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For Roosevelt Row, adaptive reuse an appropriate compromise

Editorial cartoon by Kelcie Grega/The State Press
Editorial cartoon by Kelcie Grega/The State Press

Editorial cartoon by Kelcie Grega/The State Press Editorial cartoon by Kelcie Grega/The State Press

Throughout our sprawling cityscape, there’s nowhere that encapsulates charm the way Roosevelt Row — or RoRo, as it’s affectionately called — does. Late night crêpes from Jobot, picking up a chai tea latte from Songbird, digging through records at Revolver and attending story-tellings at Lawn Gnome all hold a special place in the hearts of Downtown residents, ASU students and Phoenicians alike.

Chances are, you haven’t been sitting in on your fair share of Phoenix City Hall meetings. That’s OK — we haven’t either. Running a news organization is a hard job — with The State Press Editorial Board splitting long nights between the basement of the Matthews Center and our Downtown campus newsroom in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, we’ve been pretty busy. Unfortunately, this means we all missed the meeting that called for the gentrification of the Roosevelt Row district in downtown Phoenix.

Hate demolition? Love murals? Click here to petition the destruction of timeless murals on RoRo.

Over the past few years, the residents, students and small business owners of the Roosevelt Row district have transformed what was once a run-down area of town into a community-centric hub of art and culture. According to the Roosevelt Row website, visitors and residents of the district can expect to find “a walkable, creative district in the urban core of downtown Phoenix that is nationally known for its arts and cultural events, award-winning restaurants, galleries, boutiques and live music.”

In a classic move of the bourgeoisie doing what the bourgeoisie feel like doing, the charm of Roosevelt Row is under siege. Based on its success and growing appeal, Roosevelt Row caught the attention of Baron Properties — a real estate company that already owns several buildings in downtown Phoenix — which has earned a permit to demolish the buildings at 222 E. Roosevelt St. and the neighboring structure 1002 N. Third St. to develop high-rise luxury apartments. Adding luxury apartments, a fitness center and some clubhouses into the mix doesn’t seem to be part of the ultimate plan for those who have worked hard to make this district become the thriving space it is today. We couldn’t feel more betrayed by the city officials who assisted in putting this plan into motion.

Gentrification will be toxic to the Roosevelt Row district. Ruth Glass, the woman who coined the term gentrification, once wrote, "One by one, many of the working class quarters have been invaded by the middle class — upper and lower ... Once this process of 'gentrification' starts in a district, it goes on rapidly until all or most of the working class occupiers are displaced and the whole social social character of the district is changed.”

Rather than demolishing the properties, we would like to join the residents of the Roosevelt Row district and the members of THIS COULD BE PHX by encouraging the “adaptive reuse” of the properties slated for destruction. In doing so, the district's walkable atmosphere and historical murals, including one painted by famed Arizona artist Ted Degrazia in the 1950s, will be preserved.

Before finalizing the plans they have set in place, we believe Baron Properties should reconsider the historical value and character of the buildings in question. The restoration and reuse of the buildings would capture the values and message of the Roosevelt Row district while continuing its growth, rather than kickstarting its destruction.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 300 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

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