by Pete Petrisko
A community meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 11th at 6:00pm at MonOrchid (214 E. Roosevelt St) to discuss the issue of Roosevelt Row street closures on First Fridays.
As detailed in an email from the Phoenix Police Department (reprinted below), vendors will no longer be allowed in the roadway but the department is willing to listen to “business owners and community for possible new ideas that would allow the street closures to occur.”
Oh, Phoenix… there you go again!
Regular readers of AzKaos may remember us breaking the Phoestival/First Friday fiasco story - scooping both the daily and weekly mainstream press in the process - back in the May 2010 print edition, about three weeks prior to Phoestival officially going on hiatus.
That original 6p. article, “Are First Fridays Really Ovah?”,can be read HERE.
The type of street barricading outlined in the PPD email would again negatively impact surrounding businesses, ignore the city council-approved Downtown Phoenix Strategic Vision, and recreate a clusterfuck of revelers within a narrower area of a major downtown thoroughfare that cries “safety concern waiting to turn ugly”.
Instead, inspired by the city’s own “Big Idea” of the Connected Oasis as detailed in the aforementioned AzKaos story, it’s put forward for consideration that a solution complimentary, rather than competitive, to these concurrent events be realized.
Why can’t a plan that doesn’t toss the Connected Oasis into the dustbin of downtown history be devised - one that doesn’t involve closing off one of the more densely business-populated areas for the addition of temporary vending there on First Friday?
A plan that is neither counter-intuitive nor counterproductive to smart growth.
Hance Park is located next to the library and buttresses the northern edge of the arts district. Civic Space Park is just south of it on Central Ave. Both typically sit empty on First Friday. Both are accessible by light-rail and to possible connecting points for Artlink’s bus shuttle route into Roosevelt Row and the surrounding small business neighborhood.
While Hance Park is the more logical choice, due to closer proximity, either (or both) could provide public space from which vendors could sell their wares.
Best case scenario: Instead of blockading parts of First and Second Street, as proposed in the PPD email, minimal street closures (primarily some adjacent cross-streets along both Central Ave and 3rd St.) are used to help create a pedestrian corridor between Roosevelt and Hance Park via these two streets. As a result - whether on foot, bicycle, or Artlink bus - crowds in attendance more naturally disperse over a greater open area, with a positive impact of “spreading the wealth” between vendors and all permanently fixed business locations in Roosevelt Row and the vicinity.
Believe it or not, other big cities have solved the “how can vehicles and pedestrians co-exist downtown” conundrum without resorting to major barricading of the heart of that area and overburdening its police force. It involves smart-growth planning, for which Phoenix already has the blueprint.
It’s hoped that members of the community in agreement will attend Tuesday’s meeting to propose an alternate Park(s) Option plan, thereby holding the City’s feet to the “Big Idea” fire.
If city officials aren’t willing to at least seriously consider, if not honestly work toward, implementing such a Connected Oasis-derived plan, then I humbly request that the City Council issue an apology for wasting several years of everybody’s time by inviting us to attend multiple forums and meetings to give input into what it later approved as the Downtown Phoenix Strategic Vision.
The email from Sergeant Chas Clements, of the Phoenix Police Department South Mountain Precinct, that further explains details of the January 11th meeting, is as follows:
Recently a group of business owners approached the Phoenix Police Department and began a discussion about allowing vendors in the roadways on the first Friday of each month. The Police Department listened to the plan that involved a street closure on Roosevelt Street between Central Avenue and 3rd Street. Portions of 1st and 2nd Street, just north and south of Roosevelt Street, would also be closed. The group presented a detailed plan on what type of vendors would be allowed to participate in the event, security within the event, and the support from several businesses within the target area.
The Police Department is not willing to allow vendors in the roadway on the first Friday of each month due to the problems from previous events. The Police Department is still providing an abnormal amount of resources to cover the area from Central Avenue to 7th Street, Moreland Street to Fillmore Street. A long term plan has been developed to reduce the public safety concerns within the area, enact crime suppression programs (some will remain confidential to keep the integrity and safety of the operations), and reduce the number of officers used to cover the area.
The Phoenix Police Department has been a part of First Friday for many years. Officers have been used to cover the area, but there was a significant increase in department resources and money when the street closures occurred and vendors were allowed in the roadway. The increase in manpower was the result of a public safety concern due to the large amount of people who would participate in the event. As a result, the street closures were no longer allowed and the new plan was implemented.
I realize this issue has been addressed during many meetings involving the Mayor and City Councilman’s office during the past two years. The Police Department is willing to listen to the new group of business owners and community for possible new ideas that would allow the street closures to occur, and not cause a public safety concern and continued use of 30+ on-duty officers in the area.
The meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 11th at 6:00 p.m.
The meeting location will be at MonOrchid, 214 E. Roosevelt Street. To set the tone for the meeting we are looking for public input on how a new event involving street closures will not create the same problems the department faced in the past. Always keep in mind public safety and fiscal responsibility during these challenging times.
Lieutenant Connolly and I look forward to seeing everyone at the meeting. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Chas Clements, Sergeant
Phoenix Police Department
South Mountain Precinct
Neighborhood Enforcement Team, 41X Squad
400 W. Southern Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85041