Infrastructure

Interview:  Civic Space Park brings feel of small neighborhood park to heart of downtown Phoenix

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of interviews by Mary Jones with the 2011 winners of the Rudy Bruner Award. Civic Space Park in Phoenix, Arizona was one of four Silver Medalists. For more information on the Rudy Bruner Award please visit http://www.brunerfoundation.org/rba/.

What did Civic Space Park bring to downtown Phoenix that wasn’t there before?
Civic Space Park brought the feel of a small neighborhood park to the heart of downtown Phoenix in a space that was formerly a collection of old buildings and parking lots. It gives emerging artists and performers a venue to showcase their talents and abilities. It is a place that families can come to enjoy free events while keeping kids occupied with the splash pad and green grass to run and play in. The newly renovated A.E. England Building houses the Fair Trade Cafe and offers space for meetings, banquets, classes, offices and art events. One of the goals of the park was to keep every event that takes place to remain free and open to the public.

How does the surrounding community play a part in the use of Civic Space?
The surrounding community played a large part in activating the park once it opened in 2009. Arizona State University, whose campus isn’t far away, and the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department collaborate to manage and program all offerings from the A. E. England Building. In addition, the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA, Downtown Phoenix Partnership, and Roosevelt Row all play roles in making this park a success for the young families and students that live in downtown Phoenix.

Tell us a little bit more about the sustainable features of the park.
Solar panels on the park’s shade structures generate 75 kilowatts of power (enough to power 8-9 residential homes) to offset the park’s lighting and electrical needs. Another impressive feature is the underground rainfall collection system. Hard surfaces made with pervious concrete and pavers reduce heat reflection and allow rainfall to seep through. Water passing through the pervious concrete and pavers will enter the system that allows water not used by the park’s plants to seep naturally back into the ground. Also, more than 70 percent of the park’s surface area will be shaded once its trees and vegetation reach maturity. In addition, the trees were planted with a system that utilizes grates and specially engineered soils to protect roots, minimize compaction and allow ample room for root expansion. Finally, the park was built without parking spaces to encourage pedestrian visitation and use of the nearby mass transit stops.

As Civic Space Park enters just its second year of existence, what are the lessons that continue to be learned that could be useful to other cities?
With the direction cities are going it is imperative that the community is involved in planning, developing and activating new facilities. Cities do not have the resources they once had so being creative with community partners and switching from producing events to supporting events is so important for future success.

Tags: culture, built environment, west coast, art, phoenix, arizona, mary jones, civic space park