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Inside the Ride

New on 19th Avenue

Construction equipment and oranges cones. Traffic restrictions and directional signs. Activity that once seemed limiting is opening the door to vast potential.

Families, business owners and community members along 19th Avenue in Northwest Phoenix have witnessed the transformation since January 2013. When Valley Metro broke ground on the Northwest Extension, the thought of trains running along 19th Avenue seemed so distant.

Now the time has come for 20,000 residents and local storefronts to get excited about a new look along 19th Avenue and a new way to get there.

“The 19th Avenue community is a tight-knit group with a lot of local businesses, wonderful schools, churches and non-profit organizations,” said Katy Spratt, Community Relations Manager at Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. “It’s a nice cultural oasis.”

Friends and family

Las Glorias GrillLas Glorias Grill opened in 1999 with four people on staff. Slowly, customers started coming in the doors at 19th Avenue and Northern.

“We were struggling the first years,” said co-owner Carmen Gonzalez. “Now, we pretty much know everyone who comes here.”

It’s evident that the now-bustling Las Glorias Grill is a 19th Avenue favorite as customers from as far as Avondale, Maricopa and Casa Grande stop to say hello or offer a wave from across the dining room.

“It’s a sense of family here,” said Stephanie Gonzalez. “With the opening of the Northwest Extension, we’re excited to see new faces here. People who live in other parts of the Valley may come here to eat Mexican food.”

Stephanie Gonzalez knows first-hand the benefits of light rail for businesses, students and riders.

“I was at ASU for four years, commuting from downtown Tempe to downtown Phoenix,” she said. “Light rail exposed me to new places and businesses. I hope it brings the same effect to our community.”

Reading between the lines

Bookmans Entertainment ExchangeIn the midst of rows of books and records at Bookmans Entertainment Exchange are employees eager to use light rail for their commute.

“One of our core values is the environment,” said Spratt. “We’re excited to have alternative transportation for our customers and our staff.”

For thousands of people along 19th Avenue, the Northwest Extension provides the transportation necessary for new employment opportunities. With the new extension, riders will be able to travel 26 miles from Dunlap Avenue through three downtowns in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa.

A learning lesson

Drive up and down 19th Avenue from Montebello to Dunlap and you’ll not only see businesses, apartments and condos but also several schools. Orangewood Elementary is one of six schools directly located on 19th Avenue. For the students, light rail construction has been a lesson in itself.

“Students have learned what it takes to construct light rail from the number of engineers to the number of light rail vehicles,” said Principal Andree Charlson. “We could not have imagined what an enriching experience it’s been for students and staff.”

The team at Orangewood Elementary says the opening of the Northwest Extension opens the Valley to students, their families and school staff.Orangewood Elementary School

“We are so excited to take light rail on our field trips to downtown Phoenix,” said Ima Jean Dolan, Office Manager. “Students will be able to access Diamondbacks games, Arizona State University, Burton Barr Library and more. Light rail offers them a way to see a lot of things they wouldn’t otherwise get to experience in Phoenix.”

Aesthetically Speaking

Matthew Salenger
sees light rail as more than just a way to get from one place to another. He views it as a gathering space for the public and an opportunity that allows art to celebrate the community. That’s why he turned to students along 19th Avenue to provide the inspiration for the artwork he created for the new 19th Ave/Dunlap Park-and-Ride.

“I wanted to create some support for the arts in the public by going into schools to teach children about aesthetics,” said Salenger. “I asked the students to reimagine their school any way they wanted.”

19th Avenue and Dunlap Park-and-RideSalenger received hundreds of drawings from students of all ages. He admits it was a struggle to choose the nine designs for the shade canopy at the park-and-ride.

“I chose very carefully and categorized the drawings according to topics such as sports and animals,” said Salenger. “I tried to pick the most interesting ideas. In the end, the nine yellow cones in the plaza are designed to be somewhat mysterious and hold your attention.”

For Salenger, the beauty of this project is more than what meets the eye.

In recalling the November 2015 community celebration of the Northwest Extension station art, Salenger met with two of the students whose drawings were included in the project.

“Their joy was so much better than I ever conceived possible,” he recalled. “That was one of the best moments of my life. It was so heartwarming that I had made a difference in a child’s life.”

Singing Praises

Chris Ridge SingersDorothy Yowell is so thrilled about the Northwest Extension, she’s singing about it. A member of the Chris Ridge Singers, they adapted a song called “I’ve been working on the light rail.” The group has appeared at previous milestone celebrations to perform the song and lend their support.

“I think the new extension is great. It’s right on schedule. Some people said they’ll never get that done on time. I said they will. And it’s beautiful,” said Yowell. “A whole bunch of us can get on the light rail and have a whole day out.”

Making a connection

Light rail is useful. It is practical. But it is more. It provides a sense of place, a connection to community and new opportunities. As Brian McClaskey of Orangewood Elementary simply states, “Light rail will open a lot of doors for all of us.”

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