Community members discuss future of Grand Avenue, Roosevelt Row

Left to right: Jennifer Evans, Beatrice Moore,Greg Esser, Lani Lott, and David Crummey. (Amanda LaCasse/DD)
Community representatives led a panel to discuss the future of key areas in downtown Phoenix. From left to right: Jennifer Evans, Beatrice Moore, Greg Esser, Lani Lott and David Crummey. (Amanda LaCasse/DD)

More than 20 community members gathered Thursday afternoon to discuss ways to ensure areas like Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue grow and succeed in the future.

This meeting was organized by the Arizona Downtown Alliance and was held in a multipurpose room at Phoenix Center for the Arts near Third and Moreland streets. All attendees came from different employment backgrounds, and a few from areas as far away as Mesa.

They were all were united by a common theme: They want main street areas to flourish.

Consultants Lani Lott and Jennifer Evans presented a four-point approach to revitalizing neighborhoods and downtown areas through the Arizona Main Street Program, which aims to change the way communities think about and manage the revitalization of downtown and neighborhood areas.

The Arizona Main Street Program, as described by Lott, is intended to be a “catalytic approach to activate spaces” in urban and rural communities alike. The program, designed to be enacted in multiple types of locations, has already been put in place in cities like Pinetop-Lakeside, Florence and Casa Grande.

After Lott and Evans presented techniques for improving neighborhood areas, local panelists discussed the developments and revitalizations taking place on their main streets.

Beatrice Moore was the panel representative for the Grand Avenue Merchants’ Association, soon to be renamed the Grand Avenue Members’ Association. Moore, an artist and property owner, moved to Grand Avenue in 1992 after living in the warehouse district.

“(We) got kicked out of the warehouse district and kind of saw the whole gentrification thing and how it works when it comes to artists and artist studios,” Moore said.

Moore said she hopes that as Grand Avenue becomes more frequented by visitors it will maintain its diversity.

“Sometimes when things start to get gentrified, they want to push out everything,” Moore said. “Pretty soon, it’s so clean and tidy, and people gravitate to these neighborhoods. In that process you lose some of the soul of these neighborhoods.”

Moore also said that the recently installed bike lanes and street parking changed the perception of Grand Avenue, making people feel safer.

“Nothing’s changed in the neighborhood. The crime level is probably about the same, which is not great, but it’s certainly a lot less than it was six or seven years ago,” Moore said. “But, the perception has changed. It’s one of those psychological things that make you feel safer in general.”

Greg Esser was the panel representative for the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation. He is on the Roosevelt Row CDC board and is the director for the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program at Combine Studios.

Esser said there would be many exciting things happening on Roosevelt Row in 2014, but he is apprehensive about upcoming construction on the streetscape of Roosevelt Row.

“Streetscape is invaluable, but any time there’s construction that disrupts an area, it can be harmful to the businesses,” Esser said. “We’re very cognizant of that, and we’re proactive about helping support those businesses during construction.”

Esser said construction will be completed in two phases, so the entirety of Roosevelt Street will not be shut down all at once.

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