Monthly Archives: January 2010

Reviving downtown Phoenix through art

[Source: Michael Tulipan, New York Times] — BOARDED-UP buildings and empty lots in the shadow of office towers hardly seemed a promising foundation for an arts district in rapidly growing Phoenix.  But once-neglected and dangerous Roosevelt Row, on the north side of downtown, turned out to be an irresistible lure for artists looking for cheap spaces in which to live and work.  Galleries, restaurants and a farmers’ market soon followed.

Today, Roosevelt Row is the city’s cutting-edge art destination, full of galleries like Perihelion Arts (610 East Roosevelt Street, No. 137; 602-334-6299) and Eye Lounge (419 East Roosevelt Street; 602-430-1490), which showcase contemporary, often challenging art and performances.  The area is also a popular draw during Phoenix’s monthly First Fridays art walk (artlinkphoenix.com).

Just as vital to the area’s resurgence is the Downtown Phoenix Public Market (721 North Central Avenue; foodconnect.org/phoenixmarket), founded five years ago by Community Food Connections, a local nonprofit with an ambitious agenda.  “The goals of the market were to increase access to healthy food and create a vibrant gathering space in the heart of the city,” said Cindy Gentry, the organization’s executive director.  Today, the market (open 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays) has over 65 vendors offering local produce, jewelry, herbal remedies and treats like delicious lemon strawberry basil sorbet ($2) from Crave Artisan Ice Cream, a local purveyor.

Last October, the market expanded to include Urban Grocery and Wine Bar (14 East Pierce Street; 602-254-1799), downtown Phoenix’s first grocery store in nearly three decades.  The grocery sells products from many market vendors and features an outpost of Royal Coffee Bar, as well as a wine bar serving Arizona labels (starting at $7 a glass).

For the fashion-minded, Spoken Boutique (610 East Roosevelt Street, No. 148) stocks trendy denim labels like William Rast and Bishop of Seventh, Wet Cement T-shirts and flirty dresses.  Local artists and residents drop into two-year-old Conspire (901 North Fifth Street; 602-237-5446), a laid-back boutique and coffee shop with offerings as diverse as handmade paper, quirky clothing and vegan doughnuts.

The area’s transformation was perhaps best encapsulated by Michael Carbajal, a former boxing champion and local celebrity who grew up on the hardscrabble streets of Roosevelt Row and is now a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. On a recent night’s visit to the bar at the year-old Asian tapas hot spot Sens (705 North First Street, No. 120; 602-340-9777; sensake.com) Mr. Carbajal spoke about the changes in the neighborhood. “It was rough,” he said, before dropping a shot of sake into his beer and gesturing to the sleek surroundings. “I like it better now. I can come here.”

Phoenix seeks public input on Downtown Code

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The city of Phoenix Planning Department is seeking input on the city’s proposed Downtown Code.  The Downtown Code, which is part of the Phoenix Zoning Ordinance, addresses design that impacts the public by establishing standards and guidelines that will allow projects to develop over time.  It does not dictate architectural style.  The code will be presented at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3 at Phoenix City Council Formal Meeting, Phoenix City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St.

The remapping of the area to change the zoning to the proposed Character Areas will follow in March 2010.

The Downtown Code implements the vision, goals, and policies of the Downtown Phoenix Plan and establishes the physical environment to create a pedestrian-oriented center.  The code applies to all land uses, subdivisions, and development within the area generally bounded by McDowell Road, Seventh Street, Buckeye Road, and Seventh Avenue.  The code can be downloaded here.

Comments can be submitted by contacting Planning Manager Carol Johnson at 602-261-8289 or by sending an e-mail.

Downtown Phoenix restaurant, District, focuses on Arizona-grown menu

[Source: Megan Finnerty, Arizona Republic] — Old Town Scottsdale prides itself on being filled with wine bars, restaurants, and clubs that are unique.  Rarely is a chain the best option for dinner or a drink.  And restaurants are increasingly adding produce to menus, highlighting for diners that they’ve come from neighboring farms such as Singh or McClendon’s Select.  At some resorts, bartenders are routinely ducking out to their own gardens to snip mint, thyme or basil, so garnishes are grown within feet of the bars where the drinks are served.

Recently, downtown Phoenix has given foodie bloggers and tastemakers reasons to talk, as a number of restaurants and bars specializing in locally sourced menu items expanded in the past year.  But the most significant development in Arizona-grown goodness might not be at an independently owned business after all.  And it’s not in Old Town either.

If you’re looking for truly local dining and drinking, you’ll want to head to the Sheraton hotel and swing by the District Kitchen and Bar in downtown Phoenix.  The all-local all-the-time focus is a new strategy for the hotel chain, but general manager Heinrich Stasiuk, who lives in Arcadia, is the man making it work.  Downtown Phoenix is a proud place when it comes to home-grown talent, and he has managed to get neighbors and business people to eat, drink and be merry in his bar.  [Note: Read the full article at Downtown Phoenix restaurant, District, focuses on Arizona-grown menu.]

University Public School in downtown Phoenix announces vacancies for students

University Public Schools, Inc. (UPSI) a non-profit organization that works in affiliation with Arizona State University announces vacancies for students in all grade levels for the 2010-1011 school year at the University Public School Phoenix, in partnership with Phoenix Elementary School District, located in the heart of downtown Phoenix at 735 E. Fillmore St.

Prospective families interested in enrolling new students for the 2010-2011 academic year will need to attend an orientation session.  These sessions will include a presentation, video overview, and follow-up Q/A session.  The schools offer students a learning environment that incorporates the following: high academic standards; safe and caring environment; innovative curriculum; individual learning plans; enhanced technology; family involvement; and access to ASU’s services and programs.  Additionally, University Public Schools offer before- and after-school child care.

University Public School Phoenix information sessions:

  • 6 p.m., Feb. 4, Media Center
  • 6 p.m., Feb. 10, Media Center
  • 6 p.m., Feb. 16, Media Center

For more information, visit the school’s website or call Cindy Walker at 602-496-3322.

Downtown Phoenix residents urged to comment on draft City budget, Feb. 16

The city of Phoenix is in the process of preparing its 2010-11 budget, which will include reductions to city programs and services of approximately $140 million.  Residents in and around downtown Phoenix are invited to attend a District 7 community hearing to discuss the proposed budget before final decisions are made.  The meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 16, starting at 6 p.m., at the Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave.

At the hearing, residents will have an opportunity to comment and make suggestions.  Council members and city staff will answer questions and talk about specific district issues.  This public discussion is among the reasons the city’s budget so closely matches the community’s highest priorities each fiscal year.   Residents can view details of the proposed budget and submit comments at phoenix.gov or by calling 602-262-4800.  After the community’s review, the mayor and City Council will approve a budget-balancing plan on Tuesday, March 2.  The approved plan will take effect April 5.

For more information about the budget process and other community hearings in other Council districts, click here.

Downtown Phoenix Journal Weekly Recap (01-25-2010)

[Source: Si Robins, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — This past weekend, ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication was the hub of the first CenPhoCamp, an “unconference” aimed at uniting Valley residents with Central Phoenix businesses using this thing called the Internet.  Several of DPJ’s braintrust, writers, and photographers were scattered about the building, all hoping to learn how we as a community can be better.  It got me thinking about how DPJ spreads the word about what’s happening in Phoenix.  Earlier in the week, the Main Ingredient Ale House opened in the former Lisa G bungalow.  In the months leading up to the grand opening, the new owners were busy scribbling on their Facebook wall and posting construction updates. When the opening night rolled around, they had a packed house, and several people inside had never even visited Lisa G. That’s making a connection.  Also last week, the Insecure Critic gave some of his sincere praise for the roadways.  Silly as it seems to be discussing streets in Phoenix compared to the suburbs, it was the association he made that makes the city his own.  In sharing these seemingly insignificant observations, we can connect better as a community.  DPJ is here to help as a community resource, and the site is meant to link Downtown Phoenix residents and visitors alike to the people, places and happenings of the city.  Please let us know how we can better help serve our readers — these connections matter!

CenPhoTV for the week of 01-22-2010

This week on cenphotv, tough spots for the light rail, a new gallery on roosevelt, cenpho camp, a walkabout, and a great place to talk to your neighbors.

Phoenix residents vow to fight cuts to city programs

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — As Phoenix leaders prepare to whittle $140 million in city services to help close a $245 million budget gap, neighbors say they are ready to fight for popular programs.  The proposed cuts will be announced this week, and there will be public hearings next month at which residents can voice their concerns before the final vote, scheduled for March 2.  But residents aren’t waiting to have their say.

In central Phoenix, downtown activists are worried about two neighborhood parks that they fear could become havens for crime if they lost funding.  In west and south Phoenix, residents want the city to stop trimming library hours.  And in northeast Phoenix, horse enthusiasts are concerned about a popular equestrian park…

The latest round of cuts comes one year after the city slashed $156 million in city services to close a $270 million general-fund budget shortfall.  City leaders are considering a proposed 2 percent grocery tax that could generate $50 million annually.  But even if it is implemented, the city would still have to cut about $100 million in city services.

Since cuts are inevitable, residents also worried that Phoenix may end recreation programs at University and Verde parks.  Cuts at those parks were proposed last year, but the city backed off amid an outcry from the community.  Activists recently spent most of the Downtown Voices Coalition meeting brainstorming ways to shield those parks from more reductions.  Cuts could erase years of community efforts to boost youth programs, discourage gang activity, and make the parks safer, said Reid Butler, a local developer who belongs to the group.

It’s premature to talk about specific programs because no proposals have been made, city spokesman David Urbinato said.

The Parks and Recreation Department has been asked to suggest ways to cut its budget by 30 percent.  At 30 percent, “it would dramatically reduce, if not eliminate” many parks programs, Urbinato said.  The parks would remain open, but the staffing, programs and community centers attached to them would face deep cuts.  “That’s the tragic downside.  There has been massive investment through the system” over the years, Urbinato said.

People now depend on city services more than ever, said Councilman Michael Nowakowski, noting that he and Councilman Michael Johnson represent some of Phoenix’s poorest neighborhoods in west and south Phoenix.

Residents have pressed Nowakowski to protect after-school programs and library hours, the councilman said.  People wait up to three hours to use free computers at César Chavez Library, because they have canceled their Internet service, he said.  Recently, a mother came to a community meeting with an armful of notices about sex offenders who live in her neighborhood, he said.  She wants the city to keep low-cost after-school programs open so her children will be safe, Nowakowski added.  “We need to listen to find out what are the needs and wants for the whole city,” he said.

Viewpoint: Phoenix, put aside dreams of Gotham

[Source: Joel Kotkin, Arizona Republic] — LOS ANGELES – Now that Phoenix’s ascendancy has been at least momentarily suspended, its residents are no doubt wondering what comes next.  One tendency is to say the city needs to grow up and become more like East Coast cities or Portland, Ore., with dense urban cores and well-developed rail transit.  The other ready option is always inertia – a tendency to wait for things to come back the way they were.

Neither approach will work in the long run.  Over the coming decade, Phoenix has to recalibrate its economy into something based on more than being a second option for Californians and speculative real-estate investment.  Instead, it needs to focus laserlike on economic diversity and creating good jobs.

The model here for Phoenix is not New York or San Francisco.  Phoenix can’t rival these cities for their 19th-century charm or early 20th-century infrastructure.  As we would say back in New York (my hometown): fuggedaboutit.  Instead of dreaming about Gotham, Phoenix should think more about Houston.  Like the Texas megacity, Phoenix is the ultimate late 20th-century town, dependent on air-conditioning, ample freeway space, and a wide-open business culture.

A century away from becoming “quaint,” Phoenix needs to follow Houston’s example of relentless economic diversification: in Phoenix’s case, away from dependence on tourism and construction.  Houston has done this by focusing beyond its core energy sector to fields like international trade, manufacturing, and medical services.  Phoenix’s opportunities may lie elsewhere but may include some of these same industries.  The idea is that the region needs to heal its job problem.  Only then can the real-estate market rebound on a solid basis.

This employment focus must replace the current obsession with changing the city’s urban form.  Despite the current problems, Phoenix has performed pretty well over the past decade, creating more new jobs than most Sun Belt cities, not to mention job losers like San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.  Equally important, it still leads the nation over the past decade in net in-migration among the largest cities.  [Note: Read the full opinion piece at Viewpoint: Phoenix, put aside dreams of Gotham.]

How would you improve 1st Street in downtown Phoenix?

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The first of three stakeholders meetings to discuss the 1st Street Pedestrian Improvements project will be held on Wednesday, February 3 at 4 p.m. at the Irish Cultural Center, 1106 N. Central Ave. (close to Roosevelt Station light rail).  Interested persons are encouraged to voice their opinion to the pedestrian improvements plan for 1st Street between Van Buren and Moreland Streets.  For more information, contact Gail Brinkmann, City of Phoenix Street Transporation Department, at 602-495-2073.