Special Designation For Roosevelt Row Generates Debate At Phoenix Council

Published: Thursday, January 21, 2016 - 5:05am
Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2016 - 2:49pm
Amanda LaCasse/Roosevelt Row CDC
Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix.
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Phoenix City Council members approved creating an ethics commission.
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Several supporters wore buttons to show support for Roosevelt Business Improvement District.
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Resident Karen Baer spoke out against the Roosevelt Business Improvement District.

A lengthy, often heated debate took place inside Phoenix City Council chambers Wednesday night. The controversy involved a special designation for the downtown’s signature arts district, commonly called Roosevelt Row.

Council members were asked to approve the Roosevelt Business Improvement District. It would create a public-private group that could charge property owners hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year to cover services that go beyond what the city provides. According to a report presented by city staff, the Roosevelt District would focus on cleanliness and safety issues, beautification projects and marketing among other things.

The area covers 7th Street to 7th Avenue, north and south of Roosevelt Street. It is home to many artists and small businesses and the American Planning Association recently designated Roosevelt Row as one of the ‘Great Places in America”.

The success is no accident, said Cindy Dach who has been active in the area’s transformation.

“I know what my increased tax will be and I have determined that it will actually be far less than my volunteer hours, my personal expenditure of materials and my time responding to those in need in our community," she told council members.

But, others, like Karen Baer, said they were in Roosevelt years before the artists moved in.

“The winners are the well-connected, people with the loudest voice to convince you and they get the jobs," she said. "And, they’re convincing you to tax me, tax my land for their benefit. That is wrong."

Rather than approve a nearly $373,000 estimated of expenses and assessments on 401 parcels, council members withdrew those items from votes. They did approve the creation of the district and postponed a vote on the map of properties involved until early March.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct the name of Karen Baer.

Updated 1/21/2016 at 7:45 a.m.