Phoenix's Washington Street will receive centennial face-lift

Posted on by az100

by Lynh Bui – Sept. 9, 2010 09:27 AM
The Arizona Republic

The street that was the centerpiece of celebrations for Arizona’s admission into the union nearly 100 years ago will undergo a face-lift for the state’s upcoming centennial.

Preparations are under way to transform Washington Street into Centennial Way.

Arizona’s 100th birthday is Feb. 14, 2012. Between now and then, Phoenix will improve Washington Street from Central to the state Capitol at 19th Avenue, widening sidewalks, planting hundreds of palm and shade trees and installing shaded bus stops. Paloverdes, the state tree, will be planted to line the way.

The Phoenix City Council is expected to approve a contract next week that will select an engineering firm to design and bring Centennial Way to life.

Although the project, about 1.6 miles, is a collaboration among the Arizona Centennial Commission and other public and private groups, Phoenix is responsible for most of the work on the street because the city owns the property

The $7.2 million project is being paid for mostly by federal transportation funds while Phoenix will kick in about $400,000, said Shane Silsby, a traffic engineer and project manager with Phoenix.

Phoenix Community Alliance, a non-profit civic organization, has installed signs along the road commemorating Washington Street as Centennial Way.

Plans call for commemorative and informational displays that will allow people to learn about the state through a historic walking tour along the street. Improvements include more lighting and shade structures to make Washington Street more pedestrian friendly.

“This will be a true promenade,” said Karen Churchard, director of the Arizona Centennial Commission and the Arizona Centennial Foundation. “This project will bring back and showcase some of the historic elements along the street and tell the story of our state.”

Beyond being the heart of state, county and city government operations, Washington Street is historically significant because many of the state’s first “Admission Day” events took place there in 1912. Admission Day is the celebration of Arizona’s entrance to the union.

Arizona’s first governor, George W.P. Hunt, walked down Washington Street to the state Capitol where he took the oath of office to become the newly minted state’s first chief executive. It is where the state’s first parade took place.

Several historic or significant buildings are along Centennial Way, including Phoenix’s Historic City Hall, the historic Maricopa County Courthouse and the Carnegie Library, which was Phoenix’s public library from 1908 to 1954 and is today the Carnegie Center.

Rick Naimark, deputy city manager, said Washington Street will become the grand parade entrance for centennial events.

He said the project is expected to be complete by November 2011, in time for the festivities.

The new landscaping and shade structures will also boost the surrounding neighborhoods, Naimark said.

“This is a neighborhood that is stabilizing so it’s nice this street gets a face-lift,” Naimark said.

The design phase will start in October. Construction is to start in March.

Silsby said the city plans to meet with neighbors, the state, the Centennial Commission and other stakeholders before moving forward with designs for Washington Street.

“We’re implementing a vision from those groups,” Silsby said.

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