Roosevelt Street redesign project remains contentious around issue of on-street parking

(Courtesy of the city of Phoenix)
Layout concepts for the redesign project. Final plans for the project must be submitted by March 15 to be eligible for federal funding. (Courtesy of the city of Phoenix)

Cookies and bottled water did nothing to soothe flaring tempers over progress on the Roosevelt Street redesign project Wednesday after the city of Phoenix Street Transportation Department presented its 90 percent completion report.

Wednesday evening’s meeting at Roosevelt Community Church was the third in a series of public scoping meetings conducted by the Street Transportation Department to gain community feedback on the project, which has been in progress since 2005.

Plans for the streetscape must be finalized by March 15 to be eligible for federal funding, but community members are still at odds over several aspects of the project, including the implementation of on-street parallel parking spots.

The street transportation department lacks the authority to design on-street parking in front of properties where business owners object, said Kerry Wilcoxon, an engineer with the city of Phoenix.

“When it’s all said and done, if every business owner along this stretch wanted parking, you’re only talking about nine spaces,” Wilcoxon said. “But even if it were two or three, we would determine it on an individual basis. We just need the decision made by the business owners.”

John Logan, co-owner of Carly’s Bistro at Roosevelt and Second streets, hopes the project’s wider sidewalks will allow him to add a patio seating area. On-street parking would take up too much sidewalk space and would discourage foot traffic along that section of the street, he said.

“We want to encourage a pedestrian atmosphere,” Logan said. “The spirit of a pedestrian area is not to entertain cars.”

On-street parking is a recurring point of contention between business owners, who don’t want parked cars blocking the fronts of their businesses, and other community members, who want street parking to serve as a protective barrier between street traffic and pedestrians.

Wilcoxon said the city has contacted business and property owners along Roosevelt Street about parking but plans to do so again in a last-ditch effort to reach a compromise before the March 15 deadline.

“We’re trying to keep as much of this open as possible,” he said. “The decision-making is the difficult part. And if you think that you guys are not at the table, you’re wrong.”

If no compromise can be agreed upon, the plan will proceed as it currently stands with no parking for the four-block area, which already has on-street parking between First and Second streets.

Pouring 20-foot sidewalks without cutouts for street parking makes it difficult to add parking later if business owners change their minds, community members pointed out. But were parking cutouts to be included in the new curbs, businesses that want to avoid cars blocking their front could optimize sidewalk space by adding parklets — specially designed platforms that extend the sidewalk surface to fill a parking space.

“I’d rather you do nothing than do it wrong,” said Will Novak, a Phoenix native and downtown activist. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be close. We can’t shoot an airball. We at least have to hit the rim.”

Artist Meejin Yoon also presented her updated designs for the project’s shade structures, which resemble chunky, geometric mushrooms. The designs show the parasols clustered together and shading a small plaza on the triangular piece of land north of Roosevelt Street between Third and Fourth streets.

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