Daily Archives: August 1, 2008

Phoenix Points of Pride put out to pasture?

[Source: “Points of Pride may be history, group fears,” Eugene Scott, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix’s popular Points of Pride may be a thing of the past, fear members of the Phoenix Pride Commission.  Their group, the committee responsible for the Points of Pride and other initiatives aimed at showing the city in the best light, had its last meeting Wednesday.  Mayor Phil Gordon decided to change the commission to an ad hoc committee, which will meet as needed, due to the city’s budget crisis.

Commission members expressed doubt that the Phoenix Points of Pride would continue without a Phoenix Pride Commission.  City officials say they have no plans to end the Points of Pride Program.  Since the commission was formed in 1991, they have designated more than 30 sites as Points of Prides because of their historical significance.  More than 40,000 residents voted on the Points of Pride.  The commission, which meets bimonthly, requires about 30 hours of staff time each year and city officials decided they couldn’t afford to devote that much staff time to it.  “And I think (the city council) also took a look at the mission and the council members felt that that had been happily achieved,” said Ryan Burke, senior assistant to the mayor.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Talk Phoenix light rail with the mayor & light rail honcho, Aug. 5

nullRick Simonetta, CEO of Valley Metro Rail, will join Mayor Phil Gordon to (1) provide a passenger’s perspective of riding the new light rail system and (2) share practical information about riding the rail.  You’re welcome to voice your opinion as well.

  • Date: Tuesday, August 5, 2008
  • Time: 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Place: Mi Amigos, Arizona Center, 455 N. 3rd St.
  • Parking: Available at the Arizona Center parking garage (located at the southwest corner of Fillmore and 5th St.)

Coffee will be provided.  Click here to RSVP.

Gas prices drive push to reinvent America’s suburbs

Donna Nance of Maricopa works in Phoenix and takes a commuter bus that's part of the suburb's transit program. Photo: Rob Schumacher, USA Today

[Source: Haya El Nasser, USA Today] — Maricopa Mayor Tony Smith proudly waves a thank-you letter from a major builder telling him that no city has ever reached out to him in his 30-year career the way Maricopa did.  What Maricopa has been doing is unusual, especially for a distant suburb.  This city about 35 miles south of Phoenix is asking builders not to develop just isolated subdivisions behind walls, but whole communities that encourage walking by including stores, schools, and services nearby.  “The people of Maricopa don’t want to be a bedroom community, a city of rooftops,” Smith says.  “They want a self-sustained community.”

Especially today.  As gas prices hover around $4 a gallon, the nation’s far-flung suburbs — which have boomed because they could provide larger homes at cheaper prices to those willing to drive farther — are losing their appeal.  Soaring energy costs and the foreclosure epidemic have jolted many Americans into realizing that their lifestyles are at risk.  For many, ever-lengthening commutes in the search for affordable homes no longer make financial sense.  In Maricopa and elsewhere, a movement is underway to transform suburbs from bedroom communities that sprang up during an era of cheap gasoline to lively, more cosmopolitan places that mix houses with jobs, shops, restaurants, colleges and entertainment.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Like suburbs, large cities (like Phoenix) are rethinking growth patterns

[Source: Haya El Nasser, USA Today] — Outlying suburbs aren’t the only places rethinking growth and development patterns amid mushrooming costs of gasoline and other energy sources.  Building on a movement in the 1990s that invigorated many downtowns, urban centers and adjoining communities are forging ahead with redevelopment projects to attract residents.  Two examples from metropolitan Phoenix:

Phoenix native Michael Hallmark, architect of the Staples Center arena in Los Angeles, Safeco Field in Seattle, and other large venues, was part of an ambitious effort to bring sports and entertainment back to downtown Phoenix.  He’s helping plan the city’s Jackson Street Entertainment District, which will make a neighborhood denser.  He is narrowing streets and bringing in entertainment spots, stores, restaurants and condos.  The district will tie in to Phoenix’s new light-rail system, Arizona State University’s downtown campus, and the convention center.  It follows “green” standards by developing under-utilized land, maximizing shade, and reducing water runoff.  “We could build another Phoenix inside the one we already have, double the population of the city, and…still have a population density that is less than it was in 1950,” Hallmark says.

DMB Associates, a Scottsdale, AZ-based real estate company that tries to preserve the history and character of the land it develops, is taking on a big project in Mesa, a close-in suburb of Phoenix.  General Motors sold its 3,200-acre vehicle testing grounds to DMB in 2006, the last significant piece of privately owned land in the southeast part of the Phoenix Valley.  The site is near a small airport and another Arizona State University campus.  The plan: to build a city center, combining residences, offices, entertainment centers, and retail.  Drew Brown, CEO of DMB, says that using urban land in a more environmentally sound way is winning widespread support.  Between high gas prices, states adopting tough greenhouse gas limits and a proposed tax on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, “there may be enough moving parts finally,” he says.

DMB’s strategies are predicated on gas prices never coming down.  The company passed up sites farther from Phoenix because gas costs would wipe out the benefits.  “The development patterns you have in the Valley for 50 years had all been premised on cheap mobility,” Brown says.  “Yeah, we’re at a tipping point … starting to see the ramifications of bedroom communities on the way to nowhere.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Rehab work re-starts on Phoenix’s historic Morin House

[Source: City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office] — Work has begun again on the Morin House, a historic relocated house now located at 621 N. 5th Avenue in the Roosevelt Historic District.  Previously, the City Council approved bond funds to rehabilitate the house at its new site but worked stopped several months ago when new structural issues were discovered. 

On July 2, the City Council approved additional matching bond funds to address the unanticipated structural repairs, and this work is now underway.  The rehabilitation work is slated to continue for the next several months, with a project completion date scheduled for late 2008.