Margaret T. Hance Park, which sits between 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue and Culver and Moreland Streets in Downtown Phoenix, is an engineering marvel.

Under the length of the park, the I-10 runs as a 2,887-foot-long below-grade tunnel called the Papago Freeway Tunnel. Before its completion, the half-mile stretch of the interstate was considered the “golden spike” because it was the last portion built to connect the East and West coasts.

In the early 1970s, the Downtown section of the interstate was initially envisioned as a series of 100-foot high circular loops, called helicoils, with a park plotted beneath the freeway.

Even though the design was originally opposed due to concerns over neighborhood disruption, a consensus was eventually agreed upon to reunify the communities in the form of a novel idea of a ‘deck-park’ around 1984. As the interest in the park grew, so did its potential to act as a lightning rod to drive the revitalization of Downtown.

By 1992, the sprawling park had opened, and the underground tunnel, unofficially known as the Deck Park Tunnel, co-existed. While vehicles travel through the freeway operated by ADOT, people and organizations congregate year-round in this rapidly evolving park.

Since the park’s establishment, many residences, businesses, and non-profits have sought the area out for its pastoral attraction.

Below is a compilation of the major non-profits operating near the park, and Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) is proud to count many of them as Members. Allow us to guide you through the area around Hance Park and the PCA Members who call this unique place their backyard.

The West Side of the Park

Hance Park Conservancy

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, PCA’s Hance Park Fundraising Co-Chair Tim Sprague, Board Chair Diane Haller, and Artlink Phoenix President Catrina Kahler celebrate the unveiling of the Republic Services Garden at Margaret T. Hance Park, pictured Wednesday, February 1, 2023. (Photo by Taylor Costello)

In the near future, Hance Park will be the iconic gathering place it is today and so much more. The 32-acre park will eventually be the site of a permanent interactive water features, café, pavilions, groves of new shade trees, and existing green spaces.

The Hance Park Conservancy supports the implementation of that master vision by programming events, working with the City of Phoenix’s Parks and Recreation Department and PCA’s Hance Park Fundraising Committee to fundraise money to make it real.

Within the last several years, the results of the public-private partnership have begun to take root as Phase One of the $45 million dollar project to develop the park’s center comes together. Elements of Phase One include Fiesta Bowl Play, an interactive play area that opened in December 2020, and the Republic Services Garden, which opened in February 2023.

With multiple invested sponsorship partners and a seven-figure donation from APS, Phase One is well on the way.

Japanese Friendship Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden is designed with a common Japanese design principle called hide-and-reveal, where the garden layout encourages visitors to explore further. (Photo courtesy of the Japanese Friendship Garden)

An authentic Japanese oasis in the desert sits on almost four acres, neighboring the park to the South. The origins of the Japanese Friendship Garden date back to the mid-1970s when the Japanese city of Himeji and Phoenix became sister cities.

Rohoen, the garden’s name, derives from a portmanteau of three separate Japanese words, including the mythical Phoenix bird (Ho) and the word for garden (En).

Powered by a volunteer and membership base, the programming at the garden reflects the authenticity and tranquility emulated across the ocean. Throughout the year, events like Bonsai tree maintenance, moon meditation, and Japanese flower arranging workshops bring them in line with that traditional beauty.

Details: 1125 N. 3rd Ave. japanesefriendshipgarden.org.

Irish Cultural Center & McClelland Library

On their anachronistic campus designed to resemble a 12th-century Norman castle, the Irish Cultural Center & McClelland Library services many communities and stakeholders.

Since 2001, the center has celebrated various aspects of Irish culture and identity. Typical programming and services include Third Friday Celli dances, genealogy workshops, immigration support, and seasonal events, such as an Annual Winter Solstice Celebration in late December.

The McClelland Library, a subset of the Phoenix Public Library System, contains more than 10,000 books and written materials covering history, poetry, and literature from Irish authors.

If that wasn’t enough, this unique medieval space contrasts against the Downtown skyline and can be booked for private events and weddings.

Details: 1106 N. Central Ave. azirish.org.

The East Side of the Park

Inside The Parsons Center for Health and Wellness

During the 2006 General Obligation (GO) Bond election, Southwest Center was allocated $3.6 million in bond money to build or buy a community center. Afterward, then-President/CEO Carol Poore and the Center’s facility committee made a deal with Channel 12 to take over their former 55,000-square-foot building at Central Avenue and Portland Street, which became The Parsons Center for Health and Wellness. The community center became home to multiple non-profits and is easily accessible along the light rail route.

Details: 1101 N. Central Ave.

one-n-ten

In its second year, Camp OUTdoors, a summer retreat for youth, is some of the growing programming offered by one-n-ten. (Photo courtesy of one-n-ten)

For a community of vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth and young adults, one-n-ten is one place to feel supported. Across the state, the youth organization creates inclusive year-round events and opportunities for youth to find the confidence to be themselves.

Details: 1101 N. Central Ave. Suite #104 onenten.org.

Greater Phoenix Equality Chamber of Commerce

Since 1980, the Greater Phoenix Equality Chamber of Commerce has helped foster inclusive business environments for the LGBTQ+ community. As one of the nation’s oldest LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce organizations, they’ve added to a roster of supportive Members who support equality.

A rundown of their signature fundraising events that support the community includes a Queer Holiday Market, tabled by LGBTQ+ artists, and their upcoming annual Festival of Trees, which provides the opportunity to bid on decorated trees and wreaths.

Details: 1101 N. Central Ave. Suite #108 equalitychamber.org.

Southwest Center

Some of the services that Southwest Center provides include a bookable safe space to discuss relationships and intimacy. (Photo by Taylor Costello)

In 1990, Southwest Center began as a healthcare haven for the LGBTQ+ community when services were still not widely accessible. More than 30 years later, the non-profit morphed into a general clinic providing services ranging from mental health and primary care to a bookable safe space to discuss relationships and intimacy.

Although they’ve branched out, they will always be at the forefront of case management for people with HIV/AIDS. Maricopa County is a hotspot for the virus, and Southwest is the largest tester for HIV and STI infections.

The City of Phoenix partnered with them on a Fast-Track Initiative, a declaration to ensure HIV/AIDS is no longer a public health threat by 2030. In keeping with this goal, they can start a patient on medication the same day as a diagnosis.

Details: 1101 N. Central Avenue, Suite #200 swcenter.org.

Valleywise Health Center

On the second floor of the Parsons Center, the Valleywise Community Health Center serves locals as both a generalized practitioner, including dental and mental health care, and as an HIV clinic.

The clinic provides a place for HIV testing and other essential care.

Details: 1101 N. Central Ave. Suite #204 valleywisehealth.org.

The Phoenix Theatre Company

On multiple stages, tributes to Billie Holiday and musicals about Tiananmen Square are some of the wide-ranging productions that make up the 500 performances in a given year. (Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre Company)

When visitors pass through the Steven Spielberg Entrance, they enter the world of diverse and creative artists who make up Phoenix’s largest active regional theatre company.

On multiple stages, a tribute to Billie Holiday, a musical about Tiananmen Square, and an adaptation of ‘Elf’ are some wide-ranging productions that make up the 500 different performances in a given year.

And every year, the theatre hosts auditions to find the next generation of local talent.

Details: 1825 N. Central Ave. phoenixtheatre.com.

Arizona Jewish Historical Society

The Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center will include a new Holocaust Education Center, which features an interactive interview with local Holocaust survivor Oskar Knoblauch. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Jewish Historical Society)

In a converted synagogue, the Arizona Jewish Historical Society (AZHS) operates the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center as a gathering space and place to preserve the community’s stories and voices.

In addition to hosting exhibits on local Jewish communities in the 20th century, the center operates a Holocaust Education Center to educate younger generations on the causes of the Holocaust.

As a result of the November 2023 General Obligation (GO) Bond election, new funds will help fund a new Holocaust Education Center that will include an interactive interview, drawing from 1000 pre-recorded answers, from local Holocaust survivor Oskar Knoblauch.

Details: 122 E. Culver St. azjhs.org.

Phoenix Center for the Arts

Phoenix Center for the Arts’ staff outside a General Obligation (GO) Bond committee hearing in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Phoenix Center for the Arts)

Since 1976, this vital Downtown non-profit has served diverse arts and culture interests. From the site of a previous First Southern Baptist Church location, the center offers classes and workshops in ceramics, photography, printmaking, dance, jewelry-making, and much more.

The other PCA” is powered by community donations, classes, and sponsorships within the center, a historic City of Phoenix-operated facility. A recent initiative, BIPOC Arts, allows artists opportunities to develop into teachers under the tutelage of fellow professional artists.

Note: Rising Youth Theatre and Phoenix Children’s Chorus also share the same campus as Phoenix Center for the Arts.

Details: 1202 N. 3rd St. phoenixcenterforthearts.org.

Arizona School for the Arts

Just north of the park, the Arizona School for the Arts (ASA) is cultivating future artists’ talent and giving them life skills. More than simply sharpening artistic talent, ASA is an all-encompassing academic school, with studies from middle school through college preparation.

From the inside out, ASA fosters a nurturing, creative space for students. In recent years, evocative wayfinding by Thinking Caps Design alludes to the creative minds inside.

The recently added outdoor concrete furniture by Dig Studio and a soon-to-be-unveiled outdoor Amphitheatre count as places for future ASA alum to gather in the years to come.

Details: 1410 N. 3rd St. goasa.org.

Other Nearby Non-Profits include Arizona Humanities, Arizona Puppet Theater, Flinn Foundation and Grace Lutheran Church.

As Hance Park continues to be revitalized, so do the constituencies the park and non-profits around it serve.

This year alone, the park hosted many events, from the Super Bowl LVII Experience to annual events, including the Local First Arizona Fall Festival and the Phoenix Pizza Festival. In 2024, the March Madness Music Festival will be added to the park’s repertoire in April.

If the park’s first three decades are any indication, the future is bright for this iconic gathering space.

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