My love/hate relationship with Phoenix

There has been a lot of spirited debate over CityScape. A lot of it is definitely deserved since a public space was taken from us and replaced with a (suburban) shopping center. Local filmmakers Steve Weiss and Leslie Barton ask passers-by where the park is within the new CityScape in this two-minute video:


A lot of people will say that CityScape is an improvement over the former Patriots' Square Park (PSP) since that park was a sea of concrete frequented by homeless people. But PSP was a public space. CityScape is not. (Public funding does not make a space "public.") PSP had shade and grass. CityScape has concrete and more concrete. I remember walking through PSP one May morning with some classmates from my high school before a rehearsal at the Orpheum Theatre and we both found PSP quite charming.

So this is why I have a love/hate relationship with Phoenix. There are plenty of great people in the community who advocate for good change, sustainable change, and useful change. (This is the love part of the love/hate paradox.) We know what we want in a lively, urban core. We want a downtown that has a plethora of unique and locally owned shops. We want to promote walking, bicycling, and public transit use instead of always hopping into a car. We know what works because we have seen what doesn't work. And yet we never seem to give up.

But then there's a city government that just doesn't seem to get it. (This is the hate part.)  The City of Phoenix have done some great things but then they do some absolutely bone-headed things that cancel out the good things. The new additions to the Phoenix Convention Center? Amazing. The Sheraton? Definitely needed. Light rail? Phenomenal. Creating an ASU campus in downtown Phoenix? Yes, please.

Then we see the silly and stupid things that they've done. Demolishing an easily-reusable former hotel/dormitory to make room for a parking lot? Approving and subsidizing City North (mock urban development in the suburban fringe)? CityScape (plopping a suburban mall over PSP)?

What makes me sick is that even with great people fighting to make downtown Phoenix a great place, our civic leaders either ignore or placate us. It's almost one step forward, two (or three) steps back. And I get sick of it. When I meet with these great people at things like Radiate or Get Your PHX, this sentiment is always shared by many.  For Radiate, we (almost usually) meet at local establishments because we know the value that locally owned and locally operated places bring to a community. Then we have the City of Phoenix and RED Development work to bring in out-of-state corporations to CityScape: CVS Pharmacy (headquartered in Rhode Island), Five Guys (Virginia), Urban Outfitters (Pennsylvania), and Lucky Strike Lanes (California). Its design completely runs foul of walking. There is no love — no entrances (save for CVS's) — given to the adjacent sidewalks.

We want a livable downtown core. We don't want parking lots or poorly designed suburban shopping centers. Those of us who live in downtown (or midtown) Phoenix don't want to live in the suburbs. We actively chose to live in an urban environment. If we wanted a suburban shopping center with out-of-state chains, we'd just rather live in Peoria, Scottsdale, or Gilbert.

So that's my love/hate relationship with this city. There are great local advocates who tirelessly advocate for good, sustainable, and useful change. And then there are people who try to help but do more harm than good.