The Seventh Avenue Merchants’ Association Governing Board is weighing the possibility of expanding the non-profit district’s borders.
The topic has been raised during a few regular monthly Board meetings, but has not yet been added to a formal agenda.
“It’s in consideration,” S.A.M.A. President Mike Poulton said during a July 12 meeting. “If people have input they want to provide, that would be good.”
Poulton said those who attend S.A.M.A.’s quarterly meeting this week are welcome to bring the topic up for discussion, though the agenda will mostly be about Street Fair.
The meeting will be held Thursday evening at the Phoenix Preparatory Preschool at 802 w. Osborn Road at 6:30 p.m.
Distinguishing “Melrose” from “S.A.M.A.”
Melrose’s history of intense community involvement is what inspired the 2013 installation of the metallic arch that spans 7th Avenue.
As an association representing area merchants, S.A.M.A.’s support has been a critical factor in several recent development projects, including the construction of 200 new market-rate apartments, the ongoing adaptive reuse of the Melrose Liquor building, and the installation of the rainbow crosswalk at Glenrosa Avenue.
“We’re looking at keeping the former S.A.M.A. (boundaries) as ‘The Melrose District,” Poulton said in May. “We have an opportunity to solidify the (Melrose) brand.”
Poulton said he envisions “The Melrose District” as a distinct section of S.A.M.A. that could inspire other areas of 7th Avenue to market their own identities.
Board members are currently working on designing new “Melrose” banners for streetlights between Indian School and Camelback Roads.
Existing ones that were put up during past street fairs represent specific businesses, and are no longer in conformance with City Code.
“The Melrose District” is a colloquial term that generally refers to 7th Avenue between Indian School and Camelback Roads, and carries no legal or planning significance.
However, the name is frequently used for branding the area’s unique tapestry of mom-and-pop antique stores, independent auto dealers, and as a focal point for Phoenix’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities.
It originated from the residential “Melrose” neighborhood which was originally platted after World War II, and now operates officially as the “Melrose-Woodlea Neighborhood Association” between 7th and 15th Avenues, south of the Grand Canal.
In Context, S.A.M.A. as The Foundation of Several Functions:
Now in its 20th year, the non-profit began as a way for Melrose area businesses to combine resources to fight crime, clean up blight, and market local merchants.
Members pay annual dues in exchange for collective representation in both public and private negotiations, which range from land regulations to shared marketing purposes.
In addition to working with the City to develop Block Watch programs, S.A.M.A. members also helped to develop the Seventh Avenue Urban Main Street (Zoning) Overlay, the only of its kind in the City that encourages retro-themed, walk-able retail.
Several generations of Board volunteers have also been instrumental in running the Seventh Avenue “Melrose” Street Fair since its inception in 2002, and member dues were also used to hire a private marketing consultant, Jackie Caro of Marketing Ideals Company, to help coordinate and advertise the Fair the last two years.
S.A.M.A. is also the parent organization for the Community Alliance of Seventh Avenue, a separate entity with a separate board, instrumental in several neighborhood projects including art installations, public infrastructure, and the development of the town-square-style Lyceum Park at 7th and Montecito Avenues.
C.A.S.A. President Charley Jones also sits on the S.A.M.A. Board in an advisory capacity.
If the merchants’ association were to expand, it would likely invite new and existing independent and chain businesses at Missouri Ave., Osborn Rd., McDowell Rd., and possibly even extend into Downtown Phoenix.
New businesses immediately south of Melrose on Seventh Avenue include Starbucks, Sprouts, Jersey Mike’s Subs, as well as the family owned Mi Patio Mexican Food.
Several well-known chains also populate the corner at McDowell, including another Starbucks, Pei Wei Asian Diner, 5 Guys Hamburgers, and N.Y.P.D. Pizza, to name a few.
S.A.M.A., Already More than “Melrose”:
Though S.A.M.A. is often thought of as the storefronts along Seventh Avenue between Indian School and the canal, “associate memberships” have been granted for years to those who don’t have brick-and-mortar businesses in the area.
In July, S.A.M.A.’s Membership Director and Board Member Kenyatta Turner reported that 14 of 47 “active” members operate outside the current boundaries.
That’s nearly 30%.
Per the Bylaws, the current S.A.M.A. borders are synonymous with the Seventh Avenue Urban Main Street Overlay zone, which stretches from Indian School Road to Pierson Street, and approximately one block east and west.
Any legally registered business may be granted membership if the Board or majority membership determines it “will contribute to the organization’s ability to carry out its charitable purposes.”
Several “associate members” have been professional advisors like real-estate agents and attorneys, as well as Phoenix Pride, whose new headquarters is in Downtown Phoenix.
Associate members are not required to operate their business within the zoning overlay as the bylaws currently require of “general members.”
Both types of members may vote in association elections, so long as they are in active “good standing” with the Board.
Turner, who spearheaded the creation of a new S.A.M.A. website in 2017 and a S.A.M.A. App, does not operate a physical storefront.
Instead, Turner markets pre-paid legal services tailored to small businesses in Melrose.
According to her, at least 27 S.A.M.A. businesses have operated at one time from outside the “Melrose boundaries.”
Some have not renewed memberships, gone out of business, or moved out of the area.
Current Treasurer and Board Member Margo Mangum, for example, founded Phoenix Preparatory Preschool on Highland Avenue in Melrose in 2007.
She expanded to a new, larger facility at Osborn Road in 2018, where she will be hosting S.A.M.A.’s July 26th Quarterly Meeting.
“With Margo moving her business right outside, and with the new Sprouts, there will be new businesses,” Poulton said in May. “We think we want the option to include them.”
From Possibility to Reality:
According to Poulton, a commercial attorney, the Board would have to ask S.A.M.A. members to allow the Board to redraft the boundaries.
“It’s very restrictive,” Poulton said. “As the whole area develops, the commercial district may change on (its) own.”
Poulton said in May that the membership would probably not be asked to vote on what the new boundaries are, but to give the elected Board the authority to define them.
The current bylaws do not state how, when, or where such a vote must take place, but the prevailing language throughout the document suggests a successful amendment requires the approval of only a majority of active members who participate in the vote.
S.A.M.A. elections can and have been conducted via e-mail in the past.
No formal language or action on an expansion vote or amendment was discussed in the July 12 meeting.
Poulton encouraged members to bring any questions, comments, or concerns to the July 26th meeting, at which the Board will be discussing updates on plans for future Street Fairs.
*Note: This Melrose Life Publisher and real-estate agent Brian Mori is also a member of S.A.M.A.. Though he does not utilize business space, he lives and operates from just off Seventh and Glenrosa Ave’s.