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Summer Shade: 400 Trees Planted in the Downtown Core

June 20, 2019 by Taylor Bishop

A look at the sidewalk on Central Avenue and Adams Street before trees to present day. The Clean & Green team added trees, a little free library and seating. (Photo: Lauren Potter)

400 trees, more than 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide removed from the air and a team of eight working hard to make it all happen. If you’ve taken a walk or bike ride down our sidewalks recently, you may have noticed quite the influx of trees in the last four years — all thanks to the Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP) Clean & Green Team.

What is the Clean & Green Team?

Eduardo Patiño plants oleanders to beautify the corner of Buchanan and Third streets. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

Let’s just say the Clean & Green Team has been throwing major shade (trees) while maintaining Downtown Phoenix as a clean, inviting and comfortable neighborhood.

The crew — which works within the Downtown Phoenix core — improves the outdoor urban experience by planting trees and flowers, cleaning streets and removing graffiti tags. You may also see them hanging up banners and helping the city prep for major events — so be sure to give a wave when you see a Clean & Green Team member in their gray uniform working hard under the Phoenix sun. 

Types of trees planted and benefits

These trees were recently planted in front of Equality Health. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

Planting and caring for trees in an arid, urban setting like Downtown Phoenix can be complicated. The Clean & Green Team is currently phasing out dead or dying palo verde, palo brea, acacia and palm species and replacing them with trees handpicked to be more successful in this environment. The crew is also filling abandoned tree wells that can certainly use the love. 

“Maintaining native desert trees in downtown comes with unique challenges,” said Mark Hutflesz, streetscape manager for DPP. “For example, we have to prune palo verde trees into what we call ‘Frankentrees’ to make room for pedestrian and vehicle clearance — making them even more vulnerable to monsoon winds.” 

Palo verde trees typically grow low to the ground like a shrub. However, when they are trimmed to be taller, they lose a lot of their shade-making benefits. While the red push pistache, Indian rosewood, live oak and live elm are non-native, they are drought-tolerant and will provide shade and beauty for years and years to come.

A young tree — like the ones planted on Jefferson and First streets — removes 13 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air a year. So this year, the 400 trees planted by the Clean & Green Team will remove at least 5,200 pounds from the air. The new trees also help provide significant stormwater retention as well as reduce the urban heat island effect.

Plus, who doesn’t want more shade on their downtown commute? 

Future of DTPHX’s sidewalks

16 trees will be salvaged from the construction site of Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

While DPP pays for the majority of the trees it plants, its Clean & Green Team also helps save existing trees from some downtown locations that are slated for development. The team works with the city to determine which trees can be salvaged from project sites, and relocates them to other suitable locations in downtown’s Business Improvement District.

Although moving the trees and keeping them healthy is difficult, the success rate is high. In fact, some of the trees that were salvaged from the empty lot where the Phoenix Biomedical Campus now stands can be seen prospering throughout DTPHX today.

But sometimes it’s not possible to salvage the trees. This was the case with the recent X Phoenix project —  so the developers purchased replacement trees, which the Clean & Green Team recently planted along Buchanan and Third streets.

As development in downtown grows, so does the team’s hand in salvaging trees. This year, the Clean & Green Team is slated to salvage and relocate 16 trees from the future site of Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management (ASU will then plant replacement trees once the school is completed).

Our sidewalks and lots are constantly changing. Thankfully, the Clean & Green Team continues to evaluate the areas in need of sprucing up, while also removing graffiti, picking up trash and hanging hundreds of banners.