Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Roosevelt Historic District Called 'Model' Urban Neighborhood

Roosevelt Historic District Called 'Model' Urban Neighborhood
Mel Meléndez ~ The Arizona Republic

When Maria Capogreco first discussed opening a delicatessen in Phoenix's Roosevelt Historic district neighborhood, friends warned her about the blight and crime that had overrun the former working-class community.

Three years later, the owner of the Calabria Italian Grocery and Deli smiles when she recalls her initial concerns.

Thanks to new commercial storefronts and lofts, rehabilitated housing and restored historic structures, Roosevelt is now a thriving urban neighborhood.

It recently became the first downtown Phoenix community to meet 100 percent of its revitalization goals, after being designated a Neighborhood Initiative Area in 1998. "It's beautiful and vibrant now and that's attracting lots of young couples and singles," said Capogreco, a Boston transplant. "You get the sense that this is the place to be and live now. I definitely did the right thing."

Phoenix, like several other cities in the Valley, believes it, too, is doing the right thing by concentrating redevelopment efforts on downtown neighborhoods to draw residents and commerce to rejuvenated city cores. The urban renewal efforts are nothing new as several other Phoenix neighborhoods, such as Willo and F.Q. Story, have been replenished and are now in high demand.

But Phoenix officials tout Roosevelt, which runs south from McDowell Road to Van Buren Street and east from 7th Avenue to 7th Street, as a model for how flagging neighborhoods can be turned around when residents work with cities to revitalize communities.

"We picked Roosevelt because it had been in decline for so long, not because it was downtown," said Ken Lynch, spokesman for Phoenix's Neighborhood Services Department. "But it's right up the street from the expanded ASU campus, so its restoration does enhance our overall vision for downtown."

Roosevelt's renewal couldn't have been more timely because of the city's push to redevelop downtown, including expanding Arizona State University's downtown campus, opening a University of Arizona medical school, new housing and hotels, and the light-rail system, which will run through the heart of the Roosevelt community on Central Avenue.

The municipal NIA designation allowed the neighborhood to apply and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal and state grants to revamp and build new housing.

Those who remember the formerly blighted community, marked by graffiti, gang activity, dilapidated apartments and abandoned properties, would hardly recognize it today. Tree-lined streets peppered with decorative streetlights showcase more than 200 renovated homes and apartment units and tasteful storefront venues, including the art galleries now featured in Phoenix's popular First Fridays art walk event.

"We've always had artists here," said physician Joan Kelchner, a member of the Roosevelt Action Association. "But the vibrancy and urban culture we envisioned is now here, as well. We're very pleased."

The city worked with Roosevelt residents, business owners and developers to secure funding, including more than $650,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants, and more than $400,000 in Phoenix bond monies for renovations.

"For every dollar we brought in private investors spent 10 times that amount," Lynch said.

The public grants and private funding aided with restoration projects, including more than eight historic buildings, including the Lamar apartments at 301-303 W. Latham St., now a pair of two-story owner-occupied units. Nearly 70 multi-family units now stand along the once rundown 5th and 6th avenues between Fillmore and McKinley streets. The city also helped leverage the private development of Artisan Homes, which brought 105 new condominiums to 7th and Roosevelt streets.

Kelchner, who's lived in Roosevelt since 1984, said partnering with the city sped up the neighborhood's revitalization efforts.

"We'd been holding economic forums with developers since the late 90s," she said. "But the NIA designation gave us the city staff and wherewithal to accomplish our goals. It put everyone on the same page."

Roosevelt business owners agree.

"The city respected our wishes, which helped preserve Roosevelt's neighborhood feel," said Tina Eaves, co-owner of The Cleaners at Alterations and Creations at 214 W. Roosevelt St. "And at heart that's what we are: a very distinct neighborhood."

Across from Eaves' shop on 3rd Avenue sits Gold Spot. Closed for more than 30 years, the shuttered facility reopened in 2003. It now houses several businesses, including the Calabria deli and the Mecha Salon.

"The Roosevelt community is beautiful and safe now," Lynch said. "That's something everybody can be proud of."

If you are looking to purchase a home or business in the Phoenix Historic Roosevelt district, call a Real Estate agent who specializes in the area ... Laura Boyajian, aka, Laura B. at 602.400.0008, or visit her historic Phoenix website at: http://www.historiccentralphoenix.com

Search homes in this historic Phoenix neighborhood at:
Search Roosevelt now.


At 10 August, 2006 12:16, Blogger Laura B. said...

Stellar article.


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