By: Lara Serbin, Buckeye Main Street Coalition
Last month was the National Main Streets Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The Buckeye Main Street Coalition members Jay Broadbent, Charlene Powers, Brian and Kristi McAchran and Lara Serbin were fortunate to attend this important event. We had many opportunities to talk to others who are doing similar events, facade improvements and fundraising. We wanted a different perspective on how to improve historic downtown Buckeye. March 30 through April 1st was packed with learning sessions at the Omni Hotel. Below are some of the sessions offered:
The Museum on Main Street: The Smithsonian Comes to Town
A Rule Breakers Guide to Accessible, Sustainable and Economical Brick Streetscapes
Understanding Today’s Sponsors, Matching their expectations to your needs
People Power: Engaging Your Community Members
Activating Space with Community Partnerships
Defining value in down town festivals and events
Crowdfunding for Public Spaces and Community Places
Mobile Workshops explored downtown districts located in and around Atlanta. City staff, City Managers, Main Street volunteers and business owners took us on walking tours and explained lessons learned regarding revitalization. There are so many lessons and creative ideas that came out of these tours. Meeting other Main Street members was a significant way to affirm or re-examine how we do things. We went to Atlanta to make our downtown Buckeye better.
Buckeye Main Street Coalition at Coca Cola
Atlanta: Historic Downtown Tour
This tour was led by Paul Hammock, Director of Education at the Atlanta Preservation Center. He took us to Five Points, Grant Park and Martin Luther King National Monument. He pointed out the wall of mega buildings dividing circulation. Many historic buildings have been demolished. As with any well developed urban core there have been preservation losses and few wins. He took us to a 1950’s parking structure where the Victorian Kimball House Hotel the most beautiful hotel in Atlanta used to stand.
Kimball House Hotel Atlanta
1950’s Parking Structure replaced Kimball House
The biggest win for the city of Atlanta is the Fox Theatre saved by the wrecking ball by the local citizens. A 1928 lavish theater house with Egyptian and Moorish style interior, halls for dining and outdoor roof decks.
Opening Ceremony Atlanta
The Opening Plenary Session took place at the Fox Theatre and Buckeye Main Street Coalition held the Arizona sign proudly! The most memorable stop was Grant Park, a mile south of downtown. The Atlanta Preservation Center purchased Atlanta’s most significant and endangered house in Atlanta, the antebellum Lemuel P. Grant Mansion. Back in the day this house was king of the hill with acres of cotton. Now the single story is shoe horned among historic homes. Inside the spaces there are artifacts like stair stringers propped up against the exposed thick walls resembling rammed earth walls of the southwest. Before Atlanta Preservation bought this place it looked like a Roman ruin with no roof and nature taking over. This building restoration gives gave me great hope for the Buckeye Historic Courthouse and Jail that is in such need of stabilization.
Lara Serbin at Atlanta Preservation Center
The original wood panel flank the tall window openings. The last stop in the city core was the Martin Luther King National Monument Landmark. Several city blocks are reserved for a museum, crypt, visitor center and the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Martin Luther King National Monument
I sat in the church pew and listened to Dr. King to rest from taking photos. The space had a simple interior and intricate stained glass. It was a sacred space well cared for.
Tactical Urbanism: 10 Ways to Restore Your Downtown for $500 or Less
In between the mobile tours there were educational workshops. A huge drop cloth, stack of wood pallets and tools told me this was a hands-on 3 hour course. There were 10 different Tactical Urbanism projects happening simultaneously.
Tactical Urbanism Work Session
Volunteers were asked to build things like a flower display and adirondack chair from wood pallets. Even though a lot of it was staged like a cooking show on Food Network, it held my attention. While volunteers were constructing, cutting and bolting the mediator was fielding questions like how to not get in trouble with the highway department after tagging bicycle symbols on downtown streets.
Charlene Powers and Cheryl Sedig at Tactical Urbanism Work Session
Making an adirondack chair out of wood pallets
Maybe that is how most of us want to learn now, with chaos. At the end of 3 hours the teams had constructed a “Parklet”, chairs set on top of a raised platform with movie screen backdrop. I think most folks on Main Street organizations are finding ways to get their projects completed lighter, quicker and cheaper. I walked away with ideas on how to make future workshops in downtown Buckeye more interactive and fun.
Monroe: Creating a Downtown Destination through Local Investors Tour
The road that leads to Monroe is flanked with grand mansions of the cotton era. Monroe has its dark stories of segregated mass lynching in 1946 and current poverty, but they acknowledge their past honestly and embrace agrarian roots with pride. The historic downtown is vibrant with stores like Buckles Hardware, Little Italy’s Peppino’s Pizzaria and Rinse Bath & Body.
Monroe, GA historic downtown
City officials, Main Street volunteers and buildings owners were there to greet us at The Wayfarer Music Hall a community space to lease. Lemonade, ginger cookies, vase of flowers and goodie bags made me realize the impact of hospitality. The owner of the building was there, she was a Monroe native and had rehabilitated the 1910 building into a vital community event center in the historic corridor. The first floor she leases out for events like rehearsal wedding dinners. A second entrance opens to a flight of narrow wood stairs leading to The Wayfarer Hotel.
The Wayfarer Hotel
The Hotel is self sufficient without check in or full time staff. The walls have exposed brick and original plaster. Even the coffee bar is a shared space.
The Wayfarer Music Hall
She kept the improvements to the interior simple by only carving out what was necessary like a 3 compartment sink, hand wash station, ADA restroom and lockbox. Made me think of Buckeye and how we could so use a space like this to host events. It is a sign of the times to create a space that has an open ended use.
Keep Marching On with Faith, Hope and Love. Dr. Martin Luther King
On January 1, 2014 the Town of Buckeye in Western Maricopa County became a City. Over a year has come and gone and becoming a City is a big responsibility and the residences in Buckeye are stepping up to the challenge. Late last year, the City of Buckeye provided a Grant (catalyst) to assist business owners to improve its cache of buildings to attract more business.
Buckeye is open for business
We are seeing allot of excitement coming in the near future from the recently awarded projects. We are all Chomping at the bit just like first settlers who must have watched with excitement as the waters flowed down the Buckeye Canal system in 1907.
Serbin Studio’s involvement on the Buckeye Main Street Coalition, we take pride of assisting business owners in many ways. Whether it’s educating others how important it is for your business presence to communicate to the public, whether its your web presence or physical storefront, we have been working on our design muscles.
Downtown Buckeye along Monroe has a collection of historic buildings (OK they aren’t actually on the historic register), but they do have history. Buckeye wants to preserve and improve upon what stock we have. Just like a cowboy trying to stay on the horse a little bit longer, we are all working on improving how we do things.
The Carniceria Y Taqueraa Durango resides in one building in the heart of downtown Buckeye. Located a stones throw from City Hall and Buckeye Valley Chamber, a portion of it currently sits vacant. It is begging for some TLC to inspire others to occupy and utilize it. Late December 2014, a design was proposed by Serbin Studio to the City of Buckeye Council and was approved.
Serbin Studio is currently developing the design and providing the necessary details so it is a successful build.
As Mayor Meck states, Buckeye is truly open for business.
Demolition derby is once again upon us in Buckeye, Arizona. The event is this Saturday Nov 22 at 7 pm. This event has been part of Buckeye for over the past 20+ years. As the contestants are getting their vehicles ready to mash them up and put another notch in their fan belt, members of the Buckeye Rotary and Buckeye Main Street Coalition were prettying up the beer both that resides at the Helzapoppin Rodeo Arena.
Besides sitting in the sun and painting a beer booth (The ironic thing is I don’t even drink beer) for an entire day reminiscing about Ralph Macchio in the Karate Kid, what did I gain from this experience?
Community involvement is definetely a fun and awarding way to work along people in your community. Usually work meetings come and go and topics are mainly business and politics, but sharing the day with others while working on something collectively that improves your City makes you even more proud of where you live. What other City can you go to an event and Mayor Meck calls you by name.
Lara Serbin painting the pickets
Lily Serbin Taking a break to have some fun!
Jeff Serbin getting a bit too detailed
The beer booth, an attraction for the demolition derby, known for raising College scholarship funds by the Buckeye Rotary Club by selling beer, looked like it had gone through its own derby and was in need of some TLC. Years of weathered siding was re-branded like a cow.
Beer booth before
Did you know, the rodeo is coming back to the Helzapoppin’ Arena in January 2015 so get your irons out. We don’t want any stray cows running through downtown Buckeye, except for the Parade organized by the Buckeye Main Street Coalition on Monroe Avenue that occurs during that afternoon.
Through months of planning, working closely with the Buckye Rotary, we came up with some enhancements to make the Saloon a bit more attractive. With a reality check of budget and constructability issues, we begin our fury of work this weekend.
Beer Booth concept, now the “Saloon”
One thing we learned was that 7 gallons of paint can be your best friend, if slowly applied and well brushed. Some of us tackled the inside with new lighting and power and others tackled the outside. Thanks to a local artist, Ron Clarke, the beer booth was re-branded as a “Saloon”.
Saloon. Anyone have some horns we can mount on top? Let Lara know.
Over time we will be adding further elements to make this unique to Buckeye, Arizona. Now all of you will know where to go before and after the derby to say hello to all the Buckeye Rotarian’s serving up some nice cold ones.
After attending the event, it was an eye opener to see all that attended and to witness the activity around the Saloon. It just goes to show that clear signage is important to people know what you may be doing, which in this case was selling beer. All proceeds from this Rotary event go to a B.U.H.S. Scholarship fund. That is Buckeye Union High School Folks.
Beer booth After
Night of the Demolition Derby November 22, 2014
A few months ago, Serbin Studio was approached by the Buckeye Valley Historical Society with an architectural challenge. A conceptual design for the exterior of the existing ‘Buckeye Valley Museum’ so that the architecture reflects their mission, ‘To bring a better understanding and appreciation of the history and cultural significance of Buckeye Valley’.
Click on it for larger image
Conceptual Design of Buckeye Valley Museum
The building today lightly reflects back to the historic architecture of Buckeye Valley and through time has blended into the historic fabric in a way that the building is not apparent to the average visitor in Buckeye.
Original Museum renovation to look like Kell store
Current museum 2014 . Beige is not the new black. Consult a color specialist when you paint your building. Did I mention Lara Serbin is a color expert.
Buckeye has a long history dating back to 1885. Prior to the mid 1970’s, the main highway from Phoenix to California passed through downtown Buckeye. But just as we have seen in the ‘CARS‘ movie, the highway system was created and now by-passes historic downtown.
If you want to get a good glimpse of the history of Buckeye, two books written by Verlyne Meck capture Buckeye through images and words. “Buckeye, then and now” & “Buckeye (AZ) images of America”.
Since being part of a 3rd generation Arizona family and member of the Buckeye Main Street Coalition, I had a good strong foundation for understanding the Museum’s architectural significance. However with every project, further research exposed us to hidden treasures that are only talked about amongst Buckeye residents.
Some inspirations were:
Kell Store built in 1890’s
Hillbilly Hilton. If you get a chance, take a tour of this snapshot in time
Our intent was to minimally alter the interior exhibits and through the use of architectural features, contextual materials and textures enhance the exterior of the building so it clearly indicates what it is, ‘Buckeye Valley Museum’. We created a sense of arrival and a clear pathway into Buckeye’s history. The exterior is now a snapshot of the history and hidden gems within.
The museum had a re-opening on September 27, 2014 and is open Friday’s and Saturday’s from 11 am – 4 pm. The interior renovation is complete. The museum is now on a fund raising campaign to raise money and materials to complete the exterior facade upgrades. For further information, contact the Buckeye Valley Museum at 602-230-1299.