Architecture and Design

Melrose District Arch Installation Gives Phoenix's Seventh Avenue a Facelift and an Identity

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See also: 5 Favorite Vintage Shops on 7th Avenue in Phoenix

Wednesday night saw a decade-old dream realized at a monumentalization officiated by outgoing District 4 Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot. The 20-minute prelude included speakers Wylie Bearup, the city's Street Transportation Department director; Jay Silverberg, a principal at Gensler, the architecture firm in charge of the arch's design; and Teresa Stickler, president of the Seventh Avenue Merchants Association.

The arch itself cost $498,000 and comprises three pieces: two 24-foot-tall, 9,800-pound columns that support an 80-foot-wide, 43,000-pound steel truss to create a perfectly angular, square arch. On the right-hand corner of each side -- facing north and south -- the word "Melrose" is spelled out in uppercase letters. The now-lit designation joins the glow of traffic signals at Indian School Road and a nearby 7-Eleven.

It might be trite to call the lighting of the arch a community event, but it was. Spectators wore Melrose Pharmacy and Wag 'N Wash T-shirts. Older couples held hands, standing side by side with their younger, gay counterparts. There was a family of five. Three dogs. Men in suits and ties. Men in shorts. A girl playing with a yo-yo.

They all chatted, waiting patiently in a semi-circle of 200 people for Councilman Simplot to speak. They all called him "Tom."

When he took to the microphone, Simplot was engaging and metaphorical, but not overstated.

"[The arch] represents what we as a community have achieved," he said.

Melrose is a community that takes pride in its diversity and welcomes everyone, he said -- and the sign symbolizes that.

A chorus of "Let there be light!" from both sides of the avenue drowned out the passing traffic, and the name glowed in bright white, offset by that little pink squiggle -- a symbol meant to mimic the street design of the Melrose Curve. A street design that adds to the uniqueness of the district but simultaneously has proved problematic for business.

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Janessa is a native Phoenician. She joined New Times as a contributor in 2013. You can connect with her on social media at @janessahilliard, and she promises you'll find no pictures of cats on her Instagram — but plenty of cocktails.
Contact: Janessa Hilliard