City names its 1st Historic Conservation District - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

City names its 1st Historic Conservation District

August 2nd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
City names its 1st Historic Conservation District

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Elaine Woods was sitting under a photo of Coy Payne, the first Black person to serve as Mayor of Chandler.

She was asked what it meant to her for Southside Village to be the first Chandler neighborhood to earn a special historical district designation.

It was something she and others had worked toward for nearly two years.

“I am honored,” Woods said, beaming. “I count it a privilege to be a part and to have helped lead the way. What’s way more important for me, more than anything, is that the City of Chandler feels it’s necessary.”

City Council approved making the Southside Village neighborhood a Historic Conservation District.

The neighborhood is between Frye and Pecos and Arizona Avenue to the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

In addition to being Payne’s home, it was also home to Raul Navarrette, the city’s first Hispanic mayor. The community traces its roots back to Chandler’s early days, when AJ Chandler was founding it.

It was home to boxer Zora Folley, who once fought Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title, losing in a 7th round knockout. It was Ali’s final fight before he was forced to take a three-year break from the sport because he refused to fight in Vietnam.

Folley later served on the Chandler City Council.

“To start here is awesome,” Woods said. “But it’s absolutely necessary. I look at young people today … and if we don’t show them something, teach them from whence they came, the fabric of which they were formed, they won’t know a tad bit about what’s in them.”

Council adopted a historical preservation program in 2020, creating four different types of districts that neighborhoods could apply for.

The historical conservation designation is meant to honor any area with two or more buildings of historic significance or one that was home to people who made substantial contributions to the city’s history.

It does not limit any possible development.

The other types of designations the city approved are “heritage site,” which is for a historic building that no longer exists; a “preservation district,” which would have stricter zoning rules; and “landmark,” which is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development designation.

“The district itself, conservation, is a Chandler innovation, and it is honorary,” said Derek Horn, the city’s developmental services director.

“But it does encourage preservation of the existing historic resources,” Horn explained. “So, we would want developers to come in and talk with us about any other alternatives that could be considered before taking down an historic building.”

Horn said the city will work with the Southside residents to recognize important locations with signs, pylons and plaques.

Southside was home to Blacks and Latinos in the city’s early days. Some of the historic buildings in the district include the Winn School (currently home to the Salvation Army), Light and Life Church, and Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church.

Woods said it took nearly two years and a lot of paperwork to earn the historical conservation district designation.

There are others, including the homes were Coy Payne and Zora Folley lived, and a two-story building behind the Mount Olive church that was a roller rink for youth.

Woods said the Southside area was meant to be for working folks who helped build the city. But there’s one group that she said should get special recognition.

She said she has mixed emotions about the honorific nature of the district. While she wants to preserve the history, she also wants to encourage growth.

“What stands out most is the homemakers, because the people of this community helped to maintain the home, of the, for lack of a better word, the powers to be in the community. We took care of our forefathers and mothers, and they took care of their homes while they went and created what we see today is the city of Chandler.”

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