Monthly Archives: October 2008

Nov. 1 workshop on how Phoenix neighborhood, community groups can obtain funding

Phoenix residents can learn how their neighborhood association or Block Watch can approach funding sources and obtain financial help for neighborhood improvement programs during a free workshop set from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 1, at the Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave.  Representatives from the Valley of the Sun United Way, Arizona Community Foundation, and the city of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department will provide practical tips on accessing funding sources and strategies to secure funding from them.

The workshop, “Building Financial Capacity,” also will include an overview of a competitive funding program sponsored by the city for neighborhoods with active associations or organizations. Participants will learn about eligible activities, who can apply and how to apply for the program, which is called the Neighborhood Enhancement Program. For more information or to register, call 602-495-0873.

WABAC Machine: driving down Phoenix’s Central Avenue (before light rail)

Remember a time when there wasn’t light rail?  When US Airways Center was still America West Arena?  When Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field) was still under construction?  Well, take a trip down memory lane as two young gentleman drive down Central Avenue to downtown Phoenix in the summer of 1997.

Phoenix’s “Endless Lofts”

We’re in a spoofing mood, so bear with us as we offer up the short video above made a few years back.  The “3rd Annual Downtown Phoenix Loft & Home Tour” is coming up Saturday, November 1.  Well, it’s really just a tour of rather expensive lofts…not that there’s anything wrong with that.  No neighborhoods with actual house-like homes (like Capitol Mall, Coronado, F.Q. Story, Garfield, Roosevelt, or Willo) are included.  And that’s an opportunity lost on telling the fuller story of living in and around downtown Phoenix.

The loft tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and free shuttles will circulate the tour route through the day for easy transportation.  Tour admission is $8 in advance or $10 the day of the tour.  Everybody must check in at 5th Street between Roosevelt and Garfield to get your wristband and tour book.  Destinations on the tour include: 44 Monroe, 215 E. McKinley, Century Plaza, Chester Place, Portland 2, Portland 38, and The Summit at Copper Square.  For more information (including the possibility for free tickets), click here.

3 must-see Phoenix galleries on First Friday, Nov. 7

[Source: Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic] — Check out this guide to downtown Phoenix’s First Friday art scene:

The Alwun House.   This downtown-arts pioneer opened in 1971, 18 years before the first Art Detour (big brother to First Fridays).  A mile or so east of Roosevelt Row, it’s an unabashedly hippieish gallery in a historical house, complete with outdoor stages for live entertainment as well as resident pets (doves, rabbits and a sweetheart of a Doberman). Details: The Alwun House, 1204 E. Roosevelt St., 602-253-7887, website.

Bentley Projects.  This cavernous brick building once was a linen laundry, and the owners didn’t plaster over that historical character in creating this high-end gallery packed with large-scale works by nationally known artists.  This isn’t for bargain shoppers; instead, it’s the kind of gallery that rich collectors fly out to in order to buy pieces priced in the five- to six-figure range. However, it’s a friendly place with enough diverse, quality work to compare favorably with an art museum. Call first to make sure it’s open. Details: Bentley Projects, 215 E. Grant St., 602-340-9200, website.

Garfield Galleria.  You can spend an entire evening and not see everything at this single building bursting with more than two dozen galleries and studios.  This is real something-for-everyone territory, whether you’re looking for fine art, homey crafts, student work, risque alternative art or flashy jewelry.  Details: Garfield Galleria, 316 W. McDowell Road, 602-349-3049, website.

[Editor’s Note: Here’s one more!  “Lost Vegas: Color Photography 1985-2007 by Steve Weiss/Candid Landscapes” opens First Friday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.  Details: The Lodge, 1231 SW Grand Ave. (corner 13th Ave. and Grand), 602-265-9524, website.]

The city of Phoenix runs free shuttles that stop at gallery areas, including Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Row.  If you’re not a good urban parker or just don’t want the hassle of finding a street spot, drop your car off at Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., and hop onboard.  Once you explore one area, wave down a shuttle to take you back to the library. Then hop on a different shuttle to head to another area.  For a shuttle map and more information about First Fridays, call 602-256-7539 or visit their website.

Opinions vary on shade capabilities of Phoenix light rail stations

[Source: Ron Sanzone, Arizona Republic] — Valley Metro light rail is incorporating three elements into a shading system it hopes will keep light-rail passengers comfortable at its stations as they await trains.  But public opinion differs about the shading system.  Two individuals involved in downtown planning efforts provide their perspectives:

Mike James, architect involved in Metro’s station planning

Dan Hoffman, professor of architecture at Arizona State University

The three-layered shading system was the best of five designs presented by teams of architects to Metro, in part because it blocks reflective heat that comes off the asphalt on nearby streets.  Here’s how each system element works:


  • Canopies.  A series of angled overhead canopies made of tensile material will shade the waiting areas of station platforms throughout much of the day. Unlike most other materials, the temperature of the tensile fabric will not heat up beyond the surrounding air temperature, a key to keeping the areas underneath it cooler.  Aesthetically designed to resemble birds in flight, the canopies are “a signature look that is unique to Phoenix.”
  • Vertical shades.  Also referred to as louvers, these shades fill in the coverage gaps left by the canopies during early-morning and late-afternoon hours.  Slanted downward and upward at 30-degree angles, the shades have the appearance of open sets of blinds.  Metro decided against a solid opaque design because local businesses wanted to be fully visible from stations and neighbors wanted to be able to keep an eye on station platforms for security reasons.
  • Green screens.  Located at most stations, these trellises are vertical metal cages that will be covered with vines.  They will provide the station with additional shade and a small amount of moisture produced by plants.

 To provide additional relief, each station will feature a drinking fountain, a canopy of three to six trees, and paint that does not heat up covering the metal areas that might be touched by passengers.

Q: What do you think of the shading design Metro is using for its stations?  How effective will it be?

A: It’s not optimum, but it does perform at a basic level.  The canopies are made of white cloth, which is good because they reflect a lot of the heat, though the edge of cloth is up high and would provide more shade if it were lower.  Their solution was not optimal but was sufficient.

Q: Are there any problems you see or concerns you have with the design of the stations?

A: There are aspects that are good, such as the shade cloth.  I like the dynamic utilities.  I don’t think it’s the most efficient design possible.  It does provide the basics, but doesn’t provide the highest quality design-wise.  What was chosen was good, not great, and sufficient, not optimal.

Q: What could have been improved?

A: The actual steel structure, which is expensive, could have been done in a more elegant and simple way.  It’s flamboyant.  Moisture and plantings would improve it and cool it down more, but that would have required more money.

Arizona Indicators Project works to provide unbiased state, metro Phoenix data

[Source: Arizona Indicators] — What will determine Arizona’s future?  How economically competitive are we?  How well are we educating our children?  Are we maintaining the advantages of our climate and natural environment?  Right now, Arizona isn’t sufficiently equipped to answer such questions and, therefore, to make informed decisions.  By providing quality data in accessible formats with clear, visual explanations via a transparent data analysis process, the Arizona Indicators Project is working to facilitate discussions on the state of our communities today so informed decisions for tomorrow can be made.  Topic areas include: Economy, Education, Innovation, Sustainability, and Quality of Life.

Economy slows downtown development, but Phoenix mayor optimistic

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Mayor Phil Gordon’s annual speech on October 17 on downtown Phoenix was carefully staged to spotlight blockbuster city projects, but the shaky economy stole the show.  The mayor spoke at a $350 million city-financed hotel that opened Sept. 30.  Afterward, he took some residents and key political and business leaders for a surprise spin on Metro, the $1.4 billion light-rail project expected to open Dec. 27.  Tough financial times, however, have knocked out many of the forces that made boom-time projects — such as new condos and office buildings — possible, city officials and experts say.

Unlike previous years, Gordon didn’t unveil any new, splashy development proposals.  And although Gordon was upbeat, he acknowledged that major obstacles lie ahead.  “The economy of our city, state and nation is struggling,” said the mayor, who has staked his political career on reviving downtown Phoenix.  “Times will be hard for the next two years, but we’ll continue to manage our way through.”  [Note: To read the mayor’s full speech, click here.]

Phoenix cuts early-morning, late-night bus runs

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Early-morning and late-night bus hours will be eliminated and Saturday service reduced in Phoenix as the city makes unprecedented budget cuts.  On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to eliminate all trips before 5 a.m. and after 10 p.m. In addition, Saturday service will be reduced to match Sunday levels, a reduction of 24%.  The reductions go into effect Dec. 29, leaving thousands of people to find new ways of getting from place to place.

Transit advocates and bus riders protested the move, saying that eliminating bus service would disproportionately affect the poor and residents with disabilities.  Donna Powers, who uses a wheelchair, said reducing bus service would make it harder for transit-dependent people to work and shop, compounding the city’s economic woes.  “If people can’t ride, there’s going to be less buying,” Powers said.  “We tend to overlook the fact.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix tops list for U.S. home price declines

[Source: Adam Kress, Phoenix Business Journal] — A new read on the housing market shows Phoenix home values have dropped nearly 31% in the past 12 months — the steepest decline of any major city in the nation.  Home prices across the country fell in August for the 25th consecutive month and prices in 10 major markets plunged a record 17.7% from August 2007, according to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price 10-city index.  From July to August, prices dropped 1.1%.  The 20-city index marked a record year-over-year decline of 16.6% with a 1% fall from July to August. 

The hardest hit of all 20 cities on a year-over-year basis was Phoenix, where prices plummeted 30.7% during the past 12 months.  Las Vegas prices plunged 30.6% and Miami sank 28.1%.  The cities that held up the best were Dallas, which saw a decline of just 2.7%; Charlotte, N.C., down 2.8%; and Boston, off 4.7%.  No city showed a price gain during over the last 12 months.  From July to August, San Francisco saw the biggest price decline, down 3.5%.  Phoenix prices fell 2.9% and Las Vegas homes lost 2.4% in value.  Two cities showed gains in August.  Cleveland prices rose 1.1% and Boston prices inched up 0.1%.

The S&P Case-Shiller indexes compare the sale prices of the same homes year-to-year and are considered one of the most accurate home price gauges.

Phoenix 7th Street PUD/”spot zoning” apartment vote delayed

[Source: “Apartment vote delayed,” Kristena Hansen, Arizona Republic] — The saga continues for the redevelopment plan of a shabby apartment complex on Seventh Street in central Phoenix.  The Phoenix City Council this month postponed a vote to give the developer and the residents of nearby historic neighborhoods more time to negotiate.  The final vote has been set for Dec. 3.  “Continuance was in everyone’s best interest,” said Dean Miller, spokesman for Husk Partners, who represents the residents, including those who live in La Hacienda Historic District and North Country Club Drive neighborhoods.

Councilman Tom Simplot, who represents the area, mediated several private meetings between the developer, Country Club Homes LLC, and the residents.  But they were unable to come to an agreement on stipulations in the Planned Unit Development proposal.  Residents agree the current 1950s Country Club Apartments, 3030 N. Seventh St., are an eyesore, but fear the proposed PUD of mixed-use buildings will threaten their quality of life.