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Say Goodbye to Those Giant Planters on Roosevelt Row in Downtown Phoenix

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The City of Phoenix has announced plans to remove 15 5-foot-tall planters that were installed on Roosevelt Street last summer. Part of a street improvement plan for the Roosevelt Row arts district in downtown Phoenix, the terracotta-colored planters hold trees intended to give shade.

But the community wasn't impressed. Leaders for both Roosevelt Row and the Evans Churchill neighborhood expressed concerns about the pots taking up too much space on the sidewalk, City spokesperson Monica Hernandez says. And the oversize pots — a solution implemented when the trees couldn't be planted in-ground due to utility lines — provide more shade than the small trees they hold. 

Soon, the planters will be relocated to the Melrose District from Roosevelt Row, Hernandez says. 

Each planter, filled with soil and a single sweet olive tree, cost $2,800. The City of Phoenix paid $42,000 in all for the planters, but Hernandez says they don't know at this point what it will cost to have them relocated. 

Several artists weighed in with New Times in August 2015, expressing reservations about not only the size of the pots, but also the mismatch between the containers’ generic feel and the area’s eclectic vibe. Artist Cindy Dach, who owns MADE Art Boutique in Roosevelt Row, called the planters "a cookie-cutter version of a cookie-cutter thing," saying they mute, rather than add to, the art district's character. 

But the City has a more practical concern.

The pots created what Hernandez calls “pinch points,” meaning points on the sidewalks that are difficult to traverse, especially during high-foot-traffic events such as the First Friday art walk, which has helped Roosevelt Row earn its national reputation as a top arts district and neighborhood. That makes it hard for people to get around, defeating the goal of having a more walkable downtown.

Instead of just hauling them away, the City will move the planters to several locations in the Melrose District, located along Seventh Avenue between Indian School and Camelback roads. 

The City researched different areas where the pots could serve a purpose, Hernandez says. And they discovered that Melrose would be a good fit, because community leaders from the Seventh Avenue Merchants Association and Community Alliance of Seventh Avenue had expressed interest in enhancements and adding elements to help the area create a recognizable image.

It’s been three years since the Melrose Arch was installed at Seventh Avenue and Indian School Road, but the planters would add another unique visual element to the area. And there are plans to give them a new look.

In an October 1 post to the Melrose on 7th Avenue Facebook page, Community Alliance of Seventh Avenue president Charley Jones noted that the planters will be "decorated with Melrose colors, logos and artwork." 

"They need to be different than they are now," Jones says. And they need to blend in with the current streetscape. Jones hopes the planters will help people know where the district begins, and where it ends. "The planters will add continuity," he says. "And they'll look cool."

“We’re aiming to remove the planters from Roosevelt in mid- to late October,” Hernandez says. They’ll stay in storage while the City prepares the new sites. This time around, they'll be placed on open spaces Hernandez calls "pads" rather than sidewalks, so foot traffic won't be affected. 

Hernandez says the planters are going in three different places: on the east side of Seventh Avenue directly north and south of Sixth Drive, on the west side of Seventh Avenue south of Glenrosa Avenue, and on the southeast and southwest corners of Camelback Road and Seventh Avenue. 

Moving forward, she says, the City will explore other ways of creating shade on Roosevelt Street – including “encouraging developers to consider adding shade elements.”

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