[Source: Jon Talton, Rogue Columnist] — My chief goal in writing the Phoenix 101 post about the old city was to dispel the notion that “there’s no history here,” spoken by the transplants as they file into the tract houses of their so-called master planned communities. More, to fight the canard that “Phoenix has no soul.” Well, maybe now in most places, but it wasn’t always so. Yet the post was so popular, it seems logical to follow up with a brief history on choices made and opportunities missed.
It’s important to make a distinction. People have sometimes dismissed my observations with words such as “well, everyplace changes” and “my hometown isn’t the same any more, either.” At the risk of being pedantic, that’s not my point. First, while every place changes, it doesn’t necessarily change mostly for the worse. Cities such as Seattle, Portland, Denver, Charlotte, San Diego and even Oklahoma City have undergone massive changes. Yet they have managed to preserve and revive their center cities, their civic spaces and enhance livability (and they have plenty of suburbs, so Phoenix isn’t special there). I miss the old railroad yards in downtown Denver –- but what an amazing city it is now. It’s gotten better. Second, Phoenix is not just any city — so who cares if it’s no worse than Fresno or Youngstown? It sold its magic for dross. And its choices have set the stage for crisis, whether sudden or lingering.
Much was out of the control of Phoenicians and their leaders. Phoenix grew large after the City Beautiful Movement, so it lacked many great civic spaces; it was a modest farm town during the 1920s, so it had relatively few art deco towers. Worst of all, it came of age with the automobile, Levittown-style suburbia, and the savage city planning and dehumanizing design ethos of Robert Moses and Le Corbusier. Still, Phoenix made choices. It lost opportunities. Here are a few. [Note: To read the full blog entry, click here.]