Whither Warehouse?

The county's new downtown jail would destroy valuable pieces of Phoenix's past

Gordon plans to conduct more protest rallies in the warehouse district, and is organizing a series of walking tours of the area led by loquacious historian Marshall Trimble. Gordon also plans to meet with real estate and retail developers "to discuss the great possibilities." He speaks gleefully of perhaps reestablishing a trolley line through the warehouse district from Seventh Avenue to Seventh Street, on tracks that still gleam in the sun.

Just before this column went to press, Mary Rose Wilcox threw jail-site critics one more bone: an offer to alter the design of its new jail so the main entrance would face Madison Street instead of Jackson, allowing for retail shops on the jail's first floor, facing Union Station.

Wilcox just doesn't get it.
First of all, who wants to go shopping in a jail?
Secondly, for a historical warehouse district, you need historical warehouses. Together. All of them. Not one here and one there with a 10-story jail between them.

"If you only save some of the buildings, the overall historical context of the area will be gone, and you get into a question of why save them at all," says James Garrison, the state's historical preservation officer.

"We're in danger of blowing right through a critical point where the potential for the area will be lost forever."

There is a renaissance under way in downtown Phoenix, long in the coming. Witness the new library, the Science Center, the art museum, the sports coliseums, the restored Orpheum Theatre, and Colangelo's plans for a performing arts center. Phelps Dodge recently relocated its headquarters downtown, and there are 15 designated historical residential districts in the area now, drawing a migration of homebuyers who want wood floors and chess-board tiling, not popcorn ceilings and cookie-cutter design.

A renovated warehouse district would perfectly complement this renaissance. Or we can accept cons, cadavers and cars.

Say it with me: No way in hell.

Contact David Holthouse at his online address: dholthouse@newtimes.com

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