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Phoenix's downtown makeover includes a multiuse market square

PHOENIX — City and urban renewal officials are inching closer to a plan that would trade blackberry bushes and vacant buildings for a multiuse market square to provide residents with a place to gather and host community events.

As part of a process to overhaul the city's downtown core, the Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency is holding an open house Friday, Jan. 24, to get reaction on the market square/community center concept and revisions to two of the town's thoroughfares.

Citizens are invited to drop by from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 121 W. Second St., to weigh in on design options for a market square and new traffic flow on Main Street and Bear Creek Drive between Oak and Fifth streets.

Presentations will be given at noon and again at 5:30 p.m., said PURA Executive Director Marla Cates.

PURA and city officials propose turning the city center portion of southbound Main Street and northbound Bear Creek Drive into one-lane streets with reduced speed, bike lanes and features to improve pedestrian safety and aesthetics, such as lights and trees.

Cates said two designs, which are similar, were selected for further study from six alternatives provided by traffic engineers.

The market square, or market hall, concept envisions a gathering place between the two streets which could include a plaza and a multiuse building with flexible classroom space and whose walls could possibly open up in good weather.

Cates said she is looking forward to getting feedback from the community, something that's crucial for the agency to move forward on plans for the city's core.

"We're focusing on the best design for changing how the traffic flows in the one-way couplet area to improve safety and aesthetics to make it a more walkable area," Cates said.

"And with the market hall, it's still in a feasibility study stage so community input is going to be very important to us in the next month to six weeks to determine how we proceed with the project."

Mayor Jeff Bellah said the City Council was eager to see urban renewal move forward with the city center plans and "very much supports" the agency's work.

"The City Council is very much in favor of the market center plan and particularly of the idea of building that market square project with a multi-use building," Bellah said.

"I think people in Phoenix would really appreciate having that sooner rather than later. We're the only town I know of that doesn't have a community center or a space of sorts for activities and events."

Bellah said the project likely will generate a great deal of community interest.

"I think this will be something for the town to really look forward to and I think people will start getting more involved if they see something on the near horizon that's actually going to happen."

For more info, contact Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency at 541-512-8703 or visit online, www.PhoenixURA.com.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.