Monthly Archives: February 2011

NPR Looks at Downtown Phoenix’s Vacant lots

Downtown Phoenix is full of dirt lots. At the peak of the real estate bubble, an acre was selling for about $90 a square foot. Investors and developers thought the city was finally about to grow up. Now, the same land sells for $9 a square foot.

Plans to build high-rise offices and condos are years, if not decades away.


Listen to the story here: Phoenix Officials Face Development Dilemma


Downtown Phoenix’s Irish Cultural Center prepares for expansion

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, The Arizona Republic]

Joe Beringer plays Irish music on a guitar with other musicians at the Irish Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix

Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republic

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t for another three weeks, but the spirit of the day runs year-round at the Irish Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix.

Since opening in 2002, Valley residents have flocked to the center, 1106 N. Central Ave., to discover all things Irish. Dozens of music, dance and language classes are offered during the year as part of the center’s Academy of Irish & Celtic Studies. Now, with construction under way on a $3.5 million, 15,000-square-foot research library at the site, center officials anticipate the request for more classes will only grow.

Maria Elena Rodriguez, 34, has been a regular for more than four years. She initially came to take language classes.

“I had a trip to Ireland planned and thought it would be fun to read the language when I got there,” she said. “I took a couple of classes. They really helped with pronunciations, which can be so difficult. For example, the word “bhfuil” is pronounced “will.”

She made her dream trip and was thrilled to be able to read menus and street signs.

Rodriguez, who is of Mexican descent, speaks English and Spanish and has a good grasp of Italian and French. “I wanted to learn the Irish language, too,” she said. Her ability has progressed, and today she even teaches language classes at the cultural center.

Peoria resident Michelle Campbell, 44, another longtime regular, embraced her father’s Scottish side of the family long ago but more recently discovered her mother’s Irish heritage.

The love affair for the culture has trickled down to her adopted daughter, who is of Hispanic heritage – “but she has a face full of freckles,” Campbell said.

Gabby Campbell, 10, takes piano lessons at the center. “I was interested in learning about my family’s culture and I realized I like Irish music.”

She has come to love playing Irish jigs. “They’re so quick that you have to learn them slower and then change up to be faster,” she said.

Pat McCrossan plays the guitar in a music group with Gabby. He’s a veteran at the center.

He is excited about the upcoming library, which will help people with genealogical research.

That building should bring a wave of newcomers to the center and will accommodate many of the academy’s classes. McCrossan, who is the director of studies, hopes people will be so intrigued they’ll sign up for a class.

“Our idea is to pass on the language, music and dance to all kinds of people, regardless of age or culture or creed,” he said.

McCrossan was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, and has been in the Valley for 15 years. The center teaches a variety of instruments used in Irish music, including the fiddle, banjo, whistle, guitar, piano and the bodhrán drum. “We don’t have an accordion teacher,” he said. “That would be nice.”

McCrossan said the library, designed to look like a castle, will include enough room to hold recitals. The library will feature more than 6,000 books, including masterpieces by Irish poets and authors as well as important periodicals, traveling exhibits from Ireland, movies, music and genealogical tools to provide visitors with opportunities to research their family history.

Groundbreaking began this month, and the building is expected to be open by January.

Read more:

Tea Party supporters hit downtown Phoenix

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal]

If you want a pin-up poster of Sarah Palin, would like to abolish progressive income taxes or think Ronald Reagan is the best president ever, you’ll probably be in downtown Phoenix this weekend.

Approximately 2,200 tea partiers are in Phoenix this weekend for a policy summit focused on federal spending, health care, taxes and immigration. The weekend event is at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Presidential contenders Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, conservative commentator Dick Morris and U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Scottsdale/Tempe, are some of the speakers.

Arpaio is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

A host of conservative, anti-tax and anti-government groups are also in Phoenix advocating everything from the elimination of the Internal Revenue Service and progressive income taxes, to fighting labor unions and President Barack Obama on health care.

Sarah Palin will not be there, according to the event schedule. But conservative groupies of the former Alaskan governor can get a large poster of her — as well as Reagan — from the Young America’s Foundation. You just have to sign up for the group’s mailing list.

Judging from the exhibit hall and the sentiments among those attending, Palin enjoys strong support among the tea party activists for a possible 2012 presidential run.

A Potential Tenant for Vacant Cronkite Space in Downtown Phoenix

[Source: Caitlin Cruz, Downtown Devil]

Evie Carpenter/DD

ASU expects to finalize a lease with an undisclosed tenant who would occupy a vacant retail space in the southwest corner of the Walter Cronkite School building’s ground floor within a week, a university official said on Wednesday.

Negotiations have been in progress since November, and the potential tenant hopes to open his eatery during the spring 2011 semester, said Patrick Panetta, associate director at the University Real Estate Development Office.

Panetta did not disclose the identity of the potential tenant as the deal is not yet official, but he said one of the specifics preventing the completion of the agreement has been the inclusion of ASU’s Maroon and Gold Dollars program.

“We would like him to take M&G Dollars,” Panetta said. “That’s one of the finer points we’ve included in the lease.”’

Recently, downtown businesses have voiced concerns over the high fees associated with M&G, but many students still feel the M&G program has merit.

“These shops (around the Cronkite School) are convenient, and I would like it if they would use M&G, not just Sun Dollars,” said Aly Galt, a freshman kinesiology major.

The retail space, one of two currently vacant in the building, was occupied by Sbarro Italian Eatery until August 2010, and despite the equipment that is already in place for making pizza and similar foods, the potential tenant wants to execute a different restaurant concept, Panetta said.

Panetta said one possibility that has been considered is a salad and smoothie eatery.

However, he said, “that is not the main thrust of the project. There will be other facets.”

Kate Rosenberg, a graduate social work student, said she would welcome a salad and smoothie alternative. Rosenberg said she spends one day a week on the Downtown campus and eats at Subway.

“Only Subway,” she said. “Nothing else is good.”

According to Panetta, the tenant hopes to make a few changes to the equipment and layout of the space. Depending on how quickly the changes can be made, the new restaurant could be opened as soon as late March, Panetta said.

The potential tenant “wanted to get open this semester to announce to the ASU community that he was there,” Panetta said. “This is what he’ll be offering and will see everybody when they are back from summer.”

In addition to filling the spaces in the Cronkite building, the University Real Estate Development Office is responsible for finding tenants for the empty spots on Taylor Place’s ground floor.

“We’re still actively looking for tenants for all the spaces,” Panetta said. “There have been some tentative interest from some local restaurants, but it hasn’t gone very far yet.”

A relocation of Wells Fargo Bank, currently at the Arizona Center, is “potentially in the future” for an open-retail space in Taylor Place, Panetta said.

“They would have to approve the space,” Panetta said. “That is kind of why it isn’t a done deal yet — they haven’t agreed on anything yet.”

Contact the reporter at

Public meeting on west Phoenix light-rail extension

Metro light rail is inviting the public to a meeting next Wednesday so residents can learn and comment on details of the agency’s plan for light rail’s west extension through west Phoenix.

The proposal under consideration by Metro’s advisory board involves laying track from Central Avenue along Jefferson Street, past the Capitol and state buildings to Interstate 17, then north to Interstate 10, where it would then head west to 79th Avenue.

Barring any serious funding issues, the 11-mile west extension could be up and running by 2021.

Some residents in the St. Matthews neighborhood near the state Capitol grounds oppose the proposal, fearing the extension could affect the historic homes in the area. But representatives from various neighborhoods, including Maryvale, have supported the proposal.

And some critics have argued Metro light rail should create a faster commuter line, instead of using the much slower light rail trains, to serve west Phoenix.

Metro has been studying the west Phoenix area for a possible extension since 2007.

The meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, at the Isaac Middle School cafeteria, 3402 W. McDowell Road.

For more information, contact Terry Gruver at (480) 664-2631or via e-mail,

– Emily Gersema,

The 2011 m7 Street Fair is March 5th in Uptown Phoenix

[Source: m7 street fair]

Eleven years ago a group of Seventh Avenue Merchants decided to join together to improve their neighborhood. Plagued with crime and blight the Melrose District was struggling to stay alive. Armed with the mission to facilitate safety, community, revitalization and beautification, these pioneering business owners, through the help of the City of Phoenix’s Fight Back Program, partnered with the School of Architecture at Arizona State University to develop a master plan to revitalize the Melrose Curve.

Relying solely on funds generated by grants and the blessings of the surrounding neighborhoods, the Melrose District slowly began to rebuild itself. One year after the Seventh Avenue Merchants Association incorporated, they held a “street fair” to commemorate the building of the first lighted canopies on Seventh Avenue.

Originally consisting of a few six foot tables, a few dozen classic cars and a few hundred people the m7 Street Fair has grown to over 140 booths, food, rides and crafts for the kids, live music, over 200 classic cars, and almost 18,000 visitors. In ten years this award winning event has become one of the most anticipated events of the year! And this year is no different.

Come join the the fun on Saturday, March 5, 2011 from 11am until 5pm

More information:

A Boutique MADE for Arizona Artists in downtown Phoenix

[Source: Faith Breisblatt, State Press Magazine]

Piece of Craft: A Boutique MADE for Arizona Artists

If you’ve ever wandered around downtown Phoenix near 5th and Roosevelt Streets, then odds are you know about MADE, a locally owned art boutique featuring some of Arizona’s best artists and crafters. I had the opportunity to interview Cindy Dach, a bookseller, artist, community activist, and co-owner of MADE to uncover the ins and outs of this one-of-a-kind shop.

How did MADE begin?
In 2005, a tenant left the space in terrible condition. We had to put a lot of work into it just to make it useable. We didn’t have the heart to put money back into the space and then rent it out again. By 2005, eye lounge was a successful model and we had also started 515 Arts and the Kitchenette space. There were galleries popping up in our area, but there weren’t spaces for the crafters, small works of art or workshops. I also work at Changing Hands Bookstore, so I have a retail background. We thought this would be a great addition to the Roosevelt Row area.

The outside of MADE in downtown Phoenix. Photo courtesy of

Was the goal of MADE always to sell handmade items by local artists or was there some other beginning goal in mind?

Handmade functional art was always the goal of MADE. We also wanted to do and host crafting and small business workshops. We see MADE as a community gathering space where like-minded people can engage in a conversation. We hope that a walk through MADE will serve as inspiration for someone in need. We were the first business in the area with regular hours, so we instantly became an information center for downtown. At this time, we provide opportunity for over 150 artists to exhibit and sell their wares.

What types of one-of-a-kind items do you sell and what types of artists do you feature?
We feature a lot of jewelry, ceramics, woodwork and highly curated books.  We believe that books stimulate the mind.  Our items have to be well-made. We look to work with artists who are in it for the long haul. We want everything to be visually interesting and functional. We want to be a tipping point for another great idea. What we look for is often a matter of taste mixed with what we know will sell. Being a small space (700 square feet) we have to very mindful of how quickly an item turns and the space allotted for it. We’re always open to new artists and new items.

If an artist wanted to get some of their art featured in MADE what would they need to do?
The best thing to do is send me an email at with images of the work, price point and information. We take everything in on consignment and pay 50% back to the artist. If the work looks like it’s a good fit for MADE, then we’ll set up a time to meet to see the work in person.

What other community building initiatives, besides selling local art, is MADE involved in (events and things of this nature for the Phoenix area)?
Oh, we go to lots of community meetings and participate in numerous events. Being surrounded by so many dirt lots, we are in constant talks with the city of Phoenix in regards to their development plans. We work very closely with the merchants association of Roosevelt Row, with a focus on marketing our area. We also partner with a lot of non-profits. Since we opened our doors, we host an annual holiday ornament sale. Students of Phoenix Union School District make holiday ornaments and we sell them every year. All the sales go back to the students. Last year, they used their funds to frame their work for another exhibition. Phoenix Union is one of the poorest districts in the country. We were co-sponsors of a great Pie-Social last November and have already started working on Pie Social 2012.  We participate in First and Third Fridays, Art Detour and the PAPA parade.

What do you think is in the future for MADE?
We have multiple projects on the horizon. MADE is currently expanding its book selection. We’ve heard from our downtown community about their need for books.  We’ll feature some great literary fiction books, old and new. We’ll also feature funny books, smart non-fiction and crafting books. We’re continually expanding our workshop series and we’re always looking for new instructors. We’re continuing to find new and evolving ways to engage our community and serve as a gathering place for the numerous and diverse people that are continuing to make downtown Phoenix their home.

Check out the Downtown Phoenix Simulcast of TED 2011 on March 2

[Source: Robert Diehl]

For the first time in its history, the TED conference is available for one day to be experienced as it happens FREE OF CHARGE.

The day is broken down into 90 minute speakers’ segments from 9:30AM until 7:45PM, so you can attend any segment that has special interest for you.  Please consider attending at least one of them.  Please also consider inviting anyone/everyone you know to take advantage of this historic opportunity.

The venue is in downtown Phoenix at Trinity Epescopal Cathedral. Roosevelt Road and Central Avenue [RoRo].  The simulcast is available under the TEDxScottsdale license [x=independently organized TED event], and is called TEDxScottsdaleLive.

Details, including the speakers schedule, and Regsitration can be accessed via this link:

More information on TED, the TED 2011 conference and TEDx can be accessed via this link:

Reminder: Morning District 4 Meeting on Thursday

A reminder that this month’s Morning District 4 Meeting will be held at Park Central Deli on Thursday, February 24th at 7:30 am. Park Central Deli is located at 3110 N Central Ave (at the south end of Park Central Mall).

Squaw Peak Precinct Commander A.B. Smith and Transit Bureau Commander Jeff Alexander will be our guest speakers. They will discuss the relationship between transit security on light rail and neighborhood crime issues, and how they are working together to prevent crime in both areas. There will also be time for questions.

Please RSVP to Councilman Simplot’s office if you are planning to attend; 602-262-7447 or


Downtown Phoenix is home to the 27th Annual Matsuri Festival this weekend

Arizona Matsuri 2011 Feb 26 27

The 27th Annual Matsuri Festival takes over Heritage & Science Park in downtown Phoenix on Saturday and Sunday, February 26 & 27, 2011.

This two-day celebration features colorful displays of authentic Japanese art, crafts, and entertainment.

Traditional Japanese food and merchandise will be on sale.

This year, the festival recognizes and celebrates Phoenix’ Sister City Himeji in Japan, making it the 2011 theme for Matsuri.

The second city to be formally recognized as a Phoenix Sister City, Himeji became a partner in 1976. The city is located along the Seto Inland Sea some 40 miles west of Kobe, which is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture.

While Phoenix is named for the mythological Phoenix bird, Himeji Castle, which is considered the best-preserved castle in Japan, is called Oshiro or “White Heron” and is designated as a United Nations World Treasure.

The Japanese Friendship Garden, Ro Ho En, located in Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix, is the product and shared vision of the Sister Cities of Phoenix and Himeji and features 1,500 tons of handpicked rock, more than 50 varieties of plants, flowing streams, an authentic tea house, and a 12-foot waterfall and Koi pond.

New This Year!

  • A beer garden with extended hours on Saturday only from 12 noon to 9pm each day.
  • Karaoke contest and some dancing from 5pm-9pm each day.

2011 Taiko Entertainment

The following Japanese Taiko drumming groups and entertainers will be performing on the ASU Stage at Heritage Square and Science Center from 10:30 am – 5:00 pm:

  • Fushicho Daiko*Phoenix Drummers
  • All Arizona Taiko Team
  • Phoenix Taiko Kai
  • Saboten Taiko
  • Aozora
  • Kemushi
  • Ken Koshio, a native Japanese singer & song writer, Taiko player and Japanese folk artist.
  • Washington Elementray Taka Taiko Drummers
  • Faith North Montessori Taiko
  • Senators Taiko
  • SGI Taiko
  • Awa Odori Dancers from Los Angeles, CA
  • Hands On Taiko ~ you know you want to try it!

Monroe Street Stage Performers:

Stay posted to for entertainment updates.



Admission to attend the festival is free.  For more details, please call Heritage Square Office at 602.262.5071.  Recorded information is available at 602.262.5029. Or at the

What: 27th Annual Matsuri: A Festival of Japan!  Phoenix Sister City-Himeji Celebrating 35 Years

Who: Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, Phoenix Sister Cities Commission / Himeji Committee, Japanese American Citizens League, ArizonaBuddhist Temple Desert Cross Community Church, and the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix, along with many other individual benefactors and supporters.

Where: Heritage and Science Park, 115 North 6th Street Phoenix, AZ 85004-2328 (7th Street and Monroe, downtown Phoenix)

When: Saturday and Sunday, February 26 & 27, 2011 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Highlights: Japanese Exhibits, Demonstrations, Arts and Crafts, Children’s Activities,Bonsai Displays, Japanese Food and Entertainment.