Solar-powered shade structure project on Roosevelt Row set to break ground in June

(Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Grajales)
The Roosevelt Street Improvements Public Art Project will bring sustainable, solar-powered shade structures like the one in this design rendering to three areas on Roosevelt Street. (Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Grajales)

After years of meetings and planning, construction for Roosevelt Row street improvements are set to break ground this June after a community-driven effort to make streets in downtown Phoenix more pedestrian-friendly, especially on Roosevelt Row.

Several updates for the Roosevelt Street Improvements Public Art Project, a part of the overall street improvements, were announced at a Phoenix City Council Parks, Arts, Transparency and Education Subcommittee meeting Wednesday. The Office of Arts and Culture became involved in order to add an artistic touch to the pedestrian-friendly changes in the street improvement project.

The committee announced the project will keep 93 percent of spending in the state with an approved $375,000 contract to oversee fabrication and construction of artistic shade structures and seating as part of the Roosevelt Street improvements.

Massachusetts artist J. Meejin Yoon of Howeler and Yoon Architecture will work with the city of Phoenix Street Transportation Department to oversee construction and installation of the sculptural shade structures and seating.

The structures will be located in three areas on Roosevelt Street: one on the east side of Carly’s Bistro on Second Street, one on the west side of jazz venue The Nash on First Street and multiple in the right-of-way triangle between Third and Fourth streets.

The state cost of the shade structures and seating totaled $407,703, in addition to the 7 percent spending of $36,000 that will go out of state for Yoon to oversee their creation and construction.

With a federal contribution of $68,703 allotted to the project, the contract came down to $375,000. City Council members approved the contract 3-1.

Public Art Program Director Ed Lebow said the approval is a culmination of the two-year design effort to improve streets on Roosevelt Row.

The sustainable, solar-powered structures will be 14 feet high and have a wing span of seven to eight feet. Lebow said they will be able to shade an area of 40 feet.

There will be 24 seats made of a material called corian attached to the steel shade structures. Elizabeth Grajales, the senior project manager, said that even though the Arizona sun heats everything up, corian “will not get as hot as some other materials.” She added that if there is damage to the seats, such as graffiti, the material is easily repaired.

“When we talk about doing street improvements in downtown Phoenix the idea of shade always comes up so there is lots of trees and shade structures,” Grajales said.

There is a nine-month construction contract spanning the area on Roosevelt Street from Central Avenue to Fourth Street, Grajales said. Other projected street improvements include adding bike lanes, widening existing sidewalks, providing new LED street lights, adding drought-tolerant shade trees along Roosevelt Street and improving the existing right-of-way triangle between Third and Fourth streets.

The community asked for less exposed concrete on this triangle because it creates so much heat in the summertime, Grajales said. In addition to the shade structures, the triangle will have trees and shrubs to keep the area cool.

“When we do these improvements I see the value is when people are out there enjoying them. It is a gathering area, and to me that is painfully ordinary,” Grajales said.

Grajales thinks the new “pocket park” in the triangle will fit with the atmosphere of downtown Phoenix.

“I am hoping there are poetry readings in there and people play guitar and sit and talk, I am hoping it becomes that sort of place,” she said.

While the street construction begins on Roosevelt Street, the shade structures will be in the creation process at Magnum, a Phoenix-based manufacturing company.

“We will wait to put in the shade structures until the very end (of the street construction). We don’t want (any trucks) backing up into any of the shade structures. It will probably take four to five months to have the shade structures complete.”

Grajales said the city hopes to finish all construction by Super Bowl XLIX, which will be held in Glendale.

“Projects like this started out with hard-nose activists (like me),” said Haley Ritter, a resident in Phoenix’s District 5 who has been attending City Council meetings for the past seven years in order to be a part of bicycle initiatives in the Valley.

“I am very much in support of (this contract),” Ritter added. “I appreciate this project as I spend a lot of time downtown and I am excited to see this whole project unfold as far as all the other sustaining projects going on.”

Louise Roman, who was on the artist selection panel for this initiative, said this has been a very transparent and important process to watch unfold because the public input has been carried through in the project.

Phoenix Councilman Michael Nowakowski said this project shows “how we can portray Roosevelt Street not only on First Fridays, but every day.”

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