Terminal 3 at Sky Harbor opened today. But there’s a hidden gem that merits a shout-out.
If you missed it, Terminal 3 (officially now the John S. McCain III Terminal 3) completed work on its main terminal headhouse and a new south concourse (F Gates). The facility is incredibly impressive and you might want to visit it soon.
But I’m not going to lie: Seeing the Ken Toney stained glass back on public display at Terminal 3 was nice to see. This was something that I worked with colleagues on the City’s Arts & Culture Commission and the City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture to make sure it was preserved. Previously above the escalator well in Terminal 3 from 1979 to 2015, it’s now displayed outside on the north curb by the parking garage. It appears like it will be backlit at night to see it in its full resplendent glory.
As 2014 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this second post of four, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s weaknesses.
[editor’s note: Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing our year-end Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 series. In four posts, we’ll look at downtown’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that shaped its 2014 and set the stage for 2015 and beyond. Part I of this polyptych looked at downtown’s strengths. Parts III and IV will be published after Christmas.]
Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014: II. Weaknesses
1. “Still-none” items from 2013 Year-in-Review weaknesses list. At the end of 2013, I commented that two of downtown’s weaknesses were a lack of a close, walkable grocery store and not enough residential density. Here we are, one year on from those comments, and we’re in the same boat. Though more boutique restaurants have opened downtown, the economic activity and residential density needed to support them isn’t following. The recent closest thing to a grocery store for downtown, Bodega 420, closed in June. Speaking of residential density: while some projects are slated to begin in 2015, those will bring limited relief to many of central-city Phoenix’s housing problems, including genuinely affordable housing for families, not just urban hipsters. It might be, unfortunately, too little too late.
2. Thinking we can copy-and-paste our way to become a better urban city. There is a difference between taking smart practices from other cities and just trying to emulate them. I was engaged in a conversation with a downtown observer who said that downtown Phoenix and downtown Denver were alike. While this might be true on a very superficial level, this ignores one very crucial element that the design-centric community here ignores incorrectly at best and dangerously at worst: context. There are very different contexts for why Denver (or any other city, really) is the way it is and why we are the way we are in Phoenix. Understand those first and then things will start to make sense and downtown advocates can work on smarter and better projects.
3. Suburban-urban projects underway on Central Avenue. Construction began in earnest on the new Elevation Central apartment complex at Central and Highland this year and the Lennar “Muse” project at Central and McDowell is set to begin in early 2015. Both of these projects are uninspired in their design and where they are in this place and moment in Phoenix history. Both projects are four-story stick (read: wood frame) wraps of a five-story parking garage and both projects do not make architectural gestures to Central Avenue, urban living, or this unique moment in Phoenix’s urban history. They look like projects better suited for the far suburbs than transit-oriented development in central-city Phoenix.
4. Results from November’s elections. To nobody’s surprise, Republicans took over the United States Senate and kept their hold on the United States House of Representatives and all of Arizona’s statewide elected offices. (Of course, when the other major party runs away from its accomplishments or its de facto leader, this was bound to happen.) In Arizona, cities and urban issues failed to come up as talking points from the candidates, which shows that there isn’t an interest at the statewide level to have Arizona’s cities be key parts of the 21st century urban-centric economy. Only one candidate replied to a list of urban-centric questions I posed: Congressman-elect Ruben Gallego. (I think it helped his campaign, n’est-ce pas?) In addition, November’s elections solidly disabused the notion that Arizona is a purple state: despite a few progressive enclaves in Phoenix and Tucson, this state is solidly red.
5. New flight departure paths from Sky Harbor and initial Council inertia.In September, the Federal Aviation Administration published new departure procedures for aircraft departing over central-city Phoenix, taking them over Grand Avenue instead over the Salt River. While details on who knew what and who approved these plans are unclear at best, there was a lot of inertia to get individual members of the Phoenix City Council to use their collective bully pulpit to effect change. In some correspondence I have received, one councilperson said that the City has no jurisdiction over the FAA and so they would not contact the FAA on that constituent’s behalf. While that statement is technically true, the City does have a bully pulpit it should be using how it can. Recently, the Phoenix City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking the FAA to revert to the pre-September departure procedures.
As 2014 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this first post of four, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s strengths.
[editor’s note: Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing our year-end Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 series. In four posts, we’ll look at downtown’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that shaped its 2014 and set the stage for 2015 and beyond. The quartet of posts from last year provide indispensable context to the urban condition and are worth your read.]
Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014: I. Strengths
1. Hance Park Master Plan reveal. One of the big urban events in 2014 was the unveiling of the Hance Park Master Plan in March. The new Hance Park Master Plan makes a statement for urban public space in Phoenix. NYC-based !melk (led by Jerry van Eyck) worked with of Scottsdale-based Weddle Gilmore and Phoenix-based Floor Associates to create a fantastic plan for the 32.5-acre urban space. The Hance Park Conservancy, Phoenix’s first conservancy dedicated to a specific park, is now working to coordinate the $118 million fundraising project to translate paper to reality. Parks and public space are an integral part of the urban experience and this opportunity to create a defining urban space in Phoenix is an opportunity that we cannot let slip by.
2. Upgrades and maintenance at some of Phoenix’s best public art projects. Two of Phoenix’s best public art projects received major upgrades in 2014: Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret is Patience” at Civic Space Park received a new net and upgraded lighting in early December and two new artist-designed terrazzo floors at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport opened as part of the Terminal 3 SkyTrain expansion. The Airport’s terrazzo floors and the Echelman at Civic Space Park are, in my opinion, two of the nicest things that we have in this city and both show that we can do fantastic art projects in this city.
5. Groundbreaking of ASU’s Arizona Center for Law and Society. On 13 November, Arizona State University and its community partners broke ground on the new downtown Phoenix home of the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, the Arizona Center for Law and Society. The building is set to open in time for the Fall 2016 semester and it will bring more development and density for downtown’s University District. Time will tell how open the building will remain to the public but I remain optimistic.
I’ve been in email contact with someone about a future column in a national newspaper about public art in airports, especially at Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Apologies for the delayed post — this has been a crazy past 24 hours.
I’ve been in email contact with someone about a future column in a national newspaper about public art in airports, especially at Phoenix’s own Sky Harbor Airport. I thought that I would share, as my contributing post to the 15 posts in 15 days (on short notice), some thoughts I shared with the author of the column:
I’ve said for many years that a great city requires great art. Phoenix’s public art program is one of the best in the country. Likewise and by corollary, an airport is the welcoming center for a city’s visitors and, therefore, a great airport requires great art. Traveling by airplane isn’t exactly the most fun thing to do anymore, unfortunately, and an airport’s art helps to humanize the traveling experience. There’s also a practical dimension to it as well. Instead of placing carpet on the ground which will have to be replaced in a few years’ time anyway, why not place a beautiful terrazzo floor that will last generations? Instead of looking at a blank wall while in line at the security checkpoint, why not look at a gallery exhibit? Instead of looking at a blank wall with artificial lighting while you’re waiting in line to get your rental car, why not have high clerestory windows with dichroic glass that produce dancing colors on the floors and walls?
Even caught on an iPhone, a Boeing 747 is still a thing to behold.
As seen from a few meters away: the daily British Airways (callsign: Speedbird) flight from London to Phoenix lands at Sky Harbor International Airport. Even caught informally by an iPhone, it’s still an impressive sight to behold.