Daily Archives: August 28, 2008

Major storm hits metro Phoenix

On the evening of August 28, 2008 a major thunderstorm (okay, this one was really monsoon-like!) lit up the sky with lightening, dumped rain and hail, and caused significant damage around metro Phoenix. This home video gives you an idea of the storm’s power.

Phoenix’s CityScape project…three blocks or just two?

Local blogger and downtown Phoenix resident wonders if the CityScape project is going to turn out to be Collier Center #2?  In his blog, Life in Downtown Phoenix, he writes:

“Anyone disagree that by January 2011, CityScape will only comprise two blocks of (mediocre) retail and a single high-rise?  (A carbon copy of the Collier Center, as I originally suggested in February 2007?)

Granted, this is a position on which I’d like to be wrong.  But the signs all point one way — the most telling coming a few months ago when the project’s developer, RED Development, split the incentives in its development agreement so that it could receive half of the promised millions from the city even if it only built one tower at CityScape.  Right now, RED is saying that it’s building the office tower on the block on the east side of Central and Washington streets, but that the hotel/condo tower will follow in a few months.”  [Note: To read the full blog entry, click here.]

Hotel growth anticipated for downtown Phoenix, report says

Sheraton, downtown Phoenix

[Source: Kasia Kowalczyk, Hoteliers Market Intelligence Report] — The onset of [significant downtown Phoenix] development activity has spurred the addition of several proposed hotels.  Downtown Phoenix has long awaited the addition of a new convention hotel, and the call will be answered with the opening of the 1,000-room Sheraton on October 1, 2008.  This city-funded project, which includes 80,000 square feet of meeting space, was budgeted along with the expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center, and the combined projects will be able to accommodate events that would have otherwise passed Phoenix by.  The hotel is one of Sheraton’s grandest undertakings and will be the largest hotel in the state of Arizona.  The Hotel Monroe, Hotel Palomar by Kimpton (as part of the CityScape project), and TWELVE Hotel and Residences are among the other high-end hospitality projects planned for downtown…

Generally, historical occupancy levels have shown steady increases since the market’s low point in 2001.  This growth is a result of record convention activity, increased air travel to the area, and the business of major institutions within downtown Phoenix.  Occupancy growth, which peaked in 2005, has been attributed to the city’s unprecedented expansion efforts over the last five years, as well as a relative undersupply of nationally branded hotel chains within the Central Business District.  Hoteliers look forward to the stronger occupancies associated with increased convention attendance.  Average rate growth in recent years has been significant as well.  This growth is due to strong demand in downtown Phoenix generated by the area’s development, especially from high-rated clientele associated with the biomedical research industry and commercial development activity.  Significant average rate increases noted in 2005, 2006, and 2007 were due to the influx in demand from many of the city’s law firms, banks, and development teams, as well as the positive national economic trends of the last few years.

Economic trends experienced on a national level in the latter half of 2007 and so far into 2008 have resulted in decreased business travel due to rising fuel prices, job losses, and corporate budget cuts. Although Phoenix is not necessarily sheltered from the impacts of these discouraging trends, the capital city benefits from a strong and stable government presence, new mixed-use development efforts that have already secured financing, and the imminent opening of the expanded convention center.  Thus, operating statistics for Phoenix hotels are expected to experience continued growth, but at a slower pace than in former years.  [Note: To read the full report, click here.]

A familiar problem still haunts downtown Phoenix, says Talton

[Source: Jon Talton’s “Rogue Columnist” blog] — I saw a curious headline recently in the Arizona Republic: “Event Center could add life to downtown.”  Curious, because downtown is brimming with “event centers,” from the convention center to hotel ballrooms to (I guess) what’s left of the star-crossed and badly located Bentley Projects.  The story was actually sad and illustrative.

If I read it correctly (and one never knows, now that editors have become graphics clerks), the owners of relatively historic buildings at Madison and Fifth Avenue lost the business leasing their space.  Now, they “are working to make the Fifth Avenue and Madison Event Center one of downtown Phoenix’s premier spots.”  (Editors used to prevent reporters from using embarrassing hyperbole; also, is the address in the story correct?).  The “center” can be used for “weddings, bar mitzvahs, business corporate outings…”  Surely, the next McCormick Place.

At least the owners aren’t tearing the buildings down, an act of city-encouraged vandalism that has devastated downtown Phoenix.  But here’s a small but telling example of what holds back the center city: lack of private investment.  I hate to sun on ASU’s parade of finishing one dorm tower — heavy lifting in an education-hating state, to be sure.  But until a simple older set of buildings such as these on Madison are used by businesses doing daily commerce, downtown will remain an underachiever.  [Note: To read the full blog entry, click here.]

Where do Obama & McCain stand on urban issues?

Blogger Urban Agent does a great job in compiling information about the urban policy positions of U.S. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.  Want to learn more?  Take a gander here.

Making Phoenix weird (which is a good thing)

A geographer and a graphic designer who are passionate about life in downtown Phoenix invite you to help them “make Phoenix weird.”  “Weird” in the sense of “having extraordinary character.”  Adam Iten and Quinn Murphy of www.makephoenixweird.com will launch their interactive online map on September 26 to showcase all that is available and happening in downtown Phoenix, bounded by Encanto Boulevard to the north, Buckeye Road to the south, 16th Street to the east, and 15th Avenue to the west.  The launch will be in conjunction with Urban Affair, a week-long series of events and performances to kick off Phoenix’s 2008-09 arts season.  Maps will be provided throughout the week, inviting residents to “Explore Your Core.”

Adam and Quinn want your ideas of what makes Phoenix weird.  Help them by taking an 8.5 x 11 inch white piece of paper and drawing a map of your favorite downtown Phoenix places and attractions.  They’ll take everyone’s input and incorporate into a special page on their website.  Several maps will also be on display at the Urban Affair Opening Night on September 26.  Click here to e-mail your submission; or fax to 602-252-2649.  All maps should be submitted by Friday, September 19 to be considered for the event.

ASU, Phoenix Police team up to offer safe environment for downtown campus

[Source: Arizona State University] — Students who live and learn at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus may be considered pioneers, but they won’t encounter the Wild West when it comes to safety.  Richard Wilson, ASU Police commander at the Downtown Phoenix campus, said the area offers a safe environment for students as the 2008 fall semester commences.  “There’s a higher saturation of police and private security in this area than anywhere else in the city,” Wilson said.  “We spend more time fighting perception than crime in this area.”

Students will learn firsthand about the area and resources available to them on Campus Safety Day, held Sept. 4 at the University Center, 411 N. Central Ave.  Hosted by The Public Safety Advisory Committee and Environmental Health and Safety, the event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes educational booths, visual aids, and hand-out information. 

“The administration of the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus in conjunction with the city of Phoenix is committed to creating and sustaining a community environment that is safe and productive for students, faculty, and all members of the community.  We believe that in order to provide a safe and productive learning environment, we must partner with our students and provide them not only with a strong police and security presence on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, but also provide opportunities for them to actively engage in the promotion of personal and community safety,” said Kimberly Novak, director for student and campus community development for the Downtown Phoenix campus.

A team of 23 ASU Police aides, eight officers, and security personnel monitor the campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  ASU Police officers also have a strong working relationship with the Phoenix Police Department and confer frequently on matters of mutual interest and concern.  Three officers from the Phoenix Police Department are assigned to ASU as special liaison officers that support the campus by participating in educational programs, intentionally engaging with students in their daily routines at the campus, and by serving on campus task forces aimed at enhancing safety.  These officers regularly exchange information with ASU.  The Downtown Operations Unit of Phoenix PD patrol the campus and serve as the primary policy entity.  More ASU officers will be added by the end of the semester, Wilson said.

“The crime rate in this area is very low because of the amount of patrol zones and officers in the area,” said Phoenix Police Lieutenant Jeff Lazell. “In addition to our regular patrol officers, we have bike, foot and mounted patrols, parking enforcement and liaison officers that are constantly looking for suspicious activity. It’s one of the safest sections of the city.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]