Community Commentary Spotlight Fara Illich April 1, 2010

Some people dream about the career they want. Some dream about fame and fortune. I dream about restoring historic buildings. So if you will, please permit me a moment to dream and share my visions.
fleming building 1905In my dream I would buy a piece of prime property in Downtown Phoenix and rebuild the Fleming Building in all its original glory, complete with the basement bowling alley. I wouldn’t be able to build on the original location, but I would get as close as possible to the original footprint and I would happily demolish any parking lot to construct this building. I would build the Fleming Building up to the street to encourage pedestrian activity, just like it did when it stood proudly on the streets of Downtown. I would build it according to its original human scale, with the original and beautiful craftsmanship of brick and stone. Chicken wire, plywood, or stucco would not be allowed anywhere near this building!
The space inside could be used for a million things that make a city a city. In my newly rebuilt Fleming Building there could be any number of business and community-building ventures. Like a restaurant, a bar, a café, perhaps a museum, offices, a community center, artist space, residences, maybe hotel rooms. Even small things like a Laundromat, a hardware store, a grocery store, a drug store, a flower shop, a bakery. The options are limitless.
The purpose of rebuilding the Fleming Building would not be to make a profit. I would rebuild it for the purpose of creating value and character for the city that I love, to help Phoenix once again become beautiful and hospitable and functional.
In Downtown Phoenix we have lost so many of our points of reference and without those spaces we have lost the parts of our community that connect us to our past and define us as a city.
I’m convinced my dream doesn’t have to remain a dream, but perhaps I’m just young and naive. I have a firm conviction that with foresight, planning, and respect for the existing and remaining historical buildings this dream (or something close to it) can come true. Why should Phoenix be a city of dreams or a city where historic buildings live only in our memory?