Every city has their iconic historic buildings. Places like New York are filled with them; the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Chrysler Building and so on. Chicago’s Carbide and Carbon Building, Museum of Science and industry, Wrigley Building and many more. In San Francisco there is the Phelan Building, Bank of Italy Building, and Call Building. As you walk along the streets of these cities a story is being told through the architecture of their historic buildings. It unfolds around every corner, skips ahead to the future and then back to the past as you walk from block to block. Buildings from the American Renaissance era, Modernism era, Bauhaus era, International Style era, Postmodernism era and today comprise a timeline that is continually evolving. Each style of architecture fills in the gaps of the previous era, binding together to create the fabric of the cities we have grown to love.
Walking the streets of Phoenix, one immediately notices the lack of historic buildings contributing to the fabric of the city. Take a closer look, though, and you may find yourself stumbling upon the historic Westward Ho, Security Building, Phoenix Title and Trust Towers (Orpheum Lofts), San Carlos hotel and Professional Building. And if you make it down to Jefferson between 1st Ave. and Central you will find the beautiful historic Luhrs Tower and Building, built in 1924 and 1929. Just walking along the sidewalk adjacent to these two buildings has the ability to transport you back to the Roaring 20’s. But you may also notice something terribly wrong; it is one of the most unfriendly pedestrian places within our city. In the Valley of the Sun, you won’t find a single tree to offer shade along the stretch of block housing these two beautiful buildings. As you pass by the storefronts a glance into their windows leaves you with a lonely reflection as there are no businesses beyond the panes of glass. To the north, four lanes of traffic offer a steady stream of cars whizzing by faster than the designated speed limits and leaving the pedestrian feeling less than safe. CityScape, a new development to the north of the Luhrs, has found success by facing inward to the center of the block rather than facing the street. In doing so, what should have been CityScape’s alley, is now what faces the historic Luhrs complex. A blank building façade, loading docks and parking garage entry team up to create another unfriendly pedestrian space. In an area where we have two of Phoenix’s best historic buildings, we find a hospitable pedestrian space and a complex that completely turns its back on two buildings that should be both spotlighted and celebrated.
With fewer historic buildings in Phoenix than most cities, it is critical that we do everything we can to celebrate the history that they have written into our city’s fabric. The Luhrs Building and Tower are a great place to start. Soon there will be Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour filling in one of the empty storefronts in the Luhrs. And with the help of Project Rising PHX, the Luhrs colonnade will see new tenants. There are also plans to convert the Luhrs Building into a hotel; a great use for our historic buildings. But if any of these businesses are going to be successful, we will have to transform this hostile pedestrian space into a vibrant pedestrian destination.
This Could Be PHX proposes to transform the streetscape in front of the Luhrs complex into a pedestrian friendly destination with the following improvements. First, adding trees in the sidewalk along the entire block in front of the Luhrs complex. This will soften up the edge between the sidewalk and light rail as well as providing shade for the pedestrian, reducing heat during the summer and cutting down on carbon emissions from cars. Second, there is currently a dead space between the light rail tracks and traffic lanes. We propose to turn it into a landscape island in order to minimize the large amounts of concrete in this corridor. CityScape is located on the north side of the block and it is here that we propose our third improvement. Since we cannot change the location of the parking garage entries, loading docks and blank wall, we propose a road diet. The four lanes of traffic make pedestrians feel unsafe as cars speed past each other. By reducing the street by two lanes you can create a large pedestrian plaza adjacent to the rear of CityScape. This space can be filled with benches and become a designated place for food carts that are already beginning to pop up around the city. More trees should be added to the pedestrian plaza for shade and the previously mentioned benefits. Brick paving the plaza will create a more pedestrian friendly and attractive space. Finally, with the new Grid Bike Share and Palomar hotel releasing their line of Kimpton Bicycles, there MUST be a bike lane along Jefferson.
With all these improvements, This Could Be PHX believes that we can transform a hospitable pedestrian place into a destination that celebrates the historic Luhrs Building and Tower and reestablishes their importance.
Jefferson Street at Luhrs Complex
November 13, 2014