The Lot started as an experiment to prove that it was time for a new model, a new paradigm, new thinking. Now, after 15 years of owning the parcel at Second and Roosevelt streets in Downtown Phoenix, Mike Davis, founder of Tempe-based DAVIS Architecture, says the evolutionary pop-up park has served its purpose as temporary beauty for a temporary time.
Something new is on the horizon, he says with a twinkle in his eyes.
“It’s great to be in this place, to be part of this neighborhood and community, and now we can reflect on where it all started,” says Davis, property owner and instigator of the “What Should Go Here?” project.
The park at Roosevelt Row emerged from the ashes after the original building burned down on October 31, 2008. In 2011, Davis led a campaign of discovery to determine what would come next. Even as a vacant lot, he saw something more than a mere parcel of property.
“We had to do something about it – we needed to execute,” he says. “And then it dawned on me: The answer was a question. ‘What Should Go Here?’
“This little patch of dirt and rocks in the center of Phoenix became an anchor – or an answer – to a new type of community,” Davis says. “It went beyond the oatmeal, beyond the homogeneity of empty buildings, empty property, decay and urban sadness. It became an inspired place for everyday life. We have a beginning, and now the rest is inevitable.”
The Lot: What Should Go Here? served the Roosevelt Row and Downtown Arts District as a gathering and sustainable space that connects people with place and purpose.
Davis worked closely with community developers as well as the local artist community. Arizona State University students, businesses, and sustainability experts helped create a temporary oasis featuring short-term improvements. They included box trees, grass, park benches, sculpture and murals to create this dynamic gathering space.
And gather they have. It has served as the venue for world-renowned sustainability guru William McDonough, FAIA, who spoke about urban sustainability with then-Mayor Greg Stanton in February 2012.
It has become the community’s go-to spot for swing dancing, worship services, pie socials, weddings, Christmas parties and public art events. This dynamic spot has also created Insta-moments for community engagement through smiles that cross generations and lifestyles.
DAVIS Director of Design Richard Drinkwater and Director of Planning and Entitlements Mike Edwards have utilized The Lot as a laboratory for designing projects within an urban neighborhood fabric.
“We embarked on a campaign of discovery in 2011,” Davis says, “and our research will culminate in our forthcoming book, The Elements of Place. It’s been great to see how the neighborhood has been evolving over the last seven years. So many great things are happening.
“Originally, my interests, while focused on long-term profitability, were more oriented toward a ‘bottomless-line’ mentality – one seeking to make the world a better place than it was yesterday,” Davis says. “While modest in scale, I think that beautifying the corner of Roosevelt and Second has been a hugely positive step in the right direction.”
The City of Phoenix has issued three RFPs in this neighborhood since 2004. Each request has stipulated that the selected developer restore the historic Knipe House and provide a district parking solution.
“Those issues remain unsolved after 15 years and the parking problem is only getting worse,” Davis says. “That said, we’re profoundly grateful to have been a significant part of the transformation of Roosevelt Row from the beginning.
“We’ll continue to challenge the conventional urban conversation and are excited about the next steps in our What Should Go Here journey. Stay tuned.”