Melrose District Arch Installation Gives Phoenix's Seventh Avenue a Facelift and an Identity
Janessa Hilliard The Melrose Arch facing southbound on Seventh Avenue in Central Phoenix.
It happened, as these things have a tendency to, in the dead of night.
Exactly a week before the 7 p.m. commemoration on Wednesday, November 20, construction crews took to Seventh Avenue and Indian School Road, just yards north of the intersection, and secured a steel structure meant to give the Melrose District not only a facelift but also a tangible identity.
The Melrose Arch, as it is being called, came as a quiet surprise to morning commuters Thursday, but for residents and business owners, it was a long time coming.
Wednesday night saw a decade-old dream realized at a monumentalization officiated by outgoing District 4 Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot. The 20-minute prelude included speakers Wylie Bearup, the city's Street Transportation Department director; Jay Silverberg, a principal at Gensler, the architecture firm in charge of the arch's design; and Teresa Stickler, president of the Seventh Avenue Merchants Association.
The arch itself cost $498,000 and comprises three pieces: two 24-foot-tall, 9,800-pound columns that support an 80-foot-wide, 43,000-pound steel truss to create a perfectly angular, square arch. On the right-hand corner of each side -- facing north and south -- the word "Melrose" is spelled out in uppercase letters. The now-lit designation joins the glow of traffic signals at Indian School Road and a nearby 7-Eleven.
It might be trite to call the lighting of the arch a community event, but it was. Spectators wore Melrose Pharmacy and Wag 'N Wash T-shirts. Older couples held hands, standing side by side with their younger, gay counterparts. There was a family of five. Three dogs. Men in suits and ties. Men in shorts. A girl playing with a yo-yo.
They all chatted, waiting patiently in a semi-circle of 200 people for Councilman Simplot to speak. They all called him "Tom."
When he took to the microphone, Simplot was engaging and metaphorical, but not overstated.
Janessa Hilliard iPhones abound: a crowd photographs the newly-lit Melrose Arch on Wednesday, November 20.
"[The arch] represents what we as a community have achieved," he said.
Melrose is a community that takes pride in its diversity and welcomes everyone, he said -- and the sign symbolizes that.
A chorus of "Let there be light!" from both sides of the avenue drowned out the passing traffic, and the name glowed in bright white, offset by that little pink squiggle -- a symbol meant to mimic the street design of the Melrose Curve. A street design that adds to the uniqueness of the district but simultaneously has proved problematic for business.