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Renaissance Square Tree Removal Angers Shade-Seeking Visitors

Here in Arizona, shade is a commodity.  

That’s why when visitors to downtown Phoenix’s Renaissance Square showed up recently, they were a bit miffed to find that the 8 large ficus trees that surrounded the square, had suddenly been removed.

As it turned out, much to the chagrin of the city and frequent shade-seeking visitors to the square, they had been taken out by the property’s owner.

Many of the trees were dying, but still people in the neighborhood were not happy about it. Some accused the owner — ironically Cypress Office Properties and Oaktree Capital Management — of purposely letting them die to plant other less shady trees and chase away the homeless who camped under them.

Sean Sweat is the president of the Urban Phoenix Project. He tells us the Renaissance Square tree removal is indicative of a bigger problem.

In 2010, the City Council outlined the formation of a citizen tree and shade committee as part of their tree and shade master plan. In seven years, that has yet to be implemented and it’s time, he says.

Sweat says, while Renaissance Square has buildings owned by private developers, it is on city-owned land so it is critical for city leaders to watch and regulate what types of spaces are being created.

Palm trees are pretty, he says, but they do nothing for the people gathered underneath.

But what can be done to help property owner maintain existing trees and add to the canopies that provide much coveted shade in the concrete jungle of Phoenix?

Joining us now is Karen Peters, who is a deputy city manager for the city.

By the way, Sean Sweat of Urban Phoenix Project says his organization and Rogue Green have decided to band together and create the citizens tree and shade committee themselves and will take that committee to the Phoenix City Council for approval. Rennaissance Square replaced the eight ficus with 12 ash trees, which are city approved. We’ll continue to watch the story as it develops.

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Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.