Metrocenter (1973-2020), an appreciation

The closure of north-central Phoenix’s Metrocenter was announced. Some final thoughts on what was and what might be with the space

The big Phoenix news story over the past weekend is that the closure was announced of Metrocenter (1973-2020), the struggling shopping center in north-central Phoenix. The mall will close at the end of June after 47 years of operation.

Although this news is not surprising to hear, it is still a bit of a shock to hear the finality of it. The mall opened in 1973 with a record-setting five anchor store positions and 1.4 million square feet of retail space on two floors. For those who came of age in Phoenix in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, it was the place to see and be seen. It reached new appreciation in the 1980s when Metrocenter stood in for a mall in southern California in the 1989 science fiction film, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

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The Downtown Phoenix Podcast Series 2

The Downtown Phoenix Podcast returns in 2020 to capture our community’s stories from this time of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.

Logo for The Downtown Phoenix PodcastSix years ago, I did a silly little podcast thing called The Downtown Phoenix Podcast. The only series was an eight-episode run that tried to capture some of the area’s history and stories. We talked about the renaissance of Hance Park, explored ways to get involved in central-city advocacy, and brought new voices to the table (one of whom is now an Arizona state legislator!).

Since 2014, I’ve frequently wanted to bring it back. I am definitely biased, I know, but it was an important project to bring these stories out of the shadows. But every time, there was always a hiccup that kept it from going.

In light of what’s happened to our community in this time of COVID-19 and social distancing, it’s certainly no understatement that things have fundamentally changed. That’s why I am going to bring back The Downtown Phoenix Podcast: to capture our stories from this time. It’s part podcast, but part collection of oral history.

This is going to be a team effort, however. Unlike the 2014 run of the Podcast, this isn’t going to be me talking all time time and offering my commentary essays on the relevant matters of the day. This is going to be about you. It’s going to be about our communities. What’s happening now? What are our fears for the moment? What are our hopes for the future?

If you or someone you know is a business owner, a community leader, an artist, or someone who’s life or livelihood has been upended in the past few weeks, get in touch with me. (Like the name of the Podcast suggests, the objective is to share stories from central-city Phoenix.) Email podcast@downtownphoenixpodcast.com or fill out this online form to get in touch.

Thank you for your consideration!

The Six Icon Staredown

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions but learning more about these different apps–and what they do–on my computer is a goal of mine in 2020.

Each day when I use my Mac, I have these six icons staring at me. They’re the icons of six pieces of Adobe software for things like photo organization and manipulation, graphic design, and audio and video editing. (They’re also reminders that I have to spend the full amount on the Adobe Creative Suite because I need Acrobat in addition to Photoshop and Lightroom, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I figure that, since I have access to them, I ought to learn more not just about these pieces of software, but about the different things that they’re supposed to accomplish. I have said, perhaps as a crutch, that I’m not a graphic designer. And although that’s true–I’m not–why should that mean I shouldn’t know anything about graphic design?

With video editing, the cameras I use for still photography all have a video mode. Why should I limit myself to half of what the cameras can do? And for audio editing, how could I use that to make a future run of that silly little podcast thing I did, The Downtown Phoenix Podcast, even better? (Hint, hint.)

I’m generally not one to make New Year’s resolutions but I think I’m going to challenge myself to do some learning in 2020 on these things. Because, hey, learning is good, and learning might be important to future things that I’m doing. So join me on this journey, won’t you?

Pixel 3 exFAT camera importing update

Good news! An update on the exFAT-on-Pixel 3 adventures I chronicled from earlier this week. It only requires the purchase of an app.

Back at the start of this week, I wrote about my issues with not being able to import photos from my standalone Canon DSLR camera to my new Google Pixel 3 XL because the Pixel doesn’t support the exFAT file system natively. I’m happy to say that I have good news and I’ve found a workaround that only requires the purchase of an app.

Before I get into this, I’m just going to write here that your results may vary and that I’m not responsible for any loss of data you may have as a result of this. Be sure to practice good data hygiene and backup responsibly.

My solution hinges on the “Microsoft exFAT/NTFS for USB by Paragon Software” app available on Google Play. Whilst the app is free to download, exFAT support requires a $5.99 in-app purchase. This app is unique in that it’s not a standalone file explorer, it’s an interface mechanism between the USB SD card reader and some other apps, including the default Files app on the Pixel. Here’s how it works:

If the captions aren’t viewable, the steps are as follows:

  • Step 1: After connecting your SD card reader to the USB-C port, launch the Microsoft exFAT/NTFS (etc.) app. Tap on MOUNT. (The UNMOUNT button is shown after the device has been mounted.)
  • Step 2: In the Files app, you’ll see that a new option is there: the Paragon File System. That’s your SD card.
  • Step 3: You can now browse your SD card and copy/move/whatever files from the card to local storage or cloud storage.
  • Step 4: When finished, go back into the Paragon app to UNMOUNT the device. Unplug the SD card reader and you’ll be good to go!

My explorations are still continuing because although I can easily copy-and-paste the SD card files, there is no mechanism that I have discovered so far that won’t copy duplicate files. By default, if you ask the Pixel to copy a file, if it’s a duplicate file name, it will just append a (1) next to the file name before the file extension.

Explorations are continuing! Isn’t that the great part about learning about new technology?

Nine Lessons and Carols 2018

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols 2018, the VII installment of a Spotify playlist tradition

Each Christmastide on Spotify, I publish a playlist in the format of the Nine Lessons and Carols, something that we heard earlier today from King’s College Cambridge.

From me to you all, I wish you a happy Christmas with friends and family near and far.

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The Downtown Phoenix Podcast Archives

The Downtown Phoenix Podcast has a new home for its original eight-episode season.

The Downtown Phoenix PodcastBack in 2014, I worked on a project called The Downtown Phoenix Podcast. While production of new content for the Podcast has been on hold for the past 4 1/2 years, I thought it would be appropriate to put a snapshot of that work on my new website (which, by the way, has a new set of servers hosting it!).

What’s fascinating is that even though we’re nearly five years removed from the production of those eight episodes, a lot of the content is as timely as ever. That was one of the goals of the project: to be relevant whether it’s 2014 or well into the future. It was also an effort to create some sort of serious journalism about central-city Phoenix issues. I had drafted a set of editorial principles to guide the Podcast‘s direction.

A lot of people ask about its future. “Is it coming back?” I certainly hope so! The challenge, as always, is time. I wanted to do a good job on The Downtown Phoenix Podcast and produce important content, which takes a lot of time to do. Fitting in production time into my schedule and my other projects is rather challenging. But if a central-city Phoenix organization is willing to take it on, then I’m willing to chat. I’m even thinking of my own ideas, too!

This was a project that I still remain incredibly proud of and I hope its new home shows that. Click here or on the big blue “The Downtown Phoenix Podcast” button to see it.

Radio weather

The tremendous downside of listening to Classical Minnesota Public Radio in Phoenix is that you get the Minneapolis / St Paul weather forecasts, where the high temperature tomorrow will be about 40° F cooler than here and about 100 percent more rainy.

Burton Barr Library is back

Burton Barr Library is open again.

Phoenix’s central Burton Barr Library is back open again after nearly a year of repairs due to inadequate maintenance of its fire suppression system. The chickens of sprawl paying for itself are coming home to roost.

For now, the building is better than it was when it opened in 1995. It is ready to be Phoenix’s central library for many more decades to come.

Burton Barr Library elevators - Reopening Day 16 June 2018

This Week’s Reading: Bird on Fire

This week, I’m rereading Andrew Ross’s book, “Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City.”

Bird on Fire coverThis week, I’m rereading Andrew Ross’s book, Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City. I haven’t really read it since it came out in 2011, just finding snippets to share as needed. It will be interesting to see what (if anything) has changed here since his original assessment.

I’m not bringing this up simply to share what I’m reading or because I wish to agitate the Very Serious People in Phoenix thought circles. There’s something that’s been on my mind and I want to see if there’s historic backing to it or if I’m overthinking it. (More later.)

This might not also be related to my latest contribution to Instagram. (More on that later, too.)

Little Canyon Trail

Giving Little Canyon Trail and Little Canyon Park to the private Grand Canyon University because they asked nicely is a bad idea.

There’s a very bad plan that’s being considered by the City of Phoenix: to hand over Little Canyon Park and Little Canyon Trail in northwest Phoenix to the private Grand Canyon University (GCU) because, well, they asked nicely? GCU says that they’re going to rebuild the park and trail on land they currently own and will then give that over to the City of Phoenix.

Earlier today, I did a site visit of both Little Canyon Park and Little Canyon Trail. While I can’t speak for the history of Little Canyon Park, I can speak a bit on the history of Little Canyon Trail. It was a 2010 City of Phoenix Public Art project that is built alongside the historic Salt River Project Lateral 14.4, or along where 31st Avenue would be between Camelback Road and Missouri Avenue. Veteran Phoenix public art artist Laurie Lundquist worked with the community to transform an abandoned and forgotten piece of infrastructure to a well-loved community treasure that transports non-auto users from the residential neighborhoods north of Missouri Avenue to the commercial and transit corridor of Camelback Road. This was a $1.2 million public investment in that part of Phoenix.

Fast forward to 2015. Grand Canyon University has expanded from a small campus to a major presence in northwest Phoenix and wants to block off part of the trail for students to access residence halls on the east side of the 31st Avenue alignment to the campus on the west side. Everyone at that time agreed that preserving the continuity and artistic integrity of the trail is of paramount importance. Even GCU seemed to agree with that assessment.

And fast forward, again, to today. I’ve learned about a series of public meetings to discuss the latest threat to Little Canyon Park and Little Canyon Trail, which is why I’m writing this essay. There is a final public meeting tomorrow (Wednesday September 6) at 6pm at the Helen Drake Senior Center at 7600 N 27th Avenue and if your schedule permits, you should listen.

In 2015, City of Phoenix voters approved the latest revision of the City’s General Plan. The overriding theme of the plan was Phoenix as connected oasis.

The Vision of the Connected Oasis was derived from all the major themes from PlanPHX participants’ ideas; it is a concept that has been around Phoenix for some time. Most recently it was utilized to describe the “big idea” of creating a vibrant pedestrian path and open space network for downtown Phoenix as part of the Downtown Urban Form Project in 2008. But the concept of the Connected Oasis goes well beyond a pedestrian and open space network. It is an ideal with deep roots in Phoenix’s history and one that provides a simple, yet intriguing direction for the city to follow into the future. [Phoenix General Plan 2015, p. 15]

Little Canyon Trail is the perfect embodiment of that connected oasis and of all of the major themes of the General Plan. It connects people to places; it celebrates water, that most precious resource for a desert metropolis; it is an open space in the midst of a university campus and thriving neighborhoods.

It would be a great shame if the City of Phoenix allowed Little Canyon Trail to go to private hands that would destroy the continuity and artistic integrity of the trail just because GCU asked nicely. Fiscal hawks should lament this as it is a loss of a $1.2 million investment that the City made in northwest Phoenix. The historic preservation community should lament the loss of one more of Phoenix’s historic laterals. And all of Phoenix should lament this loss as the erosion of its core principles in its 2015 General Plan.

The City of Phoenix should say no.

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