Monthly Archives: August 2008

Phoenix’s small arts groups make First Friday authentic

Four years ago, Downtown Voices Coalition issued its report, “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown.”  In the slideshow above, in recognition of First Friday this coming Friday, we highlight arts-oriented businesses and organizations along Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue, and the Warehouse District.  The report’s section on Arts and Culture recommended the following:

  • The City should create a task force, including downtown artists, to research opportunities and ways to preserve and nurture existing arts uses downtown and explore realistic approaches to funding sources, zoning issues, building codes, live/work space, etc. and their implementation.   STATUS: Significant progress with the creation of the Downtown Artists Issues Task Force (2005); initiation of the Artists Storefront Program; creation of the Arts, Culture, and Small Business Overlay; and current work of another task force focused on adaptive reuse. 
  • The arts need to be recognized and respected as the small businesses they are, and assisted in accessing services available to small businesses, or have programs tailored specifically to their needs.  STATUS: Work in progress as groups like Local First Arizona, RadiatePhoenix, Phoenix Downtown Market, Downtown Voices Coalition, Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue Merchants Association, and SoDo continue to state the case for local authenticity.
  • The City should take advantage of piggyback marketing opportunities, acknowledging the opportunities associated with monthly First Fridays and annual Art Detour.  STATUS: Work in progress as numerous parties, including the City of Phoenix, Downtown Phoenix Partnership, Maricopa Partnership for Arts and Culture, and ASU Downtown, work to reinvigorate marketing of downtown Phoenix.

If you know of other positive things going on, please let us know.

Mortgages Ltd. empire is built, then crumbles

[Source: Catherine Reagor and Andrew Johnson, Arizona Republic] — Mortgages Ltd. has gone in less than two years from being Arizona’s largest private commercial real-estate lender to a company plunged into bankruptcy following the suicide of its CEO, Scott Coles.  Along with questions raised by the suicide, Mortgages Ltd.’s dramatic fall raises the business question of why a firm holding $900 million in high-interest commercial loans suddenly had to borrow money to stay afloat.  Some borrowers and investors have wondered whether illegal investment practices, a Ponzi scheme, or bad record keeping could have played a role.

The Arizona Republic has tracked the arc of Mortgages Ltd.’s financial plummet through months of interviews, court testimony, and thousands of documents.  The company’s undoing was the result of heavy investment in a falling market, investors pulling out, and a shortfall of cash.  The collapse has cut off payments to thousands of panicked investors and stalled several of the Valley’s biggest commercial projects.  

The Metro LoftsThe problems started quietly.  In early 2006, as metropolitan Phoenix’s housing market showed early signs of slowing, Coles continued to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into residential developments, which included Chandler’s first high-rise and a tower on Phoenix’s Central Avenue that would have rivaled the state’s tallest skyscraper (rendering at right).  A year later, the Valley’s housing market was clearly in a downturn: A glut of new homes with no buyers.  Falling home prices.  Struggling home builders.

Coles did not slow down.  He put almost $50 million into Chateaux on Central’s brownstone mansions in central Phoenix and committed to more than $150 million for the high-end high-rises at Centerpoint in Tempe’s Mill Avenue district.   “I can’t figure out how Mortgages Ltd. decided to fund the condo projects it did when it did,” said Eric Brown, founder of the Artisan Lofts in Phoenix and an analyst with national real-estate consultants Robert Charles Lesser & Co.  “The timing was bad for most new housing developments.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

No political party discussing American West population explosion

[Source: Froma Harrop, Houston Chronicle and reprinted in the Arizona Republic] — There’s a burning concern in the American West — almost an obsession — that Democrats did not touch in their convention here.  Nor will Republicans in St. Paul.  It is the U.S. population explosion.  The West is feeling the brunt of it, as flowing lava of housing developments and big-box crudscapes claim its cherished open spaces — and increasingly scarce water supplies.  The U.S. Census Bureau now expects America’s population to top 400 million by 2039, far earlier than previously forecast.  The 300-million mark was hit only two years ago, so if this prediction is correct, the headcount will have soared by 100 million people in 33 short years.

America’s fastest-growing region has been and will continue to be the Intermountain West.  Its megalopolises — centered on Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City — are set to add 13 million people by 2040, according to a Brookings Institution study.  This would be a doubling of their population.  Hyper-growth still brings out happy talk in some circles.  The Brookings report looks at the population forecasts for the urban corridor on the eastern face of the Rockies, spreading from Colorado into Wyoming, and enthuses, “Such projections point to a huge opportunity for the Front Range to improve on the current level of prosperity.”  There are challenges, it says, but they can be met — and you can almost hear local hearts breaking — by new roads, bigger airports, more office parks.

And where oh where are they going to find water?  Every county in Colorado was declared a federal drought disaster area in 2002, when the population stood at 4.5 million.  It is expected to approach 8 million by 2035.  As former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm notes, the region is so dry that you can still see the wagon wheel trails laid down in the 1840s.  “This is an area that plans to add 13 million people?” Lamm said to me.  “Crazy.”  [Note: To read the full opinion piece, click here.]

Phoenix Convention Center hosts GreenSummit, Sept. 5-6

Business, government, and consumers will gather at the 2008 GreenSummit, September 5-6 at the Phoenix Convention Center, to check out the latest ideas and innovations revolving around the concept of sustainability.  GreenSummit organizers hope to showcase innovative new ideas, foster the growth of green industry, and accelerate sustainable practices in metro Phoenix.  For more information, click here.

Tourism officials bring musicians together to promote Arizona

[Source: Larry Rodgers, Arizona Republic] — The Arizona Office of Tourism has aired scores of slick print and video ads promoting the state, but marketers are turning to a music video and Web-based social-networking sites to reach a new group of potential visitors.  Their new tool, the Arizona Music Project, is being launched this weekend.

The project is the culmination of a statewide call to musicians early last year via such Web sites as MySpace and Craigslist.  Nineteen players were selected to record a six-minute theme, which moves from jazz to Latin to classical to country, accompanying a video showcasing the state’s scenery and lifestyle.  It’s a vibrant combination of music and images that took seven months to assemble using musicians from around the state.

Arizona has created a presence on and posted a video for an edited version of the song on YouTube in an effort to reach potential visitors who frequent such sites.  The song also will be used in TV and radio ads.  “We know that music is becoming a more important part of the Arizona scene, and we want to showcase music as a part of the culture and diversity of Arizona to our visitor audience,” said Margie Emmermann, state tourism director.  “This is the first project that enters us into the social (networking) media aspect of our advertising.  It has launched us with new audiences.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

What remains of Phoenix’s Warehouse District

The plight of Phoenix’s Warehouse District is an ongoing saga. Unfortunately, with each passing year historic and vintage buildings continue to decay or be demolished.  This slideshow shows buildings in the district that are listed on one or more historic registries. But such designation is not enough to save and reuse them as is commonplace for similar buildings and districts in many other urban centers.

It’s been our hallmark to tear them down and unfortunately, unlike the New Testament’s Lazarus, they can’t be resurrected.  Let’s take stock in what we have, and “cut the Gordian knot” here and now.  It should be the couth thing to do.  The clock is ticking…

For background information on the Warehouse District:

After the big storm, Phoenix schedules bulk trash collection

The City of Phoenix Public Works Department has announced a special neighborhood bulk trash collection for the hardest hit storm-damaged neighborhoods.  The boundaries for the special bulk trash collection are:

  • I-17 to the SR51, from Van Buren St. north to Maryland Ave.
  • Shea Blvd. north to Thunderbird Rd. (also including the area south of Shea to the Mountain Preserve), from 36th St. east to Tatum Blvd.
  • Central Ave. to 12th St., from Dunlap Ave. north to Cactus Rd.

The city will begin bulk trash pick-ups in these areas on Saturday, Sept. 6, but residents can place materials in their normal collection area beginning today.  Residents are being asked to separate their “green” waste, such as tree limbs, branches, and leaves, from other storm debris.  The green waste will be chipped and reused as mulch. Residents also can bring their trash and debris for free to the city’s transfer stations:

  • 27th Ave. and Lower Buckeye Rd., M-F, 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat., 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • I-17 and Dixileta Dr., M-F, 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat./Sun., 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Residents should cover their loads and bring a city water bill or driver’s license for proof of residency.  For questions about areas outside of these boundaries or for other general information, call 602-262-7251 or send an e-mail.  (Photo courtesy of Steve Weiss.)

Typical of things in metro Phoenix today…

Can you guess where this is?

Downtown Phoenix First Friday is Sept. 5

The next First Friday event in downtown Phoenix is coming up, yes you guessed it, on Friday, September 5.  One First Friday venue, the Phoenix Art Museum at the corner of Central and McDowell, encourages visitors to unlock their inner Elvis for a preview of “One for All & All for One: The Jumpsuit.”  Enjoy live music from two of the Valley’s top bands and other surprises.  Free admission from 6 to 10 p.m.

Free shuttle transportation to and from other First Friday venues is available throughout the evening.

Boutique owner says “Love or Leave Phoenix” with bumper sticker

[Source: Arizona Republic] — Georganne Bryant, owner of Phoenix clothing boutique Frances, is making news with her new “Love Phoenix or Leave Phoenix” bumper sticker.  [The Republic] invited her to explain why she created it.

“Having a business at one of the busiest intersections in Phoenix and on the light-rail construction path, I have witnessed many positive changes during the ongoing revitalization of Central Avenue and downtown Phoenix since opening Frances in 2006.  But our location has also placed us in the eye of the storm as far as complaining and negative energy attached to the light-rail project.  My intention in creating the bumper sticker was not to be confrontational, but to get people’s attention.

If it said “I Love Phoenix” or some other mushy sentiment, it would not have attracted the notice and reaction it has.  The bumper sticker is a call to residents to look past the short-term pain and embrace the many good things that are happening in and around the core of the city.”  [Note: To read the full commentary, click here.]