By Shoshanna Rutemiller
PHOENIX, Arizona, March 27. ACROSS the street from the historic Phoenix Swim Club (PSC) facility, a large group of neighbors gathered at the Mountain View Christian Church to meet the newly formed Preserving Community Aquatics (PCA) board.
Tricia Schafer, a PCA board member and PSC masters swimmer, addressed the crowd, introducing the nonprofit organization's objectives, including its dedication “…to sustain swimming facilities for the athletic and recreational needs of Valley residents of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.”
This includes the Phoenix Swim Club's state-of-the-art facility, which owner Brophy College Preparatory, an all-boys Jesuit school in Central Phoenix, sold to developers. Currently in escrow, the plan is to bulldoze the facility's world-class competition pool and replace it with three dozen 2-story tract houses.
Several hundred yards from the neighborhood meeting, a large, white, wooden sign is hammered into the ground in front of the club. Aggressive black letters face towards the road, declaring an upcoming zoning hearing. Since Brophy wants the best deal from the sale (developers), it is currently working to have the facility's special permit removed. As long as the special permit is in place, the land can only be used for recreational purposes.
Brophy's main problem is that removing the special permit not only impacts current club members, it impacts local businesses; organizations; high schools, universities and international teams that use the facility; and the surrounding neighborhood as a whole.
At the meeting, Schafer emphasized that there has always been a “…longstanding commitment between the neighborhood and pool to coexist.”
Issues discussed that impact the surrounding neighborhood included: that the gated homes will disrupt neighborhood cohesiveness, there will be additional traffic in the neighborhood, and the irony of destroying the facility despite a recent push by the city of Phoenix to build more pools as part of its Fit Phoenix campaign.
District 6 Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has so far implied that his position on the facility re-zoning is that nothing will be done until all parties are heard. DiCiccio was unable to attend the neighborhood meeting, due to a fundraising engagement in Scottsdale. A representative was sent in his place.
PCA mailed a postcard to neighbors living within the vicinity of the facility, inviting them to the “community mobilization” meeting:
The historic 29th St. & Campbell pools, currently the training home to hundreds of swimmers with Phoenix Swim Club, Special Olympics, Grand Canyon University, and visiting teams from around the world, are at risk of being sold to a developer, demolished, and replaced with three dozen 2-story tract houses.
This would not only destroy Phoenix's only 50 meter competition pool, but it would also negatively impact the quality of life in our quiet neighborhood, deprive surrounding businesses of tourism revenue, and increase congestion on our narrow streets.
An initial zoning meeting, with the East Camelback Village Planning Community, was scheduled for April 2, 2013. However, Brophy requested it be pushed back 30-60 days. Zoning recommendations from this meeting will be presented to city zoning officials and ultimately to the City Council. The City Council hearing is scheduled anywhere from two to six months in the future.
The primary goals of the community mobilization meeting were to form task force groups of neighbors to garner additional support from local businesses and organizations, canvass the surrounding area, continue fundraising efforts and research the property's historical significance. Prior to housing the swim club, the property was used as a public elementary school and a Jewish school.
Swimming World has previously composed a comprehensive article about efforts to save the Phoenix Swim Club facility, and the impact its demolition will have on the future of the club and neighborhood.