Monthly Archives: September 2009

Dam power promoted era of Valley growth

Theodore Roosevelt Dam

[Source: Ryan Randazzo, Arizona Republic] — One hundred years ago today, cheap power gave Phoenix a jolt.  Until Oct. 1, 1909, the city of 11,000 relied on gas lanterns and electricity from small wood- and gas-burning power plants.  But on that day, the homes and businesses in Phoenix received their first cheap, free-flowing electricity from the Theodore Roosevelt Dam.

The power boosted development at a time when Tucson and Clifton-Morenci both had larger populations than Phoenix, and Bisbee wasn’t far behind.  But buoyed with abundant electricity and water from the dam, Phoenix became the biggest city in the state by 1920, and grew to the fifth-largest city in the nation early in the 21st century.

The U.S. Reclamation Service, which ran the dam before Salt River Project took over, found cheap electricity was a side benefit.  “It really solidified Phoenix as the capital of Arizona,” said Doug Kupel, a historian with the city’s legal department.  “All the activity in Arizona — mining, agriculture, banking — Phoenix was at the center of that.” [Note: Read the full article at Dam power promoted era of Valley growth.]

Moody’s lowers ratings outlook on City of Phoenix to negative

Phoenix City Hall

[Source: Wall Street Journal] — Moody’s Ratings Service lowered its ratings outlook on the city of Phoenix, Arizona, to negative, citing ongoing revenue declines and expected tax-base losses in the city, which will weaken its credit profile.  Arizona’s largest city, and the fifth most populous in the U.S., is in the midst of a severe recession that began with the housing crisis and now includes most other sectors of the economy.

Unemployment has been less of a burden in the city, reaching 8.7% in July, compared with 9.5% for the state and 9.7% for the nation.  But a weak job market combined with the potential for more foreclosures means many consumers in the area will severely limit their discretionary purchases well into 2010, Moody’s said.

The ratings agency said that, despite the city’s efforts to maintain fiscal stability during the recession, the outlook cut reflects Moody’s expectation that finances will remain under pressure for the foreseeable future, given those broader economic concerns and uncertainty about the region’s next economic expansion.  Moody’s has Phoenix at Aa1, which is one notch under Aaa.  The outlook change affects about $2.4 billion of debt.

Earlier this month, Moody’s lowered its ratings outlook on Arizona’s Aa3 issuer rating, which is three notches under Aaa, to negative.  The ratings agency cited similar concerns about revenue underperformance.  Despite those concerns, once the housing market levels off, Moody’s said Tuesday, Phoenix will resume its above-average long-term growth due to its high-skill office jobs and high-tech manufacturing sector.  The city continues to develop a number of revitalization efforts, including a convention-center expansion, light-rail construction, and development of a downtown campus for Arizona State University.  Moody’s said those efforts and ongoing population increases should help the city recover at a faster rate.  [Note: Read the full article at Moody’s lowers ratings outlook on City of Phoenix to negative.]

Economic benefits of downtown Phoenix’s TGen more than doubled in 2 years

[Source: Betty Beard, Arizona Republic] — A new study shows that TGen, the downtown Phoenix-based bioscience research group, last year produced about $8 for every $1 invested by the state — more than twice its economic benefits of two years earlier.  The study by the Tripp Umbach company in Pittsburgh estimates that the 2008 economic benefit reached $77.4 million, compared with $21.7 million in 2006.  TGen’s economic benefits have grown because it has almost 300 employees, its research has helped create or incubate seven companies to commercialize technology, it contracts with outside businesses such as software developers, and the bulk of its $65 million annual budget comes from federal and corporate grants.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute, as it is officially known, commissioned the 2006 and 2008 studies to show that the state and public investments that created TGen in 2002 have more than paid for themselves and continue to produce results, said Jeffrey Trent, TGen president and research director.  Arizona pays about $5.5 million a year into TGen, using tobacco funds earmarked for health research.  Phoenix contributed the building, and the group receives substantial donations, such as $685,000 awarded by Safeway earlier this year for breast-cancer research.

Even though TGen continues to attract multimillion-dollar contracts and grants, Trent said he hopes the group can continue to receive money from the state earmarked for medical research.  It expects to continue receiving the $5.5 million a year through 2012.  “We are focusing on leveraging state dollars vs. replacing state dollars,” Trent said.  “Bioscience was never intended to be the sole component that would change the economy in Arizona.  But I think it is an important knowledge-based pillar that the state has invested in, and I think if it continues to invest, it is likely to have an economic impact.”

The Tripp Umbach report released Tuesday said that TGen operations in 2008 produced $8.09 for every $1 invested by the state, 461 direct and indirect full-time jobs, $2.7 million in state taxes and a direct annual economic benefit of $44.5 million.  Adding the business spin-offs and commercialization, TGen produced about $14.07 for every $1 in state investment, $5.7 million in taxes and $77.4 million in total annual economic impact. [Note: Read the full article at Economic benefits of downtown Phoenix’s TGen more than doubled in 2 years.]

The mayor (of Sacramento) speaks out about downtown Phoenix

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Sacramento Mayor (and former Phoenix Suns player) Kevin Johnson

From an article in the Sacramento Press about the possibility of a new sports arena in downtown Sacramento… “[Mayor Kevin] Johnson also pointed to his time as an NBA player, which he said he doesn’t talk about a whole lot.  ‘I lived in Phoenix when there was no arena downtown, and I was also part of a team that helped bring an arena downtown,’ Johnson said.  ‘Phoenix was a ghost town, much worse than Sacramento.  If you go to downtown Phoenix now, it’s a whole new town because of the catalytic impact that the arena had [on] downtown.  I think the year was 1993; if you look at what has transpired over the last 16 years, [it proves] that [an arena] can galvanize a downtown community.'”

Deadline nears to register to vote for Nov. 3 special Phoenix City Council elections

Monday, Oct. 5, is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 3 city of Phoenix special City Council vacancy election and runoff election.  In these elections, voters in City Council Districts 3 and 6 will elect City Council members.  To be eligible, a person must be a registered voter and reside within City Council Districts 3 or 6 at least 29 days before the election.  For more information, click here.

Changes in management, direction afoot at downtown Phoenix’s Modified Arts

Modified Arts, Phoenix (Photo credit: kontaktmag)

[Source: Martin Cizmar, Phoenix New Times] — Kimber Lanning, the prominent Phoenix record store owner turned community activist, has released a statement saying she plans to step away from her Roosevelt Row gallery/venue, Modified Arts.  Lanning has become more and more involved in big-time community planning issues in recent years and says she plans to retain ownership of the building, but will put a husband and wife team of Kim Larkin and Adam Murray in charge of the to-be-renovated gallery.

Here’s the really bad news: “[T]he big, indie rock shows you’ve come to know and love at Modified will have to find another home.  The programming will be changing to better accommodate a gallery, so the slant will be more experimental and progressive.”  Modified Arts as it exists now will close the second weekend in December and re-open with a new look in late January.  Uh-oh.  As the space — just for starters — employs the best bouncer in Phoenix and housed the best little show of the year, there’s good reason to wonder just how big of a disaster this will be for the Phoenix music scene.

[Note: Read the full article, Kimber Lanning’s full statement, and online comments at Changes in management, direction afoot at downtown Phoenix’s Modified Arts.]

Downtown Phoenix medical school growth in limbo

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — University officials are putting the final touches on plans to build a $164 million building that will expand downtown Phoenix’s medical school and high-profile biomedical campus.  But the project is stuck in political limbo and it’s unclear if construction crews will break ground in February, as planned.  “It will be difficult until we get moving through the Legislature,” said Jaime Molera, a University of Arizona lobbyist.

On Thursday, the Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved plans for the Health Sciences Education Building, a 265,000-square-foot facility that will house lecture halls, an anatomy lab, a simulation center, and a library that will be used by the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.  The building will be located on the 28-acre Phoenix Biomedical Campus that’s taking shape downtown.  The hub includes the medical school, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), and ABC1 — a medical-research building used by ASU and UA.  Down the road, supporters would like to build a hospital and more research buildings.

The campus is part of Arizona’s longtime quest to grow the state’s bioscience industry.  Phoenix owns the land and the campus is part of city plans to redevelop downtown.  The Health Sciences Education Building is also a key part of plans to expand the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University, which opened in 2007.

Without the new building, the downtown medical school can’t grow much bigger, said Judy Bernas, an associate vice president at the University of Arizona.  Right now, it has 120 students and could have a maximum of 192.  But the original plan calls for a school that would eventually have 480 students.  The school won’t have enough room for that many students until the Health Sciences Building is complete, UA officials say.

Funding for the project has been approved by the Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer through the state budget process. The building would be paid for by bonds that would be paid off with lottery revenue.  But a handful of powerful Republican lawmakers are using a bureaucratic procedure to put the brakes on the project.  [Note: Read the full article at Downtown Phoenix medical school growth in limbo.]

Midtown Phoenix mid-century building imploded

For more information and photos, click here.

Now through October, go ahead and wonder about Phoenix’s future

wonderlandfront[Source: Phoenix New Times] Gregory Sale and Kimi Eisele have a simple, yet profound question for Phoenicians: Ever wonder about the future of this place? If so, you can immediately become an active participant in their interpretive piece “Go Ahead, Wonder,” which will have a presence at the “Phoenix as Wonderland: Art from New Times’ Best of Phoenix 2009” exhibit.

Sale’s idea for the piece — which is an amalgamation of media, text, photography, sound, interviews, and participation — was to envision his personal wonderland here in Phoenix as a community that gets involved with social issues.  The instructions go like this:

Leave a one-minute voice message, e-mail 100 words, or contribute at the opening of the “Phoenix as Wonderland” exhibition during October First Friday.  Offer your vision for how this region could grow/change/evolve physically, ecologically, intellectually, socially, emotionally, culturally, and/or spiritually over the next ten, twenty, or fifty years.

  • Out loud: 602-744-6527 (now till October 31)
  • In writing: visioning@newtimes.com (now till October 31)
  • In person: 1437 N. 1st St, Phoenix from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, October 2

“Phoenix as Wonderland: Art from New Times’ Best of Phoenix 2009” opens with a free First Friday reception on Friday, October 2, at [merz]project, 1437 N. First St. For more information, call 602-229-8478 or send an e-mail.

Survival in the Core

Fall 2009 KBAQ/KJZZ Wavelength article by Si Robins on the impact of the down economy on various downtown Phoenix proprietors.  Click here to review and download PDF.