so that only people who they deem artsy enough can stroll around their precious hipster house. They started the page “Stop DogS*** Park on First Street.” Intelligent way of starting the conversation, don’t you think? If a dog park was built, it would foster community and maybe people would actually go in the Firehouse… Most people don’t even know about it unless they accidentally wandered in during First Fridays.
    All of that aside, it is true though that this location might not be right because of the construction needed, but the idea is to discuss it and find a place that is right. If Twenty-Three and others are opposed to it, try discussing the issues you have instead of instigating conflict just because it’s faster.

  6. Another point of clarification:

    The above location doesn’t create any extra construction, because it’s already on the City’s roadmap to tear up that road from property line to property line and redo it. The stretch mentioned in the article is the final phase of the First Street streetscape work that we’ve all been watching farther south on First Street by the Phoenix Public Market.

    That’s actually a big part of what makes that location attractive: It isn’t a proposal for new construction — it just requires a tweak to the City’s design plan for a construction project that is already in the works.

    See their current plans here:

  7. How much is it costing taxpayer to tare up this road and reconstruct new lanes? Who doz this serve? Dog Park or no dog park this sounds like a waist of money we don’t have. And who got the contract for it and why

  8. I apologize for not including information about the future First Street construction. I’ll be sure to include that extensively in any future article I may write.

  9. Via PhxDowntowner: “These pretentious people who are stressing creativity and who normally stress community, given all the events they host, are trying to shutter themselves off so that only people who they deem artsy enough can stroll around their precious hipster house.”

    SO true! I will surely not be driven to visit a place that has such hatred of any community except their own. Sad that people who are so dedicated to the downtown area can’t think outside their own needs and wants to help build, grow, and improve the community rather spreading vile hatred and pretentious attitude.

  10. Tegan, I’m sure your loss will pass entirely unnoticed.

    PhxD, you mention that this will not entail additional construction. Is there already a dog park in the location? If not, how will it come to be there?

    Is there an answer to that question which doesn’t involve construction?

    Yes, the local art community is upset by this proposal and in many cases are responding in an unconstructive and ridiculous fashion. It’s not useful, but it is understandable considering that this is simply the latest in a series of proposed initiatives and city actions which have repeatedly harmed their efforts to create and sustain a true, thriving art community which exists as something more than a novelty for the sorts of downtown newcomers who wouldn’t have been caught dead downtown before the arrival of high-dollar housing and abundant chain stores.

    On the other hand, the influx of ladies who lunch and the various camp followers of the all-consuming ASU have now arrived with your manufactured outrage at the people who’ve always been downtown, who are fine living in a place without a nearby Coffee Bean, and who didn’t wait to move downtown until after the city decided to take all the downtown out of it.

    For my part, you really don’t get a say. If you want a dog, move to a place with a yard, don’t expect that the city should provide for you at someone else’s expense. If you want a nice, safe shopping district with attractions -aplenty without the fear of crime, move back to Scottsdale and enjoy purchasing your authentic southwestern art at the Gilbert Ortega.

  11. Michael, you’re obviously someone who has never been to a dog park. It’s not just about having a place to walk your dog. It’s a way to get to know people in the community and people end up talking about cool places around the neighborhood. They make neighborhoods more friendly. Nobody is trying to turn downtown into a suburb, but rather make it a place that people want to visit and and come appreciate the diversity that it offers.
    As for being a student and people “lunching” in the community, it brings money to the community that make people start projects, like the amazing Phoenix Public Market or the number of restaurants that have opened nearby. The growth and appreciation of downtown is a great thing and not something for the “special” few who happened to live here first. Get off your high horse and do something besides trying to stunt the growth of this community — because guess what, it’s not just yours.

  12. Oh my god Michael

    “Waahhh my art community is going to be RUINED by all these DOGS!!! MY ART!!” You are ridiculous. Stop trying to control every inch of “your” community. You are not the standard to which society must elevate itself. Your pretentiousness is ridiculous and unfounded. The existence of a dog park will in no way affect your little art community.

    “Don’t expect the city to provide you one at someone else’s expense”? REALLY? Is it your “expense” we should all be worried about? Are you living in that shitty lot and you would lose your home to a dog park? Would the existence of dogs force you to move? I am not sure who’s expense is really at stake here with the existence of a park for dogs.

  13. Well said Tegan. It can be difficult to argue with people that are misinformed and unreasonable. As an artist myself, I know there is no way in hell this dog park could hurt the artist community. It would only help. I guess the only thing left to do is to fight for this dog park. I’m extremely talented at pulling resources as my roots in Phoenix run deep.

  14. It’s nice to hear DDluver that you know your integrity as an artist and the respect of your art will not hurt by the presence of a dog park! I don’t know why some see having a dog part and having an art community as unable to coexist.

    If you go to the historic district of Flagstaff, they have a flourishing art community and everyone brings their dogs around. People talk to each other and look at art and talk about their dogs and one big awesome community. I think being able to bring downtown people together on another level can only help the community.

  15. The 1st Street improvements will reduce parking for both residents & business on that street. A dog park will all but eliminate it.

    The further removed parking is to the block, the less likely it is for business to succeed. The further away residents have to park from their home, the less safe they will be.

    Adding a dog park will not, as some claim, bring “money to the community that make people start projects” because, as I pointed out earlier, the total lack of supportive structures (i.e. BUILDINGS) on 1st precludes that from happening, short of large-scale projects built from the ground up — and I don’t know that a dog park will really tip the scales in favor of somebody considering that.

    While I can appreciate Mr. Sweat’s desire to break-up the city’s “more asphalt & concrete only” plan, I don’t feel this is the best plan to do it, but at least his heart’s in the right place.


    What plans does the city have for the unused fire station at 1st & Moreland?

    Who owns the large building directly across from that fire station? It has huge mixed use (art/retail/small business) possibilities, yet has been shuttered for years. Or are we simply waiting for it to “mysteriously burn down” like several other properties on (& adjacent to) 1st Street – because the land is more valuable than the structure itelf?

    Why so many empty lots? If the city supports a dog park, and isn’t willing to annex part of Hance Park for this use, how about put money to mouth & procure one of these lots for a dog park? There’s several to choose from between Portland & Moreland, from 1st to 2nd Streets.

    Building a dog park at this locale won’t build the community you want. Rebuilding the community itself – by in-filling what’s there & underused (or not being used at all) – will do a lot more to foster it.

    THAT’S the Big Picture right there.

  16. I’m not quite sure how the dogpark will make money. Membership and sponsorship? What does that look like? Considering the other PHX dogparks don’t require memberships, why should this one?

    As someone who goes frequently to dogparks, I would argue that it isn’t especially clean nor does it really activate a sense of community engagement. Dog owners go to exercise their dogs in an enclosed area and yes- MIGHT create a sense of community but I’ve never seen it extend outside of a dogpark.

    I’ve never witnessed the phenomenon in Flagstaff though so maybe it could. But why would you need to create a dogpark to walk around the streets of downtown? I’m by no means AGAINST the creation of a dogpark since as mentioned, I’m a frequent user, but if Hance park is as big as people say (I live Midtown, not Downtown so I’ve never been), why not use what’s already there? Build in the nicer part of the park or build in the not as nice part and take it back- as the saying goes.

  17. By the way, I’m not entirely opposed to the “big dog” park location in theory, as it could work as in-fill (nothing but empty lots across the street!), and not have the same negative impact as the proposed “small dog” location. But I still think we can do better… by focusing on the underused/unused properties & land already there without having to “build out” onto the streetscape.

  18. It is a shame that the dog park that everyone wants has taken so much time and resources, and we still dont have one. IMO we have bigger issues downtown to spend the effort on.

  19. In a time of economic downturn, when money is tight and services are being cut to the poor and sick, when taxes are not covering the cost of our cities living it is a shame to think that something like a ‘dog park’ would be considered worth spending the money on, when human lives lay in the balance. I think we have our priorities confused. To then propose to pay for the cost of destroying a street in downtown phoenix when so many city owned lots are vacant and easily able to be made into dog parks. Anyone with a lick of common sense and fiscal consideration can see how this idea to tear up and pay for the rebuilding of a street is foolish, unnecessary and heartless in regard to those who as a result of schemes like these can’t even afford to get medical help… I question who we think we are in this life. And how arrogant?

  20. @Kathleen
    Human lives will always “lay in the balance.” Just because others are suffering, it doesn’t mean that we should put aside our own lives and suffer along with them, nor am I arguing that we also shouldn’t provide them aid.

    I’m not quite sure how much you think dogparks costs, but I’m certain that it doesn’t come anywhere close to how much is spent on social services, cuts and all. The maintenance also isn’t anywhere near the cost.

    Also, I think you’re confusing the issue. The city was already going to tear up the road, dogpark or not. This proposed plan/location for the dogpark is only a minor amendment to a plan already in place.

    A dogpark might increase the amount of foot area at the location, but I don’t think it detracts or negatively impacts, in any way, a plan that has already been proposed and accepted.

  21. I agree with Pete, it’s not the idea of a dog park itself that is upsetting people, it’s the proposed location. The parking on 1st street is already limited and you cannot deny that there are A LOT of empty lots in the heart of downtown that could be better utilized as a community dog park. I think if we all work together, we can find a roomier and more appropriate location for members of the community to enjoy!

  22. Sean Sweat says Margaret T Hance park won’t work because it’s in a bad location and doesn’t serve anybody, but he wants to put a dog park RIGHT NEXT TO IT. This makes no sense. There are many vacant lots all over the city that could be used as a dog park. Taking out a street lane and street parking in this critical area is incredibly stupid and selfish. If you want to have room for your dogs to run around, there are plenty of houses in downtown Phoenix that can be purchased or rented for a fraction of the price of an apartment or condo. This dog park is catering to a select group of condo-dwelling privileged individuals who are too afraid to live in a real Phoenix neighborhood where they could have a huge backyard. A dog park could be a great asset to the city and it’s residents, but this proposed location is a terrible idea.

  23. I don’t know if Mark’s comment re: apartment/condo dwellers are necessarily true but I live in a house with a decent sized backyard and the only time they play in the backyard is if I don’t have time to take them elsewhere. Otherwise there are plenty of options (hiking, dogparks, daytrips, etc) that I’d choose over having them play in the backyard all the time.

    Any backyard I ever have will never be as big as dogparks tend to be. Any backyard I ever have will never have the same amount of dogs a dogpark gets. Dogparks are beneficial in that it’s a large, safe space for dogs to freely run around, in addition to socializing with other dogs and humans as well.

    I know that the desire for this particular location and previous locations stemmed from people not having to drive to get to the dogpark- the only people that would benefit from walking to the location are those in the immediate area. When it’s blazing hot outside, the last thing I want is to walk my dog 15-20 minutes, in areas with no shade, arrive at the dogpark, and have them lay there because they’re overheated. I’m pretty sure most dog owners who live downtown would drive to the dogpark unless the walk is relatively quick.

  24. Call me crazy but I think if you all really cared for your dogs that much, you would make necessary “sacrifices” with your lifestyles and locations you choose to live for the greater good of your companion’s well-being. And if you are worried about your dog overheating if they walk for 10 minutes in the summer, maybe you shouldn’t live in the desert. I bike like 8-12 hours all over downtown per week, I just plan ahead and you know…bring water.

    I question how anyone thinks a members-only fenced in area that robs the current community on the street of its parking is supposed to stimulate local business. If people already it would seem in Sean’s contention won’t walk their dogs in the HUGE Hance park 2 blocks away why would they want to come and pay to sniff asses with their neighbors dogs in a fancy little fenced in area RIGHT next to it? And if they would, in all honesty, what does that say about them? My bet is they will still drive their dogs to that park (because it’s in a “bad neighborhood”), use up all the parking of the Firehouse and Apartment residents nextdoor and never otherwise set foot on that street.

    I used to live on 1st Street at the Firehouse for a year, and have lived and worked in the community for the past 5 years. On behalf of the current residents and “pretentious artists,” I want someone, ANYONE on here to list 5 ways a dog “park” in front of my home where I would normally park my car would benefit ME who doesn’t own a dog. Can I picnic and sunbather on its grasses also, because from what I hear, it is damn near impossible to find my way to Hance Park, and even if I could, it sounds like by the way you all speak of it, no one would EVER want to go there. Idunno why, are you afraid of the homeless or something? If I owned a dog, I would certainly take them there before I would ever pay the city to use a “dog park” in my own front yard. But that’s just me. I can’t remotely seem to understand the perspectives of most of the dog park supporters, and think Pete is one of the only calm and nonjudgemental voices who has posted on this page.

  25. I live in the Shawnee Park neighborhhod in Chandler and live about 180 feet from Shawnee Bark Park, an off-leash dog park. Anyone who says it doesn’t impact your life, I invite you to purchase a home directly adjacent to the park, don’t buy it as a rental, you move in yourself – keep an eye on real estate listings and please, snap up one of these highly desireable properties (my sarcasm comes through). Visit to learn about the story of my neighborhood and the indifference of our City of Chandler council, even though they admit the dog-park location mistake on record (in hindsight). Look at our videos and decide if you want this in your neighborhood.

    Having been engaged in a fight with my city council for several years now, I believe I am at least somewhat qualified to provide this advice to you to prevent the same thing from happening in your neighboorhood: Organize your neighborhood, every member, every home, not just a few vocal ones, and tell the Phoenix decision makers (mayor and council – city council meetings, parks director, ad-hoc committee, neighborrhood leaders, etc. – go to those public meetings and speak on record – use our Shawnee Park website as reference material) you don’t want a dog park at your front doorstep. I assure you this. If a dog park is installed in your neighborhood, it will permenantly damage your quality of life, and very likely your property value. This is no joke, neighbors. Failure to organize and speak with a unified voice will result in bad things happening in your neighborhood. That’s why Shawnee Bark park continues to exist in my neighborhood – it was the failure of every address in the affected area to organize and mobilize. Protecting your neighborhood is not a spectator sport. So neighbors, get off the sideline and into the street, meet every neighbor in the proposed affected area, agree you want to protect your property, speak with a unified voice, and every household send a rep to the meetings so the public record shows you are unified in your opposition. Everyone must participate. If that had happened in my neighborhood then would not be necessary. I suspect my neighborhood can serve as a national example of what happens when the neighborhood fails to unify – then you get a dog park and packs of barking dogs 16 feet from your back yard barbeque pit. I hope my information helps you in your fight to protect your property and helps you unify as a neighborhood. This is no joke. Stay active and get involved.

  26. Paul said: “On behalf of the current residents and “pretentious artists,” I want someone, ANYONE on here to list 5 ways a dog “park” in front of my home where I would normally park my car would benefit ME who doesn’t own a dog.”

    For you, Paul:

    1. More people/eyes on the street = safer neighborhood (including the adjacent section of Hance)

    2. Parks designated for dogs keep other parks dog-free.

    3. You’d have grass rather than asphalt in front of your house. a) Ooh, grass! Pretty! b) More importantly:

    4. More people a) knowing about, b) walking past the Firehouse creates marketing opportunities that, if taken advantage of, can translate to sales for the artists living and working there. (I hate to imply artists are interested in anything other than the unadulterated love of their art but *hypothetically* if they wanted more potential customers around this could be a good way to accomplish that.)

    5. Related to #4: A community amenity like this is a selling-point that makes the neighborhood more attractive to potential residents. More people in the neighborhood is just an all-around good thing. More tax dollars. More evangelists creating and fighting for a better community. Increased vitality of other businesses not directly connected to the park (i.e. more customers and sales for [your favorite local establishment] because more people live downtown). Continuing with that: Once businesses start to succeed more consistently that creates a better landscape for more people to take the leap of opening a business/non-profit/community organization downtown.

    I am in no way implying a dog park alone accomplishes all of these, but it’s a piece of the puzzle and a start at what will be a long process of creating a vibrate community downtown. As a downtown resident and dog park advocate (also: non-dog owner), I want to see the personality and unique culture of the arts district protected, but feel strongly this can be done in a way that creates an attractive, self-sustaining neighborhood where it’s possible to live car-free without the sacrifice of giving up things you love, or love to do, in order to do so.

  27. THIS IS REAL!?! I thought my friend was playing a practical joke on me! (really.) First, let me say that I’m in full support of a dog park downtown. So is my dog. They do bring business with them. However, I forcefully object to the 1st St location. SERIOUSLY!?! I’ve traveled and lived in 32 states and NEVER HAVE I SEEN A DOG PARK IN THE FRONT YARD OF ANY BUSINESS OR RESIDENCE!!!! I want to take my dog to nice open area like a real “dog park”. The proposal for this location is essentially two big dog runs. One of them less than 10ft from the entrances of 6 apartment homes and businesses. Why is this even being considered? Absolutely absurd. It’ll never happen.