New community pocket park to open between Taylor Place and Valley Youth Theatre

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Salvaged trees and street lamps stay pushed to the side as construction clears out the space between Taylor Place and Valley Youth Theatre. Downtown Phoenix Inc. is in the middle of creating a community pocket park. (Melanie Whyte/DD)
Salvaged trees and street lamps stay pushed to the side as construction clears out the space between Taylor Place and Valley Youth Theatre. Downtown Phoenix Inc. is in the middle of creating a community pocket park. (Melanie Whyte/DD)

Taylor Place and Valley Youth Theatre will receive a new neighbor this spring when Downtown Phoenix Inc. opens a community pocket park between the two buildings.

The park, called The Space Between, will not be permanent. Instead, it will be a temporary activation project for the vacant lot on First and Fillmore streets.

Ray Cabrera, Streetscape Programs Manager at Downtown Phoenix Partnership, said he hopes the park is around for at least a year and a half.

“We’re hearing it’s going to be a couple of years before ASU is going to move on to building the next phase of Taylor Place, and there are all kinds of legal milestones that need to happen before that development can take place,” Cabrera said.

He said he is still completely on board with the temporary nature of the pocket park.

“We realize we want to put in elements that — when we get kicked out of that lot — we might be able to find another partner and move it to another place,” he said.

Cabrera said portions of the park, like seating or trees in boxes, would be able to move to another part of downtown that might need more active public space.

The city owns the land between the two establishments. Cabrera said the city has a three-month window during which it can take the lot back.

Earlier in the year, the city approached Downtown Phoenix Inc. to coordinate jobs salvaging trees from the site of ASU’s new law building. DPI spent some of their funds getting those trees for the new park, Cabrera said.

Balfour Beatty Construction donated their time and Logan Simpson Design put together the plan of the park itself, he said.

Cabrera said the park’s overarching theme is using sustainable, reusable materials. Around 50 salvaged trees were boxed up and sent to this vacant lot to be used in the pocket park, he said.

Downtown Phoenix Inc. has spent about $15,000 in total and has received around $80,000 donated worth of labor and equipment rental, Cabrera said.

“We’re still underserved by public amenities in downtown in terms of open space,” Cabrera said. “But what we do have a lot of is private vacant land. That’s where we feel the major impact on the community will be.”

Besides offering the space for park visitors to hang out in the sun, Cabrera said he hopes to use the space for other purposes as well.

“We’re really focusing this year on programming the space, whether we can bring in performers or any part of the music festivals downtown, maybe having some kind of small performance there,” Cabrera said.

Julia Tilley, director of development for Valley Youth Theatre, said the theatre’s staff intends to make full use of the park.

“It would be a fantastic place to use for audiences for our school shows so that they can enjoy lunch after the performances,” Tilley said. “In addition to that, it would be a great place for our cast members to take a break and go outside.”

She said she can’t wait to explore the space for the resources it may be able to provide for outdoor performances, but until she and her staff see the space they cannot confirm anything.

Andrea Lichterman, vice president of the Programming and Activities Board (PAB) on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, said student groups may use the park as an event space as well.

She said PAB frequently schedules events at Civic Space Park on Central Avenue and Fillmore Street for its convenient location and lack of venue fees.

“Most attendees of our events are students, so now we would be able to go back and forth between both venues so close to Taylor Place,” she said.

Cabrera said Downtown Phoenix Inc. is excited about taking this empty lot and turning it into a fully usable space.

“We’d love for that space to be an extension of all the different uses around there,” Cabrera said. He said he is hoping for an early March opening.

Contact the reporter at Melanie.Whyte@asu.edu.

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