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Roosevelt Row Denizens

Fight Inevitable Progress

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More Than A Decade After The Downtown Phoenix Neighborhood Began Its Revival By Utilizing Unique Architecture And The Passions Of Local Artists, Deep-Pocketed Developers Are Eying The Area For An Overhaul

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By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

Feb. 9, 2015 — The Roosevelt Row arts district in downtown Phoenix is one of the most recognizable and beloved areas of the city, but the area has been eyed by developers and is set for some big changes in the near future.

The city granted demolition permits in mid-January for the buildings located at 222, 314, and 420 East Roosevelt Street, making way for Baron Properties, a developer from Colorado, to put in a more than 100 unit condominium complex that will feature an underground parking garage. This plan was outlined in the site review plan that has already been approved by the city of Phoenix.

Arizona experienced a huge swell in population growth starting in 1945 which forced development to happen swiftly in the Phoenix area. This swift development is the reason much of the state’s neighborhoods and downtown areas look similar and lack the attributes that make Roosevelt Row special, according to those who have helped transform the neighborhood.

"Part of the reason that it (Roosevelt Row) has a very community-oriented vibe and eclectic-vibe. is that it was basically kind of ignored after the recession. Thankfully. Which allowed it to kind of build, and grow organically by the community,” said Stacy Champion, Roosevelt Row business owner. “I think that has played into it having such a great vibe. I think that most people would like it to stay that way, myself included. I find this to be one of the only really walkable, interesting neighborhoods in downtown."

Others were more frank, saying large-scale development will turn the area into another example of a forgettable urban landscape.

"I think it's a pretty shitty idea. They think more people are going to come in, but I feel like it's going to hurt, especially this strip right here. I feel like it's just going to ruin it,” said Jeff Hoopes, co-owner of 5th Street Paint Supply, 915 N. Fifth St.

Hoopes has lived in the house that his business is located in for more than two years and in the Phoenix area for five, giving him a very personal attachment to the area. He expressed concerns that if this new development does go through, that more similar development may take place in the near future.

"Oh it's definitely going to happen. Once those go up it's the end of everything,” he said.

The structures that have been approved for demolition are more than just old buildings. They have some historical significance in the community. The 222 building is currently home to GreenHaus, a local boutique and gallery, although the owners will soon be relocating to Portland.

However, the LGBT community has also voiced their support in trying to save the building because it has some significance to many individuals within their community. The building used to be home to a gay bar and two of its walls are home to murals that were painted by Ted DeGrazia in 1950.

Champion, who runs her PR and Consulting business in the Roosevelt Row district, has been among the loudest voices in the community in terms of trying to preserve Roosevelt Row and prevent it from turning into a “suburban feeling, inward facing superblock.”

Champion’s office also doubles as a gallery, so she feels strongly about wanting to preserve the spirit of the area both in the short and long term.

"It's immediate and then bigger picture stuff. I think a lot of it comes down to really putting pressure on the city of Phoenix. Both the city as a whole as well as the elected officials to really start walking their talk,” Champion said.

Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton recently published an op-ed piece for AZ Central in which he discussed the city’s economic growth and potentially bright future, citing it’s downtown centers as an appealing aspect that could attract people here.

“With dense residential centers, shaded sidewalks and new design standards that require street-level engagement, Phoenix is creating the kind of walkable downtown that many professionals — especially young ones — demand in a city,” Stanton said.

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