Running Roosevelt Row

One of the downsides of traveling from Chicago to Phoenix for the National Planning Conference: Being wide awake at 5:30 a.m. because your body thinks it’s 7:30. One of the upsides: Getting to run outside in shorts while the low back home is only 26 degrees.

So rather than stay in bed counting sheep — or worse, getting up and checking email — I headed out for a jog. In the lobby, I ran into Roberta Rewers, APA’s senior communications coordinator, and APA consultant Jennifer Graeff. They had the same idea, and off we went.

I always try to get offsite during the conference, and this was a great way to see a little bit of downtown. We headed over to Roosevelt Row, an arts and culture district full of restaurants, shops, studios, galleries, and music venues. What’s really cool is that a lot of these spots are in cute, rehabilitated bungalows literally right downtown. There is a really fun vibe to the place — even so early in the morning.

What’s even cooler, and was a nice surprise, is that the little, single-story houses, adaptively reused as coffee shops and galleries, are covered with vibrant, playful murals. I also got a kick out of seeing for myself one of the 2015 Great Places in America.

And the light rail station at Roosevelt & Central makes Roosevelt Row — or, RoRo — and the surrounding neighborhoods that make up the Phoenix Arts District more accessible. It also delivers students, faculty, and staff to Arizona State University’s downtown campus, just a few blocks away.

Transit in Phoenix, although relatively new, actually has strong support from the public, who voted in a 20-year tax in 2000 to build the light rail system. Last year, when the extension to the city of Mesa opened, voters extended that tax to 2050.

There’s plenty of new infill happening, too, mostly mid-rise residential. The signs of it are everywhere: We dodged orange cones and construction workers in green vests as we ran, and the cranes gave the fairly low-rise area a little bit of height.

As the Roosevelt Row area grows, there is a concern that the spirit of the place and its artist pioneers will get edged out.

That’s always a challenge in places like Roosevelt Row, but this morning, that wasn’t a worry of mine. I was just glad to be out exploring and getting to know a different side of Phoenix.

And it felt pretty darn good to log 3.5 miles and still make it to NPC’s early-morning sessions.

Images: Photos along Roosevelt Row by Meghan Stromberg.

About the Author
Meghan Stromberg is Planning’s executive editor.

April 5, 2016

By Meghan Stromberg