A new park opens up between Valley Youth Theatre and ASU’s Taylor Place dormitories

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton cuts a ribbon to mark the opening of The Space Between, a temporary park near Fillmore Street between First and Second streets that took almost two years to create. (Travis Arbon/DD)

Bordered by ASU’s Taylor Place dormitories and Valley Youth Theatre, The Space Between is a new temporary park nearly two years in the making. Downtown Phoenix Inc. has been working for months to transform the dirt lot near First and Fillmore streets into a gathering place.

The park held its grand-opening Thursday, with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and City Councilman Michael Nowakowski speaking at the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

“It’s pretty cool; it looks great,” Stanton said. “It takes a space that was kind of a negative thing in the community and turned it into a positive thing where students and the community can feel comfortable hanging out and spending a little time. That’s exactly what the whole idea was: create places of community.”

Tim Eigo, a board member of community organization Downtown Voices Coalition, called the finished project “phenomenal.”

There are many other empty lots that could be activated if individuals invested time and resources, he said.

“So many different individuals and groups had to collaborate to make this happen,” Eigo said. “The result is definitely worth it.”

That result incorporates a mural painted on the wall of the Valley Youth Theatre, a set of shaded benches and chairs for relaxation, a small stretch of grass and even a Little Free Library receptacle where people can swap books.

The park was the culmination of a year-and-a-half of planning and development from DPI; Logan Simpson Design, an architectural firm; and Balfour Beatty Construction. Chad Atterbury, landscape architect at Logan Simpson, and Stephen Hulston, vice president and business unit leader at Balfour Beatty Construction, represented their respective companies at the event.

Cabrera said the project was delayed, in part, due to unforseen issues with the land. There were patches of concrete and other scraps under the surface of the lot, he said. Cabrera compared the plot’s initial state to a landfill.

“I learned the value of true community partnerships,” Cabrera said. “There are so many people who want to be plugged in downtown and there’s so much talent out there. … There really are people out there who want to better the community the way the connectivity is and the vitality of downtown in general.”

Cabrera said he envisions the park providing a “sense of place” for community members. He said the space demonstrates what can be done downtown, showing that there aren’t just vacant lots to be activated. There are alleys to be activated, streets to be narrowed and other land that can be used in more creative ways, he said.

“We’ve already done a lot of the bigger projects and now we need to fill in the edges with some of these smaller, more quality-of-life-type things,” he said.

Despite the lessons learned and unique challenges of The Space Between, there’s no guarantee that future projects could be completed quicker. That might be a positive, according to Eigo.

“Honestly, what they did here was very original and the next time this happens it might take just as long because the moving parts that came together are all so unique. But that’s why the space is going to work,” he said.

And the space is already experiencing some use. Jon Brodsky, coordinator of FitPHX, the city’s health initiative, said the park will be one of the stops on the weekly “Meet Me Downtown” walk, an event that promotes physical activity and community activation.

“People can go and walk or they can do exercise or just be outside, and it all helps,” Brodsky said. “We, ‘Meet Me Downtown Phoenix,’ our folks, are walking by these things every week and having this kind of a vision and this kind of a landscape helps make downtown Phoenix even more interesting.”

Update: August 24, 2015: This article was updated to include additional information about unforeseen issues with the land and the project’s delay.

Correction: August 24, 2015: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Downtown Voices Coalition as Downtown Phoenix Voices.

Contact the reporter at travis.arbon@asu.edu