Clarifications on “My love/hate relationship with downtown Phoenix”

I think I need to offer a bit of clarification on my last post.

I love the discussion that's been started. Yet in reading through your comments, it seemed like I did a poor job at getting my intended point through.

Most everyone seemed to latch on to the idea that the post was merely to dish dirt on CityScape. Far from it. Though, in re-reading the post, I can see why people might think that. I sure talked a lot about CityScape!

When I thought through the post, my thought was this: Phoenix does some great things. Then it does some not-at-all great things. My love/hate relationship isn't because of CityScape. Far from it.

My love/hate relationship stems from the past decade or so that I've been living and learning in downtown Phoenix. I've seen tremendous strides in downtown Phoenix's renaissance. To their credit, the City has had a tremendous hand in that. That was the point about all the major infrastructure investments (ASU's campus, the Sheraton, the Civic Space Park, the additions to the Convention Center, light rail, etc.).

Yet intertwined with all these great advancements, there have been some silly things done that make me (and many) question the true intent of downtown development.  Tearing down an easily re-usable hotel to make way for a parking lot? Subsidizing the construction of CityNorth? Allowing for a heat-sucking cement plaza at CityScape?

In these questions is contained our frustration. We know that the suburbs have for all too long defined the area. My friend David Bickford (you may know him as @exit2lef or @phxrailfood on Twitter) keeps lamenting that Scottsdale's boundaries in various publications keep creeping well into Phoenix. People tend to associate with their suburb instead of the metropolitan area. Or, if they live in Phoenix, it's never just "I live in Phoenix." There's usually a modifier in there: north Phoenix, south Phoenix, and so on.

Perhaps it's an inherent struggle for identity. We who live in downtown Phoenix want to be identified as urbanites who choose to live here. We want a diversity of local food options to complement the national chains. We want to walk places instead of hopping in our cars to go to the nearest Safeway at 7th St and McDowell. And for those who come to downtown Phoenix to work or to go to an event, they have completely different needs. They have a reason to come here and then leave. In my opinion, it seems like our civic leaders tend to cater to these people's needs more than those who live here continuously. (Seriously, however: what good is a boutique bowling alley with a strict dress code to us?)

As my friend and colleague Colleen mentioned on Facebook in response to the original post, we need energy downtown. I completely and unequivocally agree. That includes parks, stores, restaurants, and things to do. And yes, it has to be more than one teeny market, a few local coffee shops and long walks to the few nice restaurants that students and many can't really afford. During weekdays and whenever there is a game at U.S. Airways Center or Chase Field, that energy is sort of there. At other times, that energy is missing or secluded in many discrete locations.

That energy has to go from different points to be continuous over all of downtown. And I don't have all the answers. But let's get that dialog started.

Who's in?

2 thoughts on “Clarifications on “My love/hate relationship with downtown Phoenix””

  1. Wow. My geographical nitpicking has earned me a mention on your blog. Thank you.
    Let me add my perspective as someone who is a Downtown enthusiast while living in a suburban neighborhood of the city. I neither live nor work Downtown, but I go there several times a week for major events (concerts, plays, etc.) and minor events (farmer's market, library visit, etc.) I don't see the needs of Downtown visitors and Downtown residents as fundamentally incompatible. When people come Downtown for a event, many seldom venture more than a block or two from the venue. One of the reasons is that vacant lots and blank walls give them little confidence that some exploratory walking will yield hidden gems. Filling in those gaps in the city core is therefore of paramount importance. That's why I like Sean's dog park idea so much more than a parking lot.
    As for CitySCape, as much as I dislike the architecture, I still think that some of the businesses will appeal to Downtown residents. Isn't a drusgstore within walking distance of major apartment and condo complexes helpful (even if its design is poor)? Likewise, some of the restaurants, such as Vitamin T, sound like they are offering casual street food meals with late hours rather than just sit-down meals that are oriented more toward business lunches and pre-event dining. Finally, I don't really get the fuss over the Lucky Strike dress code. It sounds no more strict than what many people, including me, wear every day. For someone who works in a Downtown law firm, bank, or government agency, it would be hard not to comply with the dress code.

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