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Community Commentary Spotlight Fara Illich July 16, 2015

This time of year, downtowners typically dart from one shady spot to the next. Taking refuge under a tree, shade structure or tall building may decrease the temperature by 10-15 degrees, which makes a huge difference when it’s 110 outside.
Parks and shade typically go hand-in-hand — and the Urban Core boasts some of the best in the city. Heritage and Science Park, Civic Space Park and Margaret T. Hance Park all feature winning combinations of seating, trees, shade structures, grass and open space.
Parks are fabulous and can be enjoyed anytime, but sometimes we just need a quick respite. Hidden in the nooks and crannies of our Urban Center, downtown has plenty of hidden gems perfect for escaping the rays and beating the heat. Here are some of our favorites:
10. Phoenix City Hall — 200 W. Washington Street
A mix of native plants, shade trees, ample seating and the relaxing sounds of a water feature make this a great lunch spot for downtown employees. However, many of the benches are not placed under shade trees and aren’t usable in the summer.
9. Herberger Theater Center — 222 E. Monroe Street
Beautiful sculptures, a variety of native trees and natural pathways (made of dirt and compact gravel) provide a nice refuge. Some benches would be a nice addition to sit back and take in the splendor.
8. Adams Street — Between Second Avenue and Second Street
Adams Street features a beautiful array of mature Indian rosewoods, which thrive in an urban setting and provide lots of shade. Some of the young, newly-planted rosewoods replaced declining palo verdes earlier this year, and were salvaged from downtown construction sites.
7. Phoenix Municipal Court — 300 W. Washington Street
Phoenix municipal Court
Instead of shoving mesquites into tiny urban tree wells, where they don’t thrive, the plaza in front of the Phoenix Municipal Court features a large open grove of these native beauties, providing a mottled but nice, natural canopy. Benches strategically placed amongst the trees are a great place to sit back and enjoy the mini urban forest.
6. Maricopa County Superior Court — 175 W. Madison Street
Superior Court
Terraced planters, native vegetation, park benches and a central plaza integrating landscaping and public art make for a beautiful outdoor experience. But as a newer building, completed in 2012, much of the vegetation is not yet mature enough to provide substantial shade.
5. Masonic Temple — 345 W. Monroe Street
Mature oak trees line the sidewalks, providing a thick and luxurious amount of shade to pedestrians, cyclists and even cars parked on the street. As a private property, there’s no benches to sit and rest a spell — but it’s lovely to take in the historic architecture and shade as you stroll by.
4. Arizona Center Grotto — 400 E. Van Buren Street
A perfect combination of water, grass, native plants and shade trees make this one of the crown jewels of downtown. While the palms are non-native, they look beautiful when lit up at night during the winter.
3. Renaissance Square — 40 N. Central Avenue
A mix of tables, benches and bistro seating under a dense canopy of ficus trees make this a great place to escape the heat. The only setback is the lack of plants and shrubs. The large planters could accommodate some native brush, adding texture and lushness.
2. Virginia G. Piper Plaza — 231 N. 3rd Street
Mature native mesquite and palo verde trees, grass, a beautiful fountain and art make this a true oasis in the desert. There are no benches but you can sit on the edge of the fountain.
1. First Street — Between Washington and Fillmore Streets
Through a 2013 improvement project that added potted plants and trees, expanded walking spaces and artwork, First Street has a very pedestrian and bike-friendly feel. The mature Indian rosewood trees lining Taylor Place and the backside of the Cronkite School create a nice dense pocket of shade. Once the Space Between temporary pop-up park is completed, located between the Valley Youth Theater and Taylor Place, this city block will be a great example of sustainable urban streetscape and public greenspace.