Light rail attracts small business to uptown Phoenix

[Source: Kevin Tripp/KTAR] — It’s hip, it’s hot, and it’s not a shopping mall — one uptown Phoenix neighborhood is bucking the recession.  Right where the light rail line makes its turn at Central Avenue and Camelback Road, several new, locally-owned businesses are opening.  Daniel Wayne is renovating a shop on Central, just south of Camelback.  It will open next month as Lola Coffee.  Wayne said the area has an important feature: “When I first came to look at this space, I walked in and I could look out on Central and the light rail went by.  That helped me with my decision, it feels like a city.”

Just up Central, Postino Wine Cafe is brand new — and already packed.  Partner Craig DeMarco thinks the neighborhood will be a prime location for years to come.  “I think it’s going to be the hot spot of the whole Valley,” DeMarco said.

Wayne said light rail makes the area more pedestrian friendly. “That’s the vision, I think, of everyone around here — to be able to just enjoy your neighborhood…  The goal in any city is to be pedestrian friendly and that’s what it’s coming to — where you can walk out of your place because there’s a lot of living space around here and be able to say, ‘Let’s go for coffee, let’s go for a drink, let’s go for dessert.'”

DeMarco agrees.  “I think it (light rail) brought a lot more attention to the neighborhood.  I’d been using it, so I was more familiar in noticing the great architecture and the great landscaping and just the great neighbors in general.”

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said 44 new businesses have opened up in central Phoenix because of light rail and that the space available signs are beginning to disappear.  “If you take a look at the for rent or for sale signs along light rail, there’s very few now, and we’re starting to see smaller businesses,” said Gordon.

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