Meet Carol Poore, A Phoenix Community Alliance “City-Shaper”

by Taylor Costello
Arts & Culture Community Community Voices Phoenix Community Alliance Taylor Costello October 11, 2023

As a future-focused person, Carol Poore prefers to look ahead rather than reminisce.

But, if there were a philosophy that decoded the successes of her career thus far, it would be the power of social capital combined with getting things done.

For more than 20 years, Poore built a career upon the power of connectivity. Her involvement with Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) dates back to the late 1990s, representing Salt River Project (SRP), Arizona State University (ASU), and Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS on PCA’s Board of Directors, eventually serving as Board Vice Chair as a solopreneur. She also owns a strategic planning company, is a licensed real estate broker, and serves on faculty at ASU.

In between, as the founding Chair of the Arts, Culture and Public Life (ACPL) Committee in 2012, she forged new relationships between the then-separate local artist community and business leaders.

Phoenix Community Alliance was built on the foundation of industry professionals who all shared the same goal: to use their expertise to benefit the Greater Downtown Phoenix community. Within PCA, Poore found the perfect vessel where her love for central city Phoenix and the organization’s built-in social networks aligned to drive advocacy forward.

Founding PCA Arts, Culture and Public Life (ACPL) Chair Carol Poore pictured outside the Downtown Phoenix, Inc./Phoenix Community Alliance offices. (Photo by Taylor Costello)

PCA: How did you first become involved in PCA?

Poore: I joined PCA in the late 1990s as a leader at Salt River Project (SRP). At SRP, we were starting up a subsidiary, New West Energy, and wanted the senior-level team to be introduced to all the key players Downtown.  My membership continued as I moved into the vice provost role at ASU’s West Campus.

If any PCA Member needed something such as an introduction to another Member, we called [PCA President] Don [Keuth] or Jo Marie [MacDonald]. The things they did as the two-person staff for a nonprofit organization were incredible.

Don was one of those people who got things done. He knew a lot of people and had considerable social capital. I worked closely with Don and Jo Marie while completing my doctoral dissertation that focused on Downtown revitalization, researching Phoenix as a case study.

Once, we had a meeting over at Phoenix Country Club for Members, and suddenly, Don said, “Carol Poore, tell us about the new development of Southwest Center!”

He did it to help bring awareness about Southwest Center’s bond project with the City of Phoenix and the renovation of the former Channel 12 building on Central Avenue. When someone is at a podium and takes the time to recognize your project, it is delightfully surprising.

PCA: Speaking of Southwest Center, under your leadership as its President and CEO, the former Channel 12 space at Central Avenue and Portland Street transformed into the Parsons Center for Health and Wellness, housing Southwest Center and other healthcare providers in 2013. What motivated the move from 12th Street and McDowell?

Poore: In the 2006 General Obligation (GO) Bond election, Southwest Center had been approved for a $3.6 million bond allocation for building or buying a community health center under the Human Services section.

The nonprofit had grown from a shoebox operation to serving a good part of the state’s HIV/AIDS patients and those at-risk. The old, leased building was not collaborative and was very isolating. Our facilities committee looked at it and said, “We can’t do anything with this building.”

We toured health centers in Los Angeles and Chicago to investigate exemplary models for LGBTQ+ community centers with an HIV/AIDS focus. Those community centers were warm and welcoming, filled with activities, art spaces, and events to bring people into the facilities.

When I saw “For Sale” signs in front of the 55,000 square-foot Channel 12 building, Don helped us broker a meeting with John Misner, then the president and general manager of 12News.

When we first stepped in there, we knew it was the building for us because we wanted to be close to the light rail so our clients wouldn’t have to worry about transportation. In health care, the underserved can’t get to an appointment if they don’t have the means to get there. I said to John, “We want to move into this building.”

Working closely with the City of Phoenix, I also sought additional funding from the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, which had just launched the foundation to support underserved causes. We were honored to receive an initial $5 million investment from them to complete our building improvements. The foundation has given millions more to Southwest Center since its initial investment.

The newly founded Arts, Culture and Public Life Committee stimulated its Members on trips throughout Greater Downtown. For example, a Committee meeting took the group to the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, a private school to fix guitars, pictured May 11, 2016. (Courtesy of the PCA Archives)

PCA: What circumstances allowed our Arts, Culture & Public Life (ACPL) Committee to form under you as the founding Chair?

Poore: There was a keen awareness that PCA’s successful projects in the past had been focused on big activity generators to attract people to Downtown after years of blight. We were now at a place where we needed smaller, finer-grain attractions on our streetscapes, including art venues, restaurants and bars, and interesting walkways.

The core PCA Committees, such as the Central City Planning & Development Committee, were still essential to PCA’s mission. The new Committees evolved over a year or two as the organization realized we needed to fan out, to cultivate a more diversified array of Members from small retail, food and beverage, nonprofit, and arts organizations.

Based on a membership survey, PCA’s leaders developed [advocacy] Committees to address the opportunities required for a Downtown where people could live, work, and play.

Out of that formation, Mo Stein asked if I would consider chairing the Arts, Culture, and Public Life Committee. And I said, absolutely.

I had incubated a community arts project called Phoenix Phabulous Experience. It involved 17 local artists and a collection of 17 portable indoor murals that tell the story of Phoenix throughout major time periods.

Mo saw that I was invested in bringing together the business and the arts community.

City of Phoenix’s Deputy City Manager Inger Erickson, Downtown Phoenix President/CEO Devney Majerle, PCA Hance Park Fundraising Committee Co-Chairs Tim Sprague and Larry Lazarus, and ASU’s Associate VP for Program Development Planning Rick Naimark discuss the history of Hance Park during the Creative City Symposium at the FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel, pictured November 17, 2023. (Photo by Taylor Costello)

PCA: How did the Committee transform into what it is now with that built-in connectivity between the art and business community?

Poore: It was a little bit of a startup. Our focus was connecting business leaders with the value of a creative city – arts and artists, culture, and public spaces.

The first year or two was spent establishing the Committee and inviting people we thought would be interested, including artists and business leaders. We wanted it to be more than a Committee of only artists supporting artists.

We selected Downtown galleries important for Committee members to see, and we’d have a meeting there. Then, those art gallery owners would join PCA.

It was time-intensive, but our Committee members loved it. That was a massive attraction for many of our business leaders. Some of our Members had never been in any of these galleries.

The mingling of the arts, business, nonprofit, and government leaders pollinated a new tribe of Members now more aware of and supportive of arts, culture, and public spaces.

As part of its initial work, the ACPL Committee launched ArtWORKS PHX, a co-branded campaign to spotlight companies that featured art as part of their business models. Some were doing innovative things, like Goodman’s Furniture, which hosted ballet during an event in their warehouse.

The Committee, together with the Board, also launched a business-arts community conversation called the Creative City Symposium.

Since the first Symposium at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel in 2017, Artlink Phoenix and Phoenix Community Alliance partnered annually to create panel discussions exploring ways the business community can partner with and support artists in building our creative city.

Recent symposium conversations have expounded on the fusion of artists and APS to create an activated electrical substation in Roosevelt Row, the history of Margaret T. Hance Park as one of the Downtown community’s greatest assets, and the importance of expanding private development practices available to artists.

The opportunity to gather with community leaders and discuss the future of our central city was, and still is, thrilling. That’s what I’ve always loved about PCA: it allows you to be an insider about your own city.

Carol Poore presenting to the 2025 PlanPHX Leadership Committee Meeting, pictured February 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Carol Poore)

For the Phoenix native and City Shaper who lives Downtown, what goes on in Phoenix’s central corridor is a passion, translating to a regular presence at the Central City Planning and Development Committee.

But Poore is presently most focused on serving on the 2025 PlanPHX Leadership Committee, which shapes the City of Phoenix’s General Plan every ten years.

Serving with Mo Stein as the Chair, his third time chairing the Committee, the PlanPHX General Plan update creates a decade-long guide to address current and future issues, such as energy, housing, transportation, and land use, for the City of Phoenix’s strategic vision for the decade ahead.

An extension of the previous plan’s goal for community health, passed by 76 percent of the voters in 2015, Poore’s work, her second time serving on the Committee, includes attempting to set hard-to-quantify community benefits, including equity and well-being, into text.

In 2023, PCA celebrates its 40th Anniversary, and Poore is excited to discover how the organization will articulate goals for another ten years and what initiatives will energize PCA membership, just as Committees have reinvigorated its direction over the last decade.