Roosevelt Row's Visioning Launch Party: What's Next for the Phoenix Arts District?
Lindsay Kinkade Inside "Roosevelt Row Artists' District: Creative Placemaking in Downtown Phoenix."
More than a decade ago -- but not very much more -- the area of Roosevelt Street that runs between Seventh Avenue and 16th Street was known as just that: a street. The name that now defines the arts district along that bisector, more specifically from Third Avenue to Seventh Street, had not yet been created. No cute nicknames, few approachable storefronts, and even more vacant lots.
If you can remember this boundary of downtown that way, then chances are you've lived in Phoenix for quite a while. If you can't, or struggle for even a moment of hesitation to recall how Roosevelt looked, well, that's testament to how successful the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation has been.
Roosevelt Row CDC is a nonprofit service organization tasked with the once-lofty goal of transforming a stretch of asphalt into a gathering place: a livable community. It's a work in progress that still falls slightly short of the pedestrian- and bike-friendly love-thy-neighborhood that organizers and residents have envisioned. And though that's important to remember, it doesn't quite matter -- because for locals, Roosevelt Row has become synonymous with the artistic and creative process, while national publications frequently reference it in their weekend-in-Phoenix guides.
That seemed to be the collective consensus at the Visioning Launch Party on Thursday, February 20, at The Nash. The party was the official kickoff for Roosevelt Row Artists' District: Creative Placemaking in Downtown Phoenix.
Designed largely by 2013 Big Brain finalist Lindsay Kinkade of Design RePublic, the piece is a color-photo-friendly collection of statistics and accomplishments from the Roosevelt Row community. The launch party celebrated all three -- complete with gimmicky yet conversation-provoking handouts like "Teddy's To Do List," about the next major milestones for the thoroughfare.
Speakers included Roosevelt Row CDC President Vermon Pierre, who also is lead pastor at the Roosevelt Community Church; Cindy Dach of Changing Hands and MADE Art Boutique and co-founder of the CDC; and Leslie Lindo, president of IKOLOJI Sustainability Collaborative and co-founder of Project Rising.
In addition to beats provided by jazz students from Arizona School for the Arts, partygoers got a taste of treats from the likes of Mamma Toledo's Pies, Pizza People Pub, Short Leash Hot Dogs and Welcome Diner -- all of which have opened (or reopened) brick-and-mortar storefronts in the area over the past year -- and nearly every table displayed cans of beer from Lumberyard Brewing Co.
The party was self-congratulatory, certainly, and well-deserved, but it wasn't the pat-on-the-back affair it had the potential of being. Collectively, the three speakers addressed the crowd of about 100 people for about half an hour. Each coordinator more or less said the same as the last. It was a good message, and it was a message that finally hit home.
"We're creating a place for people to live, work, play and create. A diverse, dense, walkable urban community," said Pierre, who rounded out the night's speakers. "This is the opportunity to create the story this community has been trying to create."
Dach, who took to the microphone first, had a similar albeit more succinct view.
"We have goals and we achieve them," she said, referencing the 43-page glossy guide everyone was there to celebrate.
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