Where should Phoenix build the Latino Cultural Center?

The recommended location for a Latino Cultural Center is on the northwestern corner of Third and Moreland streets, next to Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Megan Marples/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – As Phoenix moves forward with plans to build a Latino Cultural Center, the location remains uncertain.

The city formed an ad hoc committee led by Vice Mayor Betty Guardado and City Councilman Michael Nowakowksi to create a strategic plan and recommend a cultural center location. The committee picked a former church at the northwestern corner of Third and Moreland streets.

The city-operated site next to Margaret T. Hance Park met a key theme that emerged from a community survey: The center should be on par with Phoenix’s other major cultural institutions downtown.

But Councilman Carlos Garcia, who has been on the council for about six months, said he can’t support the location because it has no historical significance to the Latino community.

“I had an artist call me about it and say, ‘Our communities were redlined and weren’t not allowed north of whatever – Van Buren or the tracks – and so how can we set something up like where our communities weren’t even allowed?'” he said.

The location, referred to as the North Building, is next to Hance Park. The 23,691-square-foot building has 148 parking spaces and access to light rail and bus stops. Current rehabilitation costs are estimated at about $12 million. Phoenix has $997,902 from a 2001 city bond program that’s been set aside to promote Latino culture.

Garcia also stressed the importance of economic development opportunities beyond the center.

“If there’s restaurants or shops, there’s things that can then expand through it,” he said. “The space where we’re thinking now, it stunts it, it stunts any further growth or any greater community, right? If we’re thinking of expanding other markets or different things around it, I think it’s not available there.”

Based on his input, the city’s land use subcommittee will recommend the City Council move forward with hiring a consultant and keep the downtown location while exploring options. Staff members had evaluated other locations, including downtown and city-owned property throughout the city, before the ad hoc committee chose the North Building.

Other downtown locations considered:

  • Regency Garage at southwestern corner of Second and Adams streets.
  • Public Market parking grounds at the southwestern corner of First and McKinley streets.
  • Herberger Theater grounds at southwestern corner of Third and Monroe streets.

Other city-owned sites considered:

  • Northeastern corner of Seventh Street and Buckeye Road.
  • Aviation land reuse “Spark” areas.
  • Del Rio Landfill.
  • Southeastern corner of Broadway Road and Central Avenue.
  • Southwestern corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway Road.

In 2016, the city hired a consultant to conduct a feasibility study. Based on community input, focus groups and site visits, two main themes emerged:

  • A desire for a visible Latino cultural presence in Phoenix at the heart of the city’s cultural center.
  • Latino cultural center should be on par and in company with Phoenix’s other major cultural institutions and art centers located downtown.