Monthly Archives: July 2009

CenPhoTV for the week of 07/31/2009

A weekly video webcast about Phoenix living.  For more information, visit their website.

Independent restaurants aim to Devour Phoenix

[Source: Lynn Ducey, Phoenix Business Journal] — A handful of Valley restaurateurs and Local First Arizona are banding together to promote independent eateries across metro Phoenix through a new group called Devour Phoenix.  Local First Arizona is a grassroots nonprofit aimed at supporting homegrown companies and encouraging state residents to do the same.

A handful of entrepreneurs and chefs have formed a steering committee to put the Devour Phoenix idea into motion.  The fledgling effort has yet to map out a to-do list, but organizers say they could tackle everything from a restaurant crawl and shared advertising to pooled purchasing power on restaurant supplies.  “I think it’s really important that people realize there are great eating establishments in Phoenix.  We offer original ideas and different concepts,” said Arizona Sen. Ken Cheuvront, a steering committee member and owner of Cheuvront Restaurant & Wine Bar on Central Avenue in Phoenix.  [Note: Read the full article at Independent restaurants aim to Devour Phoenix and Phoenix New Times’ coverage of the same.]

Phoenix’s “New Vision” city council slate unveils Plan 468

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Proposed Playa del Sol along the banks of the Rio Salado.

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Free health care for all Phoenicians.  The creation of a Mexican Riviera-type development along the Rio Salado.  And a new Phoenix energy board to oversee the city’s sustainability efforts.  They are just a few ideas from Plan 468, which the New Vision slate unveiled during a Thursday evening news conference attended by one reporter.

City Council candidates Robert Dennis Johnson (District 4), Nathan Oshop (District 6) and Jon Garrido (District 8), all Democrats, published the six-point strategy online.  “Everybody talks about a comprehensive plan.  We’ve done it,” said Garrido, who is in a three-way race with incumbent Michael Johnson and Darlene Jackson. The plan calls for:

  • Transforming the Rio Salado, or Salt River, into a giant lagoon that would anchor a multi-billion dollar beachfront development called Playa del Sol.  It would serve as a world-class destination, attracting 8 million new tourists to its resorts, golf courses, shops, casino, and Phoenix SeaWorld.
  • Free health care insurance for all Phoenix residents, paid for using $1 billion in casino revenue from the Playa del Sol project.  The only caveat: The proposal relies on Arizona voters to pass an initiative allowing a casino to be built on non-tribal land.
  • Refocusing economic-development efforts from downtown to the Indian School Road Corridor by creating jobs in research and development, light manufacturing, and international trade.  The city would forge business ties with Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Spain.
  • Forming a city energy board charged with reducing the city’s carbon emissions by 30 percent within 10 years, and redeveloping blighted landfills into revenue-generating commercial developments.
  • Widening the reach of city community centers so they serve all segments of the population.
  • Developing urban mixed-use “nodes” where people can work, shop and play.

Even though the slate is being outspent by incumbent candidates, none have put together a more ambitious and complete plan than New Vision, said Robert Dennis Johnson.  “We realize we are outgunned.  This is a David vs. Goliath fight,” he said.  “But what we have, when you look at this, is substantially more than any of our challengers are offering.”  [Note: Read the full blog post at Phoenix’s “New Vision” city council slate unveils Plan 468.]

Arizona so broke it may sell off its House, Senate

Capitol For Sale[Source: National Post, Ontario, Canada] — Has Arnold Schwarzenegger heard of this?  Arizona’s financial condition is so desperate the state is considering selling off its legislative structures, including its Senate and House buildings, for US$735 million.

The Arizona Republic reports: “Dozens of other state properties also may be sold as the state government faces its worst financial crisis in a generation, if not ever.  The plan isn’t to liquidate state assets, though.  Instead, officials hope to sell the properties and then lease them back over several years before assuming ownership again.  The complex financial transaction would allow government services to continue without interruption while giving the state a fast infusion of as much as $735 million, according to Capitol projections.”

Arizona is looking at a budget deficit of about $3.4 billion, in a state with a population of 6.5 million.

The financial crisis doesn’t reflect well on the Republicans, who have dominated both houses of government for 15 years.  The selloff reportedly could include the House and Senate buildings, the Phoenix and Tucson headquarters of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the State Hospital and the state fairgrounds, and some prison facilities.  But the copper-domed Capitol building, built in 1901, is apparently excluded.  [Note: Read the full article at Arizona so broke it may sell off its House, Senate]

Phoenix residents encouraged to take a night out on Night Rail, July 31

[Source: Rail Life] — Metro stepped up and extended the hours for light rail, so now it’s our turn to show them it was a great decision!  Introducing Night Rail, July 31.  If you are a fan of the extended light rail hours, a friend of business owners along the line, or just a fan of having fun, join us for Night Rail.  Several groups will be getting together along the line throughout the evening and then meeting at the Roosevelt Station at midnight to show support for the extended hours.  After midnight, we will head to a couple of nearby places before calling it a night.

You can join our friends at “Light Rail Friday Night” who will be meeting at Rula Bula on Mill from 6-9 p.m.  After that, people will meet (10 p.m.) at Monti’s and at Maizie’s, which is just south of the light rail station at Central and Camelback.

Since the new hours are being tested on a trial basis, it is very important for people to be aware of the change and to take advantage of the hours so they don’t go away.  You know, the “Use it or lose it” mentality.  I mentioned in the Use it or Lose it post, “My thought, so far, is to talk with Local First Arizona, Downtown Phoenix Journal, CenPho TV, Mill Avenue District, Kyle Moyer Agency, Downtown Voices Coalition, Radiate Phoenix, local bloggers, and others.”  Turns out, people have stepped up, big time, to help raise awareness and to get people out next weekend, July 31 for “Night Rail.”

Business owners let us know how you want to be involved!  If you have ideas, or if you are a blogger writing about Night Rail, please let me know that as well.  I’ll update this post as I hear of more happenings.  You might also want to follow RailLife, CenPhoTV, No Festival Required, Light Rail Beer, and LocalFirstAZ on Twitter for updates and ideas. Another option is to follow the #NightRail feed for details…  Or, click here for a twtvite.

CenPhoTV for the week of 07/24/2009

A weekly video webcast about Phoenix living.  For more information, visit their website.

Church program seen as key to safer South Phoenix

[Source: Michael Ferraresi, Arizona Republic] — Sweating in the summer heat, volunteers moved boxes of donated food at the Bridge Church as others helped south Phoenix residents find clothes, jobs and government benefits.  Meanwhile, police officers watched briefly over the small crowd at the worship hall, which doubles as a human-services community center to serve more than 30 families a day in an area long stigmatized by gang violence.

Through partnerships with police and city leaders, the Bridge became a prototype for the renewal of south Phoenix.  It was the first of the area’s 90 churches to join the Neighborhood Roots System.  Police credited the increased faith-based involvement for a 39 percent drop in area homicides, as well as other crimes, since 2008.  Police have saturated south Phoenix with crime-suppression efforts in the past few years.  Now, officers and neighborhood activists are working to sustain the relationships they established years ago.  “When law enforcement is involved, I think businesses look at that as a positive,” said Jon Katov, CEO of non-profit Open Table Inc.  Katov said he was inspired to focus on south Phoenix after attending a service at a community church.

The Bridge is open 20 hours a week in an area where nearly 17,000 people live in poverty.  Katov said 20 other south Phoenix churches have already begun mimicking the Bridge.  He pointed to a small room filled with donated computers.  “Here, you’re looking at a job center inside a working church,” Katov said.  “To me, it’s a breakthrough.”

Churches have helped south Phoenix rebound from the wave of violent crime and gang-related homicides it suffered two years ago.  [Note: Read the full article at Church program seen as key to safer south Phoenix]

A growing appetite for downtown Phoenix dining

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Sens, Downtown Phoenix (photo source: Cam Riley)

[Source: Howard Seftel and Megan Finnerty, Arizona Republic] — Looking past the current economic downturn, optimistic restaurateurs believe downtown Phoenix is poised to compete in the next few years with Scottsdale as a dining destination.  The momentum has been jump-started by a group of independent chefs and entrepreneurs who believe in the area’s potential.  They, in turn, have inspired a fresh wave of high-profile names with big plans to rush in and stake a downtown claim.

New arrivals say downtown Phoenix has reached a tipping point, energized in part by light rail and the Arizona State University campus.  But some warn that the Valley has seen this sort of hopeful restaurant hype fail to live up to its promise before, pointing to troubles on Mill Avenue in Tempe and developments such as downtown Phoenix’s Arizona Center and the Mercado that never flourished.  Others think downtown’s residential core is still not strong enough to support a restaurant community.

Meanwhile, CityScape is accelerating the downtown dining buzz.  Fifteen restaurants are planned for the sprawling residential, commercial and retail complex set to open in 2010.  Developers are targeting local chefs in hopes of complementing the fledgling dining scene, not squashing it.  Although downtown had seen scattered individual successes in the past, like the wood-fired pizza at Pizzeria Bianco and classy comfort food of Matt’s Big Breakfast, their popularity didn’t create a movement.  Winning national acclaim meant they became just as much tourist destinations as local joints.  Now, however, chefs and restaurant owners are relocating from other parts of the Valley or opening additional locations.

Metro light rail, ASU’s downtown campus, the Downtown Phoenix Public Market and new residents are creating buzz for the area, they say.  “It’s the spot to be,” said Linda Nguyen, whose bustling, 4-month-old Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen offers Japanese fare.  She considered Tempe and Scottsdale before opening in a space on East McKinley Street.  [Note: Read the full article at A growing appetite for downtown Phoenix dining]

City of Phoenix’s development services department cut by 81

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix eliminated 923 positions in the latest round of general-fund budget cuts.  But City Manager Frank Fairbanks wrote the City Council last week that those reductions didn’t include 81 additional jobs that were cut from the Development Services Department.  The department, which enforces building codes and issues permits for residential and commercial property, operates under a cost-recovery model.  That means DSD relies on customer fees rather than public tax dollars. 

The need for the cuts is evident after reviewing the sharp drop in demand for permits.  During the construction boom, the city averaged about 1,500 single-family housing permits per month.  Phoenix granted builders just 35 in February, though demand has picked up slightly in recent months.  Only three people were laid off from DSD in the latest round; the other cuts were achieved by eliminating vacant positions or moving employees to other jobs in the city. 

The July reductions bring to 374 the number of positions that have been axed from the department since 2007, when it had a high of 578 employees, said spokesman Michael Hammett.  But less manpower doesn’t mean a decrease in service levels, Hammett assured.  “When someone comes in, we want to make sure we can serve them in a timely manner,” he said.  “That’s revenue, and that’s key.”  [Note: Read the full blog entry at City of Phoenix’s development services department cut by 81]

Award winning author offers up favorite Arizona trips

As part of United Airlines’ Hemispheres Magazine’s “Three Perfect Days” series, Peter Aleshire shares his favorite places in Phoenix, Arizona, and recommends the perfect three day itinerary for people visiting the city.