Daily Archives: January 22, 2009

Viewpoint: The plague of downtown Phoenix continues

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E. Portland & 1st St. (Then)

[Source: Life in Downtown Phoenix blog] — Before I moved back to Phoenix, I would drive around downtown and wonder why it looked the way it did with so many empty lots.  Other cities with somewhat desolate downtowns usually just have a lot of empty buildings.  But Phoenix is peculiar with its abundance of barren land right in the middle of its downtown.

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E. Portland & 1st St. (Now)

Now I don’t wonder where the vacant lots come from; I’ve come back and watched some of the lots appear.  And just this week a new one popped up as a landowner decimated an entire block of vacant buildings at First Street and Portland, as pictured above.  While I don’t believe any of the buildings were necessarily “historic,” they were somewhat old and could have been excellent homes to small businesses as downtown continued to rebound.  But now they’re gone, and in their place is just more infertile land, zoned for a high rise that may never be built.

Idea of the Day: parking meters you can read at night

From time to time, we’ll throw out an “Idea of the Day” culled from sources here in Arizona and elsewhere.  And this one comes from our very own downtown Phoenix.  Hmmm… Without bright street lights, a flashlight, cellphone camera flash (see photo below), or super human eyesight, it’s difficult to read the newly-installed, electronic, HAL-inspired yes-we-take-credit-cards parking meters at night.

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Hanny’s infuses downtown Phoenix with classic fare in a historic building

[Source: Michele Laudig, Phoenix New Times] — Finally, something to cheer about.  In a city where preservationists have new reasons to gripe all the time — sharp mid-century homes getting razed to make way for McMansions, architecturally significant buildings being bulldozed so somebody can slap up another generic bank or strip mall — there’s good news about at least one historic building.  Better yet, it’s right downtown.  And the icing on the cake?  It’s home to a new restaurant called Hanny’s.

Like its stark International Style building façade, Hanny’s all-day menu is streamlined, featuring just a handful of starters, pizzas, sandwiches, and salads.  It’s well-crafted, affordable fare that’s perfect for a light lunch, an informal dinner, a happy hour snack, or a late-night nosh — not destination dining by any stretch, but considering the beautifully restored surroundings and the sheer character that this place brings to the area, it’s still a Phoenix destination.

Hanny’s has quite a story.  It’s named after businessman Vic Hanny’s “Distinguished Store for Men and Women” originally located there, a place where generations of Phoenicians shopped for designer-label clothing.  After the store was shuttered in the ’80s, the circa 1947 Hanny’s building sat vacant, occasionally getting torched by the fire department to train firefighters.  It was added to the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 2005, the same year the city negotiated with restaurateur Karl Kopp (owner of Scottsdale’s AZ88, as well as spots in Milwaukee and Manhattan) to exchange it for a building he owned on Central Avenue. City officials wanted to acquire Kopp’s property as part of the planned ASU Downtown Campus; Kopp was willing to bring the historic Hanny’s building back to its vintage grandeur.

Three years and $5 million later, Hanny’s is a well-polished modernist gem.  Artist Janis Leonard — known for her cheeky, rotating installations at AZ88 — designed the spare, elegant interior, where charcoal-colored banquettes line the perimeter, chocolate leather chairs hug smooth granite-topped tables, and soft uplighting emphasizes dramatically high ceilings (high enough to have a curvy mezzanine overlooking the dining room).  Everything gleams, from terrazzo floors to the bar in the middle of the space, where a bright red meat slicer sits like a candy apple behind glass.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Auto branding guru to speak on branding downtown Phoenix

209145-600-0-3[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — Jim Schroer, former automotive branding guru and now a popular speaker, will deliver the keynote address at the upcoming DREAMR awards to be presented by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership on January 26 at the Sheraton Phoenix.   Speaking from his office in Minneapolis, Schroer said he advocates sustained, enthusiastic branding of downtown Phoenix, an area of about 90 city blocks.  “I speak primarily on the fact that the folks who are responsible for what people experience in downtown Phoenix have a huge opportunity to build a great urban center,” Schroer said.

The core of that urban center experience is firmly in place, he said, pointing to the expanded convention center, the opening of light rail, the downtown campus of Arizona State University, new residential units, and hotels.  He balked at the notion that continued development of downtown will be radically curtailed by the economic downturn and barely breathing credit markets.  “I’m extremely insensitive to that thought. There’s always money for what you care about,” Schroer.  The larger concern, he said, is whether the people who can push forward progress in downtown will come together or go chasing “after their pet projects.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix Sky Harbor drops to 9th busiest airport in U.S.

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — As millions of passengers cut their travel budgets, Sky Harbor slipped down the FAA’s ranking of busy U.S. airports.  Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was the ninth busiest airport in 2008.  In 2007, it was the eighth busiest.  Charlotte Douglas Airport, in Charlotte, N.C. is now No. 8.

The Federal Aviation Administration ranking measures the number of takeoffs and landings by commercial airlines, air taxis, private planes, and the military.  “This is a direct reflection of the economy and is unfortunately the way things are at airports across the country,” said Deputy Aviation Director Deborah Ostreicher.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Push made to give Phoenix Mayor Gordon 2-year extension to term

Mayor Phil Gordon (Photo: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — A proposed ballot initiative in Phoenix would hand Mayor Phil Gordon and four City Council members an extra two years in office, extending their current terms to January 2014.  It’s a plan that backers say would save the city money but one that some City Hall observers believe is designed to buy time for the two-term mayor as he contemplates his next political move.  Term limits will force Gordon out of office in January 2012.

With little fanfare, the Phoenix Election Consolidation Committee, a political group led by Gordon supporters, filed initial paperwork this week to put the initiative on the city’s September ballot.  The proposal would eliminate staggered council terms by delaying the 2011 election for the mayor and odd-numbered council districts until 2013.  Supporters said the initiative would put all city races on the same election cycle, boost voter turnout and save the city $1 million every four years, a savings estimate the City Clerk’s Office confirmed.

“The very basic motivation is really the budget issues that the city of Phoenix is looking at,” said Tom Milton, committee chairman and a former council member who served with Gordon and worked on his first mayoral campaign.  “It’s a cost saving for the city at a time when the alternatives are looking for cuts in areas that would really hurt.”  Milton heads the committee with his sister, Pamala Doan.  Milton, who served on the council from 1998 to 2001, said that he worked on Gordon’s first mayoral campaign in 2003 while employed with Riester, a Phoenix marketing and public-relations firm.  Doan, the committee treasurer who filed the initiative application Tuesday, worked on Gordon’s re-election campaign in 2007 while also employed with Riester.

Gordon said he would have no comment about the initiative until he reviews it on Friday, and he declined to answer questions about the campaign supporters who filed the paperwork.  “The budget is my top priority,” Gordon told The Republic on Wednesday.  “My suggestion is that everyone in public and private focus on that.”

The proposal has drawn criticism from some community members who argue that staggered terms, passed by voters in 1991, ensure that the entire nine-member council is not replaced by political “neophytes” in a single election.  “We believe that staggered terms are appropriate,” said Paul Barnes, president of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, a community-preservation group.  “This is mostly a move by Mayor Gordon to extend his term, and there is no rationale and no good reason for it.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Applicants sought to fill Phoenix Council Member’s seat

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is asking residents interested in serving the remainder of City Councilman Greg Stanton’s term to submit a letter of interest and resume to the city clerk by 5 p.m. Feb. 5.  Applicants must be a registered voter and live in District 6, which includes Ahwatukee and the Biltmore and Arcadia neighborhoods.  All applications will be available for public review at the City Clerk’s Office, which will provide copies to council members on Feb. 6.

The council will hold a special meeting at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 10 to interview each of the candidates for 10 minutes.  If needed, the process will continue at 2 p.m. that day at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting.  The meetings, open to the public, will be aired live on Phoenix Channel 11 and streamed live on the city’s Web site.  Community members will be allowed to speak about the appointment process or any candidates.  After final interviews, the council will vote to appoint the interim council member.  Any member of the council, including the mayor, may nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy.  The first candidate to receive a majority of votes — five in the case that all council members are present — gets the appointment and would serve out the remainder of Stanton’s term through January 2010.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]