Daily Archives: July 22, 2009

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]