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When visitors, residents and workers spill out onto the sidewalks of Downtown Phoenix — the things they see, feel and experience matter, perhaps now more than ever.
With approximately 2,000 housing units currently under construction, equating to 5,000 new residents in the next three years — shade trees, building world-class public parks, establishing more retail and supporting local businesses have become the short and long-term goals of the new leadership at Downtown Phoenix Inc. (DPI).
Since January, changes in the executive staff and moving into a brand new second-floor storefront at CityScape Phoenix marked significant milestones for the organization, and presented some unique opportunities.
Formerly of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and College Football Playoff Arizona Organizing Committee, Devney Preuss officially started as executive director of Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) on April 11 – bringing more than a decade of sponsorship and activation experience to the table.
Dan Klocke, who led DPI’s Community Development Corporation and Economic Development Department for 13 years, recently assumed the role of executive director of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, following the departure of David Roderique May 2.
For the first time since PCA became the membership affiliate of DPI in 2015, the entire staff and all its affiliates are finally under one roof — which was celebrated at a grand opening of the new space on May 14. The move was motivated by a need to provide more access to PCA’s membership base, neighborhood groups, businesses, entrepreneurs and all the people working collaboratively on downtown projects.
After downtown’s deep decline in the ‘90s, the metaphorical stone has finally been pushed up the hill according to Klocke — meaning attitudes are changing, people are gravitating toward an urban lifestyle and it’s time to capture that momentum.
“If we want to be known as a great place, we have to provide great experiences for people,” he said. “Whether it’s sitting at a café alone watching the world go by or going to a festival with thousands of people — those are the kinds of things that give people great memories.”
In order to improve that crucial sidewalk experience, Klocke just launched a new tree-planting initiative alongside Ray Cabrera, director of placemaking at DPI. In the past two weeks, the DPI streetscape team replanted 17 trees along Monroe Street, refreshed flower beds on two street corners, and will continue replanting seven more trees beginning Monday.
But that’s just the beginning. In addition to fostering a new bar cluster and retail program, led by economic development coordinator Daniel Martin-Mora, Klocke cites the importance of supporting quality events, community outreach and the beloved Ambassador program, which downtown has come to be known for.
Sometimes when the right people come together with the right attitude — magic can happen, especially when no one cares about who gets credit at the end of the day. Preuss said that’s what initially drew her to the organization.
Historically, PCA has played a pivotal role in helping rally city and business leadership to financially support huge, groundbreaking projects like the Health and Human Services Campus, Steele Indian School Park and even the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.
Right now the organization is currently assessing the Hance Park Master Plan, which the Hance Park Conservancy rolled out earlier this year. Preuss said she’s excited to look at the ways in which PCA can come on board to collaboratively help raise funds for this massive, multi-million dollar project, which would put Phoenix on the map.
The results of that assessment will be presented to the PCA Executive Committee in the coming months.
PCA really functions as a conduit between businesses, connecting people to projects large and small through eight working committees. Building the value proposition for its highly engaged members and looking at ongoing projects with a fresh set of eyes are just some of Preuss’ immediate goals.
“As more companies move downtown, we want to be known as the organization they need to plug into,” said Preuss. “It’s not just large corporations with their names on buildings, we have a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to have a voice and want to be involved.”