Blog Archives

Viewpoint: Beyond chains and cheese (restaurant madness and what it means for downtown Phoenix)

Popularity of Matt's Big Breakfast fostered other local restaurant startups.

[Source: Life in Downtown Phoenix blog] — While the arts community was the first generation of pioneers to successfully lift downtown Phoenix out of its doldrums, the second wave of downtown resurgence came from the independent restaurants that gambled on the area.  By 2005, places like Matt’s Big Breakfast, Cibo, and Fate proved that independent restaurants with quality food could really have success downtown.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and 2009 is really proving that as the number of restaurants opening their doors all around the aforementioned downtown pioneers is staggering.  Already this year the Turf (formerly Turf Accountant), Pasta Bar, El Portal, and Sapna’s Cafe have opened.  By the end of the month Moira will bring sushi back to downtown for the first time in years, and sometime soon Luke’s of Chicago will start a branch on Seventh Street in a renovated historic building while a Mediterranean restaurant is set to appear on Roosevelt Street just east of Third Avenue.  Almost every one of those restaurants is within a half-mile radius of the original Matt’s/Fate duo that got things rolling.  Amidst all this Palette apparently closed — which is shocking for anyone like me who was part of the sometimes-90 minute wait on the weekends for brunch — but the rumor is that someone else wanted the location and that Pallette will resurface somewhere else in the area.

Assuming these businesses can survive the current economic conditions, they’ll be poised to really help downtown surge when the housing market finally turns around.  Downtown Phoenix probably already stood alone with Tempe’s Mill Avenue and Old Town Scottsdale as options for those who live in the Phoenix area and prefer walkable urban environments.  But aided in no small part by this restaurant boom, downtown has separated itself from the chains of Mill and the cheese of Scottsdale as probably the premiere locale for urbanists.  While downtown Phoenix is of course only beginning to catch up with even its western competitors in places like Denver and Portland, it has clearly established some positive momentum.  [Note: To read more of downtown_resident’s views, click here.]

On Dec. 27 in downtown Phoenix, visit Light Rail Stop #11

Roosevelt plants trees, holds 25 year anniversary party on Nov. 15

Roosevelt Row’s Trees First Campaign will be doing a tree planting on 6th Ave. in conjunction with the Mayor’s office and HandsOn Greater Phoenix’s Day for Downtown.  Cheer on the volunteers as they bring much needed shade to our streets.

  • Date: Saturday, November 15, 2008
  • Time: 8 a.m. to Noon
  • Place: 6th Ave and Roosevelt, Phoenix

Then later that night, you’re invited to the Roosevelt Neighborhood’s Silver Anniversary!  November 2008 marks the 25th year since Roosevelt was listed on the Historic Register.  It is the first Phoenix neighborhood to receive that distinction.  That’s worth a party, don’t you think?

Drink, Dine, and Party at CIBO and Palatte: Music, Festive Prizes, Special Wine Selections, Great Friends — both familiar and new.  Plus, each guest will have a chance to participate in the creation of a large scale mosaic painting commemorating the event.  NO cover charge!  A portion of food and drink proceeds will benefit Roosevelt’s Neighborhood Association (RAA), a 501c3 non-profit organization.

  • Date: Saturday, November 15, 2008
  • Time: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Place: CIBO & PALATTE, the Fillmore block between 4th & 5th Aves

For more information, click here.

Bevy of downtown Phoenix events coming up this month

[Source: Urban Affair] — Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome at the polls, our urban heart keeps beating and we keep right on celebrating.  There’s more good happening downtown than we have time to shout about.  For example, we have four incredible parties coming up: PHOENIX FUSION at the Market this Wednesday, the MAYOR’s HAPPY HOUR at Fate, our COE HOUSE party on First Friday, and a ROOSEVELT NEIGHBORHOOD all-out hootenanny on November 15.  Details follow…

  • PHOENIX FUSION, Wednesday, November 5 from 4 to 8 p.m.  October’s Fusion was such a hit, we’ve decided to make this a monthly event.  Join ASU Students at the Market for an evening of great music, delicious food, and relaxed, urban ambiance.  WHERE: Downtown Phoenix Public Market, 721 N. Central (southeast corner of Central Ave. & McKinley St.).
  • The MAYOR’s HAPPY HOUR at FATE, Friday, November 7 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.  First Friday’s getting a special buzz this week: it’s the 20th anniversary of the nation’s largest artwalk!  Mix, mingle, and imbibe with Mayor Phil Gordon at Fate while the sun sets and lights come up in the downtown scene.  WHERE: Fate, 905 N. 4th St.‎ (4th Street & Garfield, one block south of Roosevelt).  To RSVP, click here
  • FIRST ON 4TH, Friday, November 7 from 6 to 10 p.m.  Fourth Avenue is THE place to be on First Friday!  Coe House sets the stage; Cibo and Palatte enhance the festive ambiance.  Abundant free parking, dining, art, and music — last month’s party was a blast!  WHERE: Coe House, 365 N. 4th Ave. (just south of Fillmore).  Featuring: Eric Hendrix (paintings and Installation), Robert Denning (paintings), and Rachel Goede (open studio).  Edible treats provided by Cibo; music courtesy of o n e Resident DJs, World Famous Rani “g,” and dk.strickler.
  • SAVE THE DATE ~ ROOSEVELT ANNIVERSARY BASH, Saturday, November 15 from 5 to 11 p.m.  Roosevelt Neighborhood is throwing a huge party on the silver anniversary of its historic designation.  Look for updates soon.

Viewpoint: New growth, new promise for downtown Phoenix

[Source: Andrew Conlin, Special for The Republic] — For nearly two decades, we’ve heard confident predictions that downtown Phoenix was on the brink of a crucial “tipping point,” when public investment would no longer be needed to generate new development that was both vigorous and self-sustaining.  A term like “tipping point” is a kind of mental shorthand, useful in summarizing complex ideas but sometimes misleading when it comes to making decisions or drawing conclusions.

In reality, we won’t see the beginning of a significant shift from public to private investment until downtown achieves the requisite critical mass.  This will be the moment when the collective energy generated by the diverse collection of downtown businesses, retailers, residences, entertainment venues, and academic and cultural institutions fuses into the nucleus of an energetic and growing community.  Private investors will be drawn to this energy, creating new businesses and helping to further enrich the downtown scene.  This will inspire more people to live and work here, generating new opportunities that will draw new investors.  This development “chain reaction” will, we hope, be self-sustaining and transformational.  [Note: To read the full opinion piece and comments, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix ASU concert series meant to build sense of community

Two people sitting

Andy Naylor & Jacob Koller of Try Me Bicycle

[Source: ASU] — ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus is using the power of music to engage faculty, staff, and students to build lasting relationships with their local community.  Try Me Bicycle will headline the inaugural “Know Your Neighbor” free concert series, which starts next week and runs through November.  Sponsored by the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus and local communities, the series is open to the public and designed to introduce students to each other and the community where they live.  

“The Know Your Neighbor concert series is an exciting opportunity for ASU faculty, staff and student body to get to know local venues, musicians, community members and each other,” said Malissa Geer, community engagement liaison for the Office of the University Vice President at the Downtown Phoenix campus.  “Our campus is surrounded by many local businesses and organizations that are eager to know our faculty, students and staff in a much more meaningful way.  Using the arts and local venues is only one of the many unique ways for ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus to become even more integrated into this rich and vibrant community.”

The series kicks off on Tuesday, Sept. 23 at Cibo, 603 N. Fifth Ave.  Additional shows by Try Me Bicycle are scheduled for downtown Phoenix Sunnyslope, Grand Avenue Arts District, and Roosevelt Row.  A portion of the band’s debut CD, Voicings, will go toward future support of community engagement activities.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Adaptive reuse key to Phoenix’s diverse and unique history

[Source: Kimber Lanning, Local First Arizona, and David Cavazos, City of Phoenix, “My Turn” column, Arizona Republic] — The city of Phoenix has a plan to ensure our history will become part of our future, as vintage buildings are given new vitality through a process known as adaptive reuse.  This process instills a sense of character and diversity in our city -– a balance of modern construction and the modification of existing buildings.  The process also represents a commitment to future generations and provides jobs for today. 

During the last few years, we have witnessed tremendous growth in our city.  Partners including small business owners and entrepreneurs are major components to this growth.  In exchange for sweat equity, they are looking for a simplified path through the development process. 

It is easier to see why major projects such as the Phoenix Convention Center, CityScape, and Sheraton Downtown Phoenix (to name a few), are essential to economic growth and prosperity.  However, we all need to better realize the importance of the small adaptive reuse projects, including restaurants such as Fate, Cibo, Palette, and Roosevelt Tavern, and shops such as MADE Boutique.  These new businesses offer the influx of ASU and U of A students, convention visitors, and guests of the new Sheraton memorable experiences and places to frequent.

The positive benefits of adaptive reuse come with some challenges.  Bringing older buildings up to code to meet today’s fire, structural safety, and accessibility requirements can present a financial burden for small business owners.  At the end of the day, the adaptive reuse project must be financially feasible.  To this end, the City of Phoenix developed a pilot program to simplify the process of modifying older buildings for new purposes, while continuing to ensure the safety of all construction.  This program includes a comprehensive 10-item plan that includes defining life safety issues; allowing the routine use of the International Existing Building Code (which often reduces the scope and cost of modifications to the building); internal and external education programs; and evaluating “best practices” of other cities.  A task force comprised of senior staff from a number of city departments was formed to ensure all 10 items are achieved.  The task force also will conduct focus groups to ensure that we are including our diverse community in this plan.

At this stage in the evolution of downtown, city leaders recognize the need for the city to become a partner in the growth of new businesses, both large and small.  Now is the time to encourage business growth with over 750 new student residents moving downtown in August, and over 1,000 overnight guests daily coming to our new Sheraton and new light rail connecting downtown to other parts of the Valley.  The City is committed to streamlining and deregulating the development process for adaptive re-use and new in-fill development in our city’s core without compromising public safety.  Mayor Gordon and City Council are in strong support of this pilot program and will review the task force recommendations in the fall.

Restoring pieces of Phoenix history (Republic editorial)

[Source: Arizona Republic, June 16, 2008] — Phoenix, a city once smitten with everything new, is now romancing its older sections as a way to preserve, beautify, and energize.  And this time, it’s not just talk.  That’s evidenced by a series of actions that implemented a plan to make “adaptive reuse” more common and easier to do.  The progress was promoted and bolstered by a vocal and surprisingly influential cadre of activist citizens and buoyed by a number of recent commercial successes across the city that are included within Small Wonders, Local First Arizona’s pocket-sized guide to shopping and dining in central Phoenix.

Don’t believe it?  Think that such innovative thinking, such a reverence for the past was more suited to Portland, Austin, or San Francisco?  Look again.  Better yet, check out the Downtown Voices Web site and scroll down to a June 9 entry that chronicles the success stories, the missed opportunities, and the great potential to redevelop older houses into restaurants and businesses, to transform industrial spaces and warehouses into studio apartments and art galleries.  It’s a video collection of Phoenix “treasures” that will inspire you — ones that you might even visit: Cibo, La Grande Orange, the Bentley galleries, Hotel Monroe, the Antique Store, and the Genesis charter school.

Even more significantly, city management and the Developmental Services Department officials seem to embrace the concept.  In recent years, we heard horror stories how code-enforcement, fire, and other regulators placed all kinds of requirements and roadblocks in the way of such developments.  But as if on cue, the market started rewarding those persistent entrepreneurs, now seen as visionary innovators.

The Phoenix City Council listened.  City staff took notice.  The community advocates, including Local First, Downtown Voices, and downtown artists echoed author Jane Jacobs’ counsel: “New ideas must use old buildings.”  City policies reflect the changing attitudes:

  • A second development code, The International Existing Building Code, geared for older buildings, offers some practical relief on renovations while maintaining public safety.
  • Creation of an Office of Customer Advocacy to help small businesses confused by the regulatory process.
  • Participation directly in the Downtown Artist Issues Task Force.
  • Appointed a 21-member Adaptive Reuse Task Force with representatives from the city manager’s office, the City Council and several city departments. The task force will develop comprehensive recommendations by this fall. It might borrow from successful policies used in Denver, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

This newfound interest down at City Hall about incorporating old buildings into new uses?  The adaptive reuse of existing space for new businesses?  It’s not just lip service.