A Phoenix journalist is reported to have said to Richard Florida: “Our lack of…authentic urban neighborhoods puts us at a huge disadvantage in attracting top talent.” (Richard Florida, 2002:284.) Those of us who live in downtown Phoenix would surely disagree with the journalist’s observation. In reality, Phoenix has “authentic urban neighborhoods.” Located primarily downtown, they are home to a diversity of residents including, but not limited to, artists, laborers, Latino and African-American families, older long-term residents, affluent refugees from the suburbs, and everyone in between.
Downtown neighborhoods currently include historic single-family homes, small and large apartment buildings, new urban loft complexes, artists’ live/work spaces, work-force housing, and residential hotels which provide a diversity of housing.
Downtown neighborhoods are mostly mixed-use neighborhoods, generally with commercial uses at their boundaries. Residents can take advantage of neighborhood businesses such as nearby supermarkets and pharmacies, coffee-houses, restaurants, movie theatres, libraries, museums, the symphony, art galleries, music stores as well as sports venues.
The major problem facing downtown neighborhoods is their fragility in the face of rapid downtown development. Long-time downtown residents have watched with despair as whole residential neighborhoods and business areas have been demolished in the name of urban redevelopment. They have witnessed their favorite small businesses move out of downtown as taxes and leases become too expensive. Residents realize that without certain protections and incentives, the neighborhoods that downtown stakeholders have so valiantly attempted to sustain may easily disappear.
The following is a synopsis of some challenges and concerns, as well as some suggested solutions. These challenges are divided into three categories: prevention of negative impacts on surrounding areas, public services and employment.