PHOENIX ISN'T KNOWN as a pedestrian-friendly town, but that didn't stop developer Eric Brown and William Hezmalhalch Architects from introducing a walkable village to its urban arts district, where previously there was none.
“Our goal was to lure middle-income people back to downtown,” says Brown. “They are the lifeblood of the city.”
The scene of the experiment was a mostly vacant, 5-acre parcel, bordered by a transitional neighborhood, a beat-up shopping strip, and an old theater. The turnaround strategy called for 105 owner-occupied live/ work units, adhering to a classic residential-over-retail model, with a wallet-friendly starting price of $157,000. Assembled for a mere $76 per square foot, the stick-built homes were economically constructed in one fell swoop and snapped up by an eclectic mix of entrepreneurs, including a Realtor, a gourmet bakery and bohemian coffee shop, and a music store. “That was before the market went up 43 percent,” Brown observes.
True revitalization is about more than cosmetic improvement, and Artisan Village shows how it's done. Each of the live/work units is plotted to front the street, allowing for internal pockets of shared green space, a lap pool, and dog park. Once a month, a handful of 10-by-10-foot trellised booth areas are transformed into open-air, art-exhibition spaces and the neighborhood becomes a choice route along the city's “First Friday” gallery hop, which draws as many as 15,000 visitors. Resident business owners extend their store hours, and music can be heard in the streets.
Category: Live/Work; Entrant/Architect: William Hezmalhalch Architects, Santa Ana, Calif.; Builder/Developer/Interior designer: Artisan Homes, Phoenix; Land planner: Landmark Engineering, Phoenix; Landscape architect: Urban Earth Design, Phoenix