By Jesse A. Millard for Phoenix Business Journal
The arts district on lower Grand Avenue — situated between Van Buren and Roosevelt streets — struggles to morph into an area of downtown Phoenix that people no longer need to avoid.
Galleries, bike lanes, diners and rentable “Grid” bikes line the narrowed street, breaking away from the idea of just being another stretch of auto shops.
Before construction crews narrowed lower Grand Avenue and added green bike lanes in October 2013, the road was a raceway used by commuters looking for an alternate route to get home from work.
The road has gone from four lanes to two as a part of Phoenix’s streets initiative, accommodating not just drivers, but pedestrians and cyclists, too. The bike lanes and new streetlight installations in the area were the first steps of adding additional infrastructure to Grand Avenue to support it as an arts district.
There have been complaints about the narrow roads, but the additional bike lanes were made to help boost the area and give it a sense of place, instead of just being known as an industrial district.
A bike ride from Civic Space Park, near the core of downtown Phoenix, to Grand Avenue reveals an area struggling between feeling safe and being dangerous. Some spots are friendly and walkable thanks to the streetlights, but others still leave something to be desired.
Finding homeless individuals sleeping in front of her gallery before she opens for the day also is common occurrence, Dragon said.
Having a well-lit area and open space is key to the success of any district, said Nicole Underwood, director of operations for the nearby Roosevelt Row Community Development Corp.
Roosevelt Row rose from obscurity to the popular arts destination by working with the city, getting more lights installed and having open and inviting businesses, Underwood said.
Grand Avenue is doing the same, but still lags behind as the area struggles with maintaining an inviting persona.
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