STRIKE THREE, YOU'RE ART

"The circles on the pots represent the eyes of Tlaloc," explained del Olmo, "and the pots refer to vessels for holding water, the essential ingredient of life. I liked the idea of using the rain god here in Phoenix, which is really a desert."
And Phoenix may remain a desert, culturally speaking, if plans for destroying a large part of the downtown Warehouse District to make way for a baseball stadium and adjacent parking lots go through. According to Beatrice Moore, founding mother of Art Detour and now a passionate advocate for the preservation of the historic downtown Jackson Warehouse District, more than a third of the district has already been demolished to make way for America West Arena, once touted as the panacea for downtown Phoenix's ills. Almost two-thirds of this important historical area will vanish to accommodate the envisioned baseball stadium, including three of the most architecturally significant buildings in the district: the Stern Produce, King's Onion House and Charlie Case Tire buildings, two of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

These architectural treasures, potential sites for artists' lofts, apartments and culturally related retail businesses, will be irrevocably lost should the county's plan actually materialize, along with Phoenix's golden chance to be viewed as a city that really cares about art and culture.

"The art presence downtown is very tenuous as it is," Moore says. "If the stadium is built next to the America West Arena, there will be no potential for future arts-related activity--no opportunity for downtown to be an eclectic, mixed-use area in an historic district--because there will be very few buildings left in which artists can live and work. "It's the age-old problem of artists gravitating to areas where the rents are cheap, fixing them up, making them safe and then not being able to afford to stay in what they've created."
Moore has already been relocated from a downtown studio on Madison Street, mowed down to make way for America West Arena. Now she has heard that the building to which she relocated in 1989, as well as others near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Jackson Street and the building that once housed the Faux Cafe studios, is on the auction block because of speculation sparked by the proposed baseball stadium.

"Why not put the stadium south of the railroad tracks, instead of obliterating a large section of the Warehouse District for parking lots?" Moore says. "No formal site study was ever done before the county Board of Supervisors voted on the issue, nor were any environmental-impact studies undertaken. There is a viable alternative to destroying a major part of our architectural heritage."
No more artists anchoring downtown means no more Art Detours; sadly, it also means no more chances to foster what has a good possibility of becoming a Southwestern version of Soho. Once those venerable old buildings in the Warehouse District--buildings that are an integral part of this city and state's history--are leveled in a vainglorious attempt to realize Jerry Colangelo's field of dreams, they can't be resurrected. You just can't unring a bell. And this bell would appear to be a death knell for art growth in the Valley.

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