Category Archives: Idea of the Day

Change by Us Phoenix launched to allow neighbors to share ideas, start projects

Change by Us Phoenix is an online marketplace for community projects that allows you to share ideas for making the city better, and to turn those ideas into projects that have real impact. From tools to network and manage events to helping you connect with local resources, the site supports a number of ways to get involved.

  • Share Ideas: Have an idea for how to make Phoenix better? Add it to Change by Us and connect with like-minded people and projects in your area. No idea is too big or small.
  • Join or Create Projects: Find great projects in your neighborhood, or start your own! Use Change by Us’ powerful project management tools to recruit volunteers, promote events, and find in-kind donations.
  • Build Teams: Change by Us allows you to tap into a network of people motivated to improve their communities. The site helps you find people by interest, location, and skills. You can even find people by items they have available to lend. Change by Us helps you tap into the power of your community.
  • Find Resources: In addition to projects, Change by Us also maintains information on public and non-profit programs that can help your project succeed. Connect with city services and local knowledge.

Opinion: It’s time to close downtown divide

ASU Downtown is run by helicopter parents. They are friendly parents, but they are still helicopter parents. They are the cautious, closed-minded parents that refuse to encourage their children to play with the neighbor kids. They plug in the video game and think their children will be satisfied.

The administration at ASU Downtown has done little to encourage fusion between campus and community. ASU needs to step up and break down the wall that separates it from the rest of downtown Phoenix, instead of continuing to foster isolation. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

The “It’s Time” video released by ASU earlier this month highlights the university as rejuvenating downtown Phoenix, but the campus administration is doing very little to actually realize that. They are failing to intertwine the Downtown campus with the downtown community. Yes, there are 10,000 students that were not here four years ago, but beyond our bodily presence, we are doing very little for the neighborhood.

It’s time for a change in the mindset and direction of the Downtown administration.

College towns around the country are centered on partnerships between universities and local shops, eateries and entertainment. Downtown ASU has not built these partnerships — at all.

ASU signed a massive contract in 2008 with food provider Aramark that lasts until 2023. It ties the hands of students by forcing them to buy ridiculously priced meal plans. ASU created a food monopoly.

In turn, the administration says it is completely unfair to blame ASU’s policies for the closure of eateries like PastaBar and Verde, both within two blocks of campus. But what did the university do to support their businesses?

The university created an isolated campus. We are sheltered, and it’s time ASU puts resources and time into connecting students with the arts district on Roosevelt and the festivals and activities held on Grand Avenue. We can have all the events and celebrations we want in the shade garden of Taylor Place, but when are we actually going to take a step off of the curb and be a key part of downtown life?

Then again, increasing the cost of the U-Pass to $150 from $80 is the incentive we were looking for, right?

Plans are under way to turn the historic U.S. Federal Post Office building into Downtown’s version of the Memorial Union. One of the ideas brought to the table by an administrator is to make the building only accessible to ASU students. It would be a shame to close out the public to one of the only remaining historic buildings left in Phoenix. That’s not community engagement. We should cherish the uniqueness of our area.

The university is also currently planning out the construction of a downtown student recreational facility. I hope this facility is built in partnership with the YMCA. It baffles me why we would invest in a recreational facility when we already have a stellar setup at the YMCA. Both ASU and the YMCA benefit from each other’s presence.

And where was ASU in denouncing the parking lot built at the site of the old Ramada Inn? ASU allowed the city to build another parking lot that is destructive to the urban environment of our campus.

To counter the new block of hot asphalt, we proposed working with ASU and the city of Phoenix to construct a dog park where the McKinley parking lot is currently located. ASU was not willing to take the extra step in bettering our community. Excuses were made. It was easier to say no. The land has to be used for “educational purposes” because bond money was used to purchase the land. I’m glad that a parking lot meets the university’s standards of an educational purpose.

ASU recently sent a mailer to its alums. With a large picture of downtown in the background, bold white letters read: “With urban temperatures 11 degrees higher than in surrounding areas … how do we design cities that stay naturally cool?” It is a great question, ASU. Unless my knowledge of science is off, I don’t think parking lots are naturally cooling.

Are these advertisements reflecting reality? I am one of the most outspoken supporters of the great attributes of this campus, but there is so much more to be done.

Students need to take responsibility as well. While we bicker about elections and tuition or wave our pom-poms on Taylor Mall, we need to rise above and do our part.

The downtown community is intriguing. This fall, I hope the helicopter ASU administrators begin encouraging their kids to go out and play ball with the neighbors. They are waiting.

Vaughn Hillyard is a journalism sophomore at the Walter Cronkite School and the founder and president of ASU Downtown Alive!

Downtown Phoenix is Fighting to Win HeatSync Labs

[Source: Sean Sweat, PhxDowntowner]

Opportunity Alert!

You may or may not have heard of Gangplank.  It’s “a group of connected individuals and small businesses [in downtown Chandler] creating an economy of innovation and creativity in the Valley [that] envisions a new economic engine comprised of collaboration and community.”   The small businesses that operate out of Gangplank are called “anchors”.  I won’t claim to be an expert on the group but, from what I do know, they are a hotbed for innovation, community development, and civic engagement.  Exactly what downtown Phoenix needs more of.

And I think we have a community that can be a wonderful home for such a thing.  So here’s the opportunity: One of Gangplank’s anchors, HeatSync Labs, is looking for a new home due to growth.  Myself and a few others have recently been trying to bring them here to downtown Phoenix.

HeatSync Labs is a non-profit hackerspace – a coworking facility that makes workspace, tools, equipment, and other resources available while creating a community of collaboration and learning-by-doing.  They work with software, electronics, and industrial equipment.  They also organize educational technology events and assist schools in science & engineering education.  This past Friday they just got a big plug from an adorable Ignite 9 speaker.

HeatSync Labs in action

HeatSync Labs is the kind of place that births entrepreneurs and innovators.  These guys create buzz, energy, and would add a brand new dimension to downtown Phoenix.  These kinds of people do things and affect change in ways that don’t always fit Corporate America’s myopic ROI requirements.    These are the people we need downtown.

Here’s just a few of the projects they have on theirroadmap:

  • Nearspace balloon
  • Wearable computing
  • Solar Concentrator
  • 3D printing & scanning
  • Open source night vision
  • Tesla Coil
  • Massive Trebuchet
  • “Junkyard” Battle Bots
  • and more!

HeatSync's nearspace balloon project

The more I learn about these guys, the more I like them.

They want to be along the light rail, and they want to be somewhere that can charge their creative batteries; a place with life and activities.  Mesa and Tempe are pursuing them – and we have to as well.  If downtown Phoenix is going to matter in 10 years, we have to fight for innovators and community contributors like HeatSync Labs.

Creative Commons

There are dozens of reasons why they would improve our downtown, but let me list out just a few:

  • We have lots of lawyers, students, bureaucrats, designers, and retail/restaurants, but no techies.
  • They generally use their space from 6pm-Midnight, which is when we need more people downtown.
  • They would contribute to downtown activities, community development, and hold events that would bring more people downtown.
  • It would be known that one of the best hands-on science education partners is based in Downtown Phoenix.  The collaborative opportunities with the Arizona Science Centeralone are intriguing.
  • As they grow, it would become known that Downtown Phoenix has Arizona’s premiere hackerspace (as opposed to Tempe or Mesa).

So them being here would help us, the residents, small business owners, and general believers of downtown.  They would bring the exact type of energy, intellectualism, ambition, and vision that our downtown needs, and assimilating them into our community will benefit us all.

We’ve found them a great space in downtown’s warehouse district which currently houses other small businesses, serves their very specific equipment needs, and provides them with a wealth of value-added industrial resources and event space opportunities.  It’s the best possible location for both their current and future needs — the kind of space that will fuel their imaginations and help them grow as innovators.  And we want that growth in Downtown Phoenix.

HeatSync having some fun with lasers

But there’s a but.  There’s always a but.

The downtown space, including the build-out, is slightly above their budget.  The Tempe and Mesa governments are in conversations with the non-profit HeatSync Labs, working to find them grants and funds to relocate to their cities.  We must do the same.  We need to write City Hall and encourage them to fight for Phoenix.

But in the absence of small business support from City Hall, we need to pull together as a community and make this happen.  Their move to downtown Phoenix would be a very visible move that would benefit us all in the long-run.  My goal is for Downtowners to raise $2,000 to make it possible for them to move here and give them an incentive to choose us over Tempe or Mesa.  If you will contribute something, even just $10, then please use the button below to email me your name and pledged amount [tax-deductible].  I will present the total pledges to their relocation committee in two weeks.

HeatSyncers' noses to the grindstone

To get things started, I hereby pledge $100. Please post any questions/comments below.

(Note that all HeatSync pictures came from their Flickr account.)

Idea of The Day: Decentralised Bicycle Parking

[Source: Joe Peach, This Big City]

Cities across the world are starting to pay more attention to the role of the bicycle in creating sustainable urban environments. Encouraging cycling can reduce the strain on public transport provisions, minimise congestion and pollution, and improve the health of those on two wheels. However, if more people choose to cycle, new challenges will emerge in how we run our cities. If your commute to work is more than gentle exercise and the building you work in has no showers, personal hygiene throughout the day can be a problem. And if the city you live in doesn’t provide adequate parking facilities for cyclists, finding a secure location to store your bike for 8 hours can also be a challenge.

Whilst both these issues are simple to overcome, they are enough to deter some from adopting the bicycle as their main form of transport. With this in mind, Australian bicycle parking company Penny Farthings have created the Green Pod—a high quality facility for cyclists containing secure space to leave your bicycle, a changing room, lockers and a shower. Units can be customised depending on the needs of the area or venue they serve.

Penny Farthing’s Mark Rossiter says:

We see parking to be one of the major obstacles between cycling becoming a major transport mode. Recently some governments have started investing in large scale centralised cycle centers with capacity for 200+ cyclists. We believe small scale decentralised parking is better because is makes the facilites closer to users and improves point to point journey times (and they don’t build one car park in a centralized location- because it is inconvenient). With better infrastructure, such as the green pod, we hope to make cycling as a transport mode easy.

The Green Pod has also been created with environmental sustainability in mind, being powered by solar panels on the roof, containing LED lighting activated by motion sensors, grey water treatment units, and timed showers. It operates a self-cleaning system, meaning maintenance costs are reduced.



Phoenix Public Library holiday picks

[Source: City of Phoenix Press Release]

Searching for that perfect gift or looking for a great read to get you through this busy season?  Phoenix Public Library’s Kathleen Sullivan offers the following recommendations.

  • For the artist in all of us – Dorling Kindersley Publishing’s “Life in the Wild” provides remarkable photographs of insects, mammals, fish and birds in the wild.
  • If exercise and healthy food are your passions“Core Strength” by Paul Collins and Robin Asbell’s “The New Whole Grains Cookbook” will start you on your New Year’s resolutions.
  • For the men in your life – In “How to Speak Zombie,” Steve Mockus provides language instruction for the dance floor, office or dog park.
  • Calling all fashionistas – In “My Favourite Dress,” designers, celebrities, models, photographers, stylists and editors share their favorites in this lavishly-illustrated book.
  • Serious reader alert – In “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Isabel Wilkerson uses the stories of three individuals to explore the history of African American migration in the United States.
  • She who cooks – will be delighted with “The Happy Baker: A Girl’s Guide to Emotional Baking.” Erin Bolger’s visually-stunning cookbook also offers a soupçon of dating advice.
  • For the Arizona child“The Twelve Days of Christmas in Arizona,” by Jennifer J. Stewart and illustrated by local artist Lynne Avril, provides Arizona-specific lyrics for the Christmas classic as well as facts and history for the older reader.


Phoenix Public Library is a system of 15 branch libraries and the Burton Barr Central Library.  For more information, call 602-262-4636 or visit  Follow on Twitter at


Today is the last day to register to vote

It is quick and easy to register on the Service Arizona web site.  Click HERE.

Planning a Downtown Phoenix Wedding?

Then check out this guide by our friends at the Downtown Phoenix Journal:

*     *     *

Bentley Projects

Going to the chapel and we’re going to get married…

Well, maybe not the chapel; it’s actually a warehouse in Downtown Phoenix, but that works, too! Nowadays the traditional church wedding followed by a reception seems to be a thing of the past. The all-in-one ceremony/reception is becoming increasingly popular, and Downtown Phoenix is clearly adding its own twist with locations certain to set your big day apart from anything else you’ll find in the Valley.

With venues like the IcehousemonOrchid and Bentley Projects, couples looking to add an urban-chic spin on their ceremony are finding what they want in the city core.

“We are anything but generic,” says Riëtte Pretorius, a private event coordinator in Downtown Phoenix. “I have had quite a few people in the industry actually choose my venues because they are looking for something different and unique.”

While these venues are located within close proximity to one another and offer similar event options, they all provide a different atmosphere.

Read the whole post here.

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ASU grad launches iPhone app for Phoenix light rail riders

[Source: Arizona Republic Light Rail Blog] — An Arizona State University grad has launched a free iPhone application to help people ride Phoenix’s light rail system.  For each station, it features a map, bus connections, a train schedule and travel times to other train stops.  The app also has “how-to” information for riding the system and using fare machines.  Since he launched the app on Dec. 8, Mitch Karren says 750 people have downloaded it.  The curious come from 25 different countries, from China, which has the most subscribers outside the United States, to Mid-East minnow Qatar.

Karren graduated in June 2008 with a degree housing and community development, the exact worst time to jump into Arizona’s turbulent real estate industry.  A week later he was laid off from his real estate related job.  He decided to enroll in a class to learn how to write iPhone apps.  “I noticed other cities had pretty well established iPhone apps for their transit systems,” he said.  “I wanted this to be a service to Phoenix.”

The service has been well received.  Thirty-three people posted reviews, mostly giving it five stars.  Comments range from “wicked, awesome,” to the one critic who calls it “predictable.”

Karren is seeing a steady 22 downloads a day, with only word-of-mouth for marketing.  About 500 users have accessed it 1,500 times.  His analytics data tells him Saturday is the busiest day people use the application and the 8 p.m. hour the busiest hour in each day.  People are most interested in information for the end of the line stations.  In the spring, Karren plans to update the app with information about surrounding businesses.  Ultimately he wants to give people real-time information about where the trains are.  In time, he’s hoping to expand the service to Blackberry and Android phones.

Viewpoint: 2010 offers chances to improve life in metro Phoenix

[Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix insert) editorial board] — The gifts have been unwrapped.  New year’s wishes have been sent.  Holiday decorations have been taken down and put away.  OK, maybe that last one has yet to be scratched off the to-do list.  But with every new year comes vows to make it better, richer and more enjoyable than the last.  With numerous job losses, mortgage foreclosures, and budget cuts in 2009, everyone should want to strive to make this year better.  Today, we suggest ways to help our communities in 2010.

  • Be a tourist. We are creatures of habit. We dine at the same places, shop at the same stores, and take part in the same weekend activities.  Our continued patronage at these spots will be much appreciated.  But if we lived a day or a weekend like a tourist instead of a local, what might we see, find, or learn?  A visit to a museum or art gallery would open our world to arts and culture.  We should treat ourselves to a meal at a special spot or make a purchase at a store.  If we expect tourists to come to the Valley, visit these places and spend money, we should be willing to do the same.
  • Shop local. We can give city coffers a healthy dose of sales-tax revenues by spending money within our municipal borders.  This enables our cities to provide public safety, fill potholes, remove graffiti, rid neighborhoods of green pools, and offer recreational activities.  And it keeps people employed, which churns the economy.
  • Go green. Park the car and take the bus, light rail, or local trolley.  This saves on gas and maintenance costs, and it makes the skies bluer.  Plus, taking public transportation is a great way to see the city from a new perspective.  Let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the ride.
  • Be counted. Fill out the 2010 Census questionnaire.  The census helps the federal government determine how to allocate $400 billion to cities to fund services and programs.  This includes public safety, parks, libraries and senior centers.  Don’t think skipping the census will save the federal government money.  Census workers will go to your home or talk to neighbors to gather the information they need.  Without an accurate count, the money that should have gone to your city will be diverted to municipalities where residents filled out the questionnaires.  Look for your questionnaire in the mail this spring.
  • Stay involved. Political shenanigans and extreme budget cuts in 2009 made citizens more aware of governmental operations.  Taxpayers must stay connected.  Attend council meetings, volunteer in the classroom, and vote for the candidates who will best represent your interests on the city council, school board, and Legislature.

The upside to the struggles in 2009 is a renewed determination to make our communities better.  [Note: With the exception of the U.S. Census bullet point, each of the above suggestions is “right out of the playbook” of the Downtown Voices Coalition’s 2004 report, “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown.”  Good to see we’re thinking along the same lines!]

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: (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.