Monthly Archives: March 2008

Quote of the day

Hotel San Carlos, Phoenix AZWhile highlighting the storied past of the just-turned 80-year-old Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix, owner Rob Melikian noted, “The vitality of the city is only as healthy as the preservation of its past.”

Voice your opinion on improving health care in PHX, AZ

St. Luke’s Health Initiatives is embarking on an in-depth planning process to chart a course forward to improving health care and community health in Arizona.  To get started, they’re soliciting your candid perceptions of their role in the community, the impact of their work, and what they should be doing in the future.  Follow the link below to a short survey that should take about ten minutes to complete.  It will be tremendously helpful for them to get your feedback and advice, which will be treated as anonymous and confidential.  Click here to take the survey.

Light rail nine months away, businesses along route rejoice

[Source: Jon Zimney, KTAR] — Light rail construction is coming to an end in downtown Phoenix, but some small business owners along the line have hit another bump.  In addition to the years of construction, they’re now feeling the effects of the widespread economic downturn.  Ide Flores owns Ide-Mania Hair Salon on Central Avenue.  “We have had some heartache, our retail sales are drastically down and that’s lost revenue that you’re never, ever going to get back,” said Flores, who said she lost money last year for the first time in two decades.

“Our clientele is steady,” Flores said.  “They do come in, but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, ‘Oh, I love coming to the salon, I love being there, but I hate the construction.  I’ll see you when the construction’s over.’  Well, that’s lost revenue, and we’re never going to be able to get that back.”  Flores hopes light rail, scheduled to begin at the end of this year, will bring new customers to her shop, near Central and Clarendon.

With the first service nine months away, Hillary Foose with Metro Light Rail said workers are fielding more calls about schedules, stops and prices.  “Being that Phoenix is a metropolitan city made up of a lot of transplants, a lot more people these days are more familiar with how mass transit works and the benefits of,” Foose said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Provide your feedback on downtown DASH routes

DASH (downtown Phoenix’s circulator bus) will hold the final of three public open houses at Phoenix City Hall on Wednesday, April 2, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to discuss potential routing improvements.  Then on Thursday, April 3, starting at 8:30 a.m. at 302 N. 1st Ave. (1st floor), a public hearing will be held to complete the public comment process.  Click here to view potential routing changes.  Any questions?  Contact Melissa Sweinhagen at 602-262-1823.

Two downtown sites chosen as PHX points of pride

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix is getting three new Points of Pride — two more than usual in a city contest held only once every four years.  The Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, Arizona State University West, and the Burton Barr Central Library were close enough in votes that members of the Phoenix Pride Commission decided Wednesday all three should receive the honor.  The sites were among 10 finalists in the contest that ended March 20.  The three sites will be added to the current list of 30 Point of Pride sites.  The designation is given to a landmark or attraction unique to and located within Phoenix that evokes a sense of pride among area residents.  The registry began in 1992.

A total of 12,476 votes were cast.  The Cutler-Plotkin center received the most votes, with 20 percent.  ASU West was second, with 17 percent, and the Burton Barr library had 15 percent.  The other finalists were: North Mountain Visitor Center (9 percent), Chase Field (8 percent), Royal Palms Resort and Spa (8 percent), George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center (7 percent), Cesar Chavez Park (7 percent), Pioneer Living History Museum (7 percent), and Murphy Bridle Path (6 percent)…

Ballot boxes were placed around the Burton Barr library, 1221 N. Central Ave., to help would-be voters.  Signs also went up at area branch libraries. And e-mail blitzes ensued, said library spokeswoman Victoria Welch.  Phoenix City Librarian Toni Garvey is thankful for the support.  “We are delighted that the community recognizes the value and beauty of Burton Barr Central Library.”

Having the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center come in with the most votes is quite an honor, said Larry Bell, executive director of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, which is renovating the site as a museum and gallery at First and Culver streets.  “Given the quality of the pool of finalists, it’s exciting,” he said.  “It shows people value history. They say that the city of Phoenix has no history because it’s young, but that’s not true.  It’s all around us.”

Colangelo says Chase Field helped put downtown on path to redevelopment

Jim Poulin/Phoenix Business Journal[Source: Mike Padgett, Phoenix Business Journal] — Chase Field turns 10 years old at the end of this month, and supporters say the baseball park is a hit in the redevelopment of downtown Phoenix.  Chase Field and the neighboring US Airways Center are considered MVPs in the total economic picture, attracting more than $3 billion in new construction and redevelopment downtown.  US Airways Center opened in 1992 as America West Arena.  Chase Field debuted March 31, 1998, as Bank One Ballpark.  Both openings cranked up the rate of downtown redevelopment, according to Phoenix Suns Chairman Jerry Colangelo.  “The reasons for them being built, and the impact they’ve had on our downtown, were immense,” he says.

Dressed in a dark blue pin-striped suit and a yellow tie, Colangelo watches from the center-field concourse as singers audition on the field for the chance to belt out the National Anthem at upcoming games.  “It was all part of a rebirth in building a new Phoenix,” he says.  Both sports venues were built for teams headed by Colangelo. He was approached in 1994 to lead the charge for a Major League Baseball team for Phoenix, and the Arizona Diamondbacks debuted in 1998.

Critics of publicly financed sports facilities still have their doubts.  Arizona Tax Research Association President Kevin McCarthy opposed the special county sales tax that paid for the ballpark.  He also questions whether sports venues create new money.  “More often than not, you’re moving money around in the system that’s already there,” McCarthy says. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Lights off on March 29 (between 8-9 p.m.) okay?

[Source: Sam Campana, Audubon Arizona] — Audubon Arizona is committed to participate in this international effort to call attention to the urgency of Global Warming, stewardship of the earth’s resources, and, for Audubon, the dramatic impact of lighted buildings on migrating birds.  We join other sponsoring partners in Earth Hour, March 29, 8 – 9 p.m. urging our nearly 10,000 Arizona Audubon members to reduce their energy usage and TURN OUT THE LIGHTS.

Estimated number of birds killed annually in the U.S.

  • Buildings/Windows: 550,000,000 (yes, half a BILLION!)
  • Power lines: 130,000,000
  • Cats: 100,000,000
  • Automobiles: 80,000,000
  • Pesticides: 67,000,000
  • Wind turbines: 28,500
  • Airplanes: 25,000
  • Hailstorms: 1,600 pelicans killed in one Colorado hailstorm in 2001

Source: USFS, USFWS, and American Ornithologists’ Union

Other great tips for reducing our carbon footprint on the Earth:

  • Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs to save money and reduce emissions. Lighting accounts for around 5% of household greenhouse gas emissions, and compact fluros use 75% less energy than an equivalent incandescent bulb.  Although the bulbs cost more up-front, you will actually save money through the energy saved and extended life of the bulb.
  • Turn appliances off while not in use.  Unplug any appliances like mobile phone chargers, TVs, microwaves, MP3 players, which are not being used and are on standby.  In Australia, appliances on standby consume up to 10% of electricity bill.
  • Turn off anything that doesn’t need to be on.  A good rule is to turn off anything not being used.  When you leave a room or leave the house, turn off your lights or appliances like the TV or computer.
  • Switch to green power.  This is one of the best ways you can make a difference.  Contact your electricity provider today and switch to green power, a cleaner, more renewable form of energy that does not contribute to global warming.
  • Use less hot water.  This is not only a good water saving tip, it saves electricity too.  Spend one minute less in the shower.

What is Earth Hour?  Earth Hour is a global initiative to “turn off the lights” in cities around the world for one hour, starting at 8 p.m. local time on March 29, 2008.  Earth Hour will demonstrate that each one of us can make a positive impact on climate change. The World Wildlife Fund will hold this event in at least 25 cities across 6 continents.  In the U.S., it will be held in Phoenix, Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco, among others.  For more information, visit www.earthhour.org

How will Earth Hour help?  Earth Hour demonstrates how our small actions can make a difference in the fight against climate change.  By turning out the lights for one hour individuals, businesses, and communities across the world will demonstrate collective concern about climate change and signal willingness to do something about it.

What does a commitment to Earth Hour involve for individuals and companies?  Participating individuals and companies are pledging to turn their lights off for the hour and take steps necessary to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.  Partners are also asked to be conscious of how much energy they are using, and by identifying opportunities in homes or offices to reduce their energy consumption.

What are people supposed to do for the 60 minutes of Earth Hour?  Have flashlight-lit dinner with loved ones or meeting up outside with friends who are also Earth Hour participants.

Will all electricity be turned off during Earth Hour?  No.  We are only asking for non-essential, non-emergency lights to be turned off.  Partner businesses will adhere to OSHA standards and security and emergency lighting will remain on.

Goldwater Institute supports Arts, Culture, & Small Business Overlay

The conservative Goldwater Institute has come out in favor of the proposed City of Phoenix “Arts, Culture, and Small Business Overlay.”  In his March 17 Daily Email entitled, “An Artful Approach to Revitalization: Freedom is the key to economic growth,” Clint Bolick, director of the Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, writes:

The City of Phoenix decided a vibrant arts district would be a nifty idea to revitalize its downtown core.  Too often, cities are tempted to achieve such a goal by taxpayer subsidies, eminent domain, tax hikes, or draconian zoning requirements.  Instead, Phoenix decided to try a different approach — deregulation.  The City is proposing an “arts, culture, and small business overlay” that eases zoning restrictions and increases the number of activities that no longer need a special permit in a small area near downtown.  New businesses such as art galleries, bookstores, and restaurants will be allowed to operate without special permission.  Restrictions on alcohol sales, musical entertainment, and outdoor dining will be relaxed.  The City also will make it easier to rehabilitate existing structures.

The City’s action is a rare win-win.  A shaky neighborhood will be revitalized. Small businesses will flourish.  Phoenix will have its own version of SoHo.  City tax revenues, depleted by recession and tax giveaways, will grow.  And less regulation, not more, will be the reason for progress.  The plan is not perfect.  Here as elsewhere, the City is ratcheting up restrictions on street vendors, thereby limiting an important avenue of entrepreneurship.  The expanded list of permissible enterprises is still too limited.  Worst of all, the relaxed rules apply only to a single neighborhood.

But expansion of private enterprise and property rights is always good news, even if it occurs in baby steps.  And when the new arts district succeeds, it will provide an important lesson to local planners throughout Arizona: the best way to create growth and opportunity is freedom.

Learn more about Urban Form at public meetings

Urban Form Project graphic

The City of Phoenix Planning Department will hold a series of public meetings to provide an update and gain feedback on the Downtown Urban Form Project and Downtown Form Based Code proposal.  You are welcome to attend one or more of the following:

  • March 18, 6 p.m., SoDo Phoenix Business & Civic Association, Coach & Willie’s, 412 S. 3rd St.
  • March 19, 6 p.m., Roosevelt Action Alliance, Irish Cultural Center at Margaret T. Hance Park (north of Roosevelt on east side of N. Central)

Phoenix public art: Hidden in plain sight

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — It’s been written up in Newsweek and dissected by the Sunday New York Times, and it has garnered a top-10-in-the-country kind of reputation. Phoenix’s public-art program has made its mark across the city, adorning parks, canals, freeways and street corners.  Many of the projects showcase cultural aspects of the Southwest.  Some are hidden in plain sight, such as the pedestrian bridges crossing the Piestewa Freeway, their jagged silhouettes mirroring nearby mountains.   Since the first art piece was installed 20 years ago in a McDowell Road freeway underpass, the city has spent more than $26 million on about 120 projects ranging from murals, sculptures and photographs to textiles, paintings and glass blocks.

The average Phoenix resident probably doesn’t give the city’s public-art program much thought — until a controversy breaks out.  That is what happened in December, when a public outcry rose up over a planned $2.4 million floating sculpture for a downtown park.  There were jabs at the design, some saying it resembled a jellyfish.  But at the heart of the debate was the city’s proposed expenditure when facing its largest budget deficit.

The public-art program hadn’t faced such controversy since 1992 when a string of large teacups and saucers were placed along the Squaw Peak Parkway, now called the Piestewa Freeway.  Although some observers called them quirky, most of the calls and letters into City Hall deemed them ridiculous.  A few of the pieces were vandalized and one, which looked like a commode, was removed by the city.  The art program survived the “Squaw Peak pots” debacle, and it remains to be seen how the public will take to the floating sculpture once it goes up by early 2009.

As they did before, leaders are defending the public-art program.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]