One of the most popular Christmas holiday events in Ahwatukee won’t be held this year because of an extensive parking lot overhaul at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center.
The annual Arts & Crafts Fair has been canceled because the parking lot at the ARC on E. Cheyenne Drive has been torn up and it would be too difficult for patrons to find a place to park, according to people familiar with the project.
ARC General Manager Amy Nicholls did not return calls or email requests for comment, but several sources detailed the project and its impact on the fair.
The fair, held shortly before Thanksgiving, features the work of the numerous clubs that call the ARC home.
With a wide assortment of paintings, woodwork, jewelry, sculpture and other works that clubs spend months creating, it has traditionally offered Christmas shopping early birds a chance to find unique and well-crafted gifts.
But the committee that organizes the fair decided that the late start that ARC officials got on the parking lot guaranteed the project would not be finished in time for the mid-November event.
“The project was originally scheduled for last spring, but delays in meeting city requirements for permits pushed the start of construction to the end of August,” one source said.
The contracted completion date was 90 days from the start of construction, which pushed the finish date to a date after the scheduled fair.
“Even this date was not guaranteed because more permits still need to be gotten,” the source added.
While the ARC’s administration did not pressure the fair committee, the artisans were “discouraged from having it,” the source said. “Any reduction in parking was viewed as being a problem for the fair since there really isn’t any sufficient parking nearby.”
With parking on Cheyenne Drive prohibited and the nearby Post office lot too small and likely to be off-limits to fair attendees, organizers saw only problems if they went ahead.
Even parking at nearby Mountain View Lutheran Church was ruled out because of the expense and liability of operating shuttles and the risk to pedestrians in crossing 48th Street.
Another source said the parking lot project has a number of goals.
One of the two entrance gates was permanently closed because it was considered hazardous for nearby residents who walk to the center.
Handicapped parking was consolidated near a sidewalk, eliminating the need for those motorists to walk across the lot to get to the building.
In addition, while some trees along Cheyenne were taken out, the project calls for the creation of an area with greenery in the center of the lot, the source said.
“The good news is that there is still adequate parking for most activities like exercise classes, crafts and small meetings,” one source said.
Ahwatukee American Legion Post 64, which uses the ARC as its headquarters, reported in its current newsletter that it can’t hold its annual fund-raising Oktoberfest because “parking is much reduced.”
“ARC has modified several of their annual yearly events which would have taken place in the next 3-4 months and has made them for members only,” the Legion newsletter said.
While ARC’s popular weekly happy hour has continued, one source lamented the craft fair’s cancellation.
As the source explained, “ARC members who have been working on crafts all year in anticipation of the fair are especially disappointed.”