[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.]