Daily Archives: October 19, 2009

In Phoenix, luring suburbanites to greener, urban life

[Source: Adam Hochberg, National Public Radio] — Phoenix is one of the nation’s fastest-growing and most sprawling metropolitan areas. Cheap and plentiful land has led to an ever-expanding ring of suburbs, and commuting downtown can take longer than an hour.  Now, a small developer is buying up foreclosed houses near mass transit lines in the city, renovating them to green building standards, and marketing them to young professionals who may be tired of commuting.  [Note: Listen to the broadcast or read the transcript at In Phoenix, luring suburbanites to greener, urban life.]

Downtown Phoenix Journal Weekly Recap

DPJ_artwork_crop[Source: Si Robins, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — It was about getting back to our roots and preserving our future this past week at Downtown Phoenix Journal.  A breakfast with the mayor took us on a sweeping tour of some of Phoenix’s oldest buildings, proving once again that there is history and character in downtown Phoenix.  On Third Friday, the A.E. England Building was officially dedicated, bringing crowds for music, art, and celebration.  Meanwhile, October 15 was Blog Action Day around the world, and DPJ touched on what ASU is doing to help cool the urban heat island and preserve our precious water supply in its nifty new buildings.  And, with the Suns season right around the corner, there is no time to waste.  The first installment of DPJ’s new weekly Suns blog says the future of Phoenix sports depends on our unrelenting support of all things Suns, not just at US Airways Center, but throughout downtown Phoenix.

City of Phoenix bond program on track with low interest rate

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Moody’s Investors Service recently lowered Phoenix’s ratings outlook from “stable” to “negative,” but city officials said it didn’t hurt the city’s ability to sell hundreds of millions of dollars of bonds to pay for parks, fire stations, library expansions, and other projects.  The city this month sold $350 million in general-obligation bonds, authorized in 2006, and refinanced an additional $117 million in bond debt, both at 3.37 percent, a rate that is near historic lows for government borrowing.  Phoenix previously had been repaying that debt at a rate of about 4.5 percent.

Officials said the refinancing saves Phoenix taxpayers about $11.5 million over 25 years.  The bonds are paid back through secondary property taxes.  “The low interest rates help keep our 2006 bond program on track,” said Interim Finance Director Jeff DeWitt.  “It’s really cheap to borrow for governments right now, and that made this deal very attractive to the city.”

Both Standard & Poor’s Financial Services and Moody’s recently gave Phoenix the highest bond rating given the municipalities, AAA for S&P and Aa1 for Moody’s.   But Moody’s revised the city’s outlook to negative because of the city’s falling sales-tax revenue and ongoing budget woes.  The credit-ratings agency also said the regional economy’s reliance on the housing sector posed financial challenges for Phoenix.  “If the economy turns around, our outlook could improve to stable,” DeWitt said.

In March 2006, Phoenix voters approved an $878 million bond program to revitalize neighborhoods, preserve historic buildings, improve streets and other infrastructure, and boost arts and cultural programs.   About $270 million in 2006 bonds remain to be sold.  [Note: Read the full article at City of Phoenix bond program on track with low interest rate.]

Despite economy, metro Phoenix public art well-funded

Civic Space Park, downtown Phoenix

[Source: Weldon B. Johnson, Arizona Republic] — Despite the economic slump, Valley communities are maintaining a commitment to public art thanks in large part to the way those programs receive money.  As a result, local art commissions are able to bring new artworks to the public’s attention, such as the huge floating sculpture, “Her Secret Is Patience,” by Janet Echelman in downtown Phoenix or “The Doors,” by Donald Lipski in Scottsdale.

Most community public-art programs are funded through ordinances that take a small percentage (usually 1 percent or less) of the funds for capital projects such as buildings, streets or parks and set it aside for a public-art component.  If those projects go forward, the art components often continue.  Because many such projects are funded through bond issues and other sources, they haven’t been hurt as much by the recession as items that are paid for through a city’s general fund.

Phoenix’s public-art program is considered one of the most progressive in the country.  Since it was created in 1986, it has installed more than 150 projects throughout the city.  Phil Jones, [just retired] executive director of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, expects that to continue.  “We’ve had a couple of major bond elections in the past 10 years that have helped feed the program somewhat,” Jones said.  “As time progresses, the resources may not be as plentiful, but right now we have sufficient funding for about 80 projects.  That will keep us busy for a while.”  [Note: Read the full article at Despite economy, metro Phoenix public art well-funded.]