Blog Archives

What would you add to a map of central Phoenix vitality?

Here’s an unofficial list of revitalization initiatives in downtown Phoenix, created by a member of Downtown Voices Coalition, including color-coded status report (as critiqued by the map’s author).  Many are (or could be) “fine-grain” projects that make a city a community.

  • BLUE: Successful (Maintain!)
  • GREEN: In Progress
  • YELLOW: On Hold; Caution
  • MAGENTA: On Life Support
  • RED: Failed

Click on an individual colored-pin for some “color commentary” and background.

Other important initiatives impacting downtown Phoenix and environs are larger in geographic scope (and thus harder to pinpoint on this map): Adaptive Reuse Task Force; Arts, Culture and Small Business Overlay; Canalscape; Connected Oasis; Discovery Triangle; Grand Avenue; Opportunity Corridor; Roosevelt Row; Shade/Tree Planting Efforts; Urban Form Project.

Any and all additions, edits, suggestions, or offers of mapping expertise are more than welcome.

Small businesses have high hopes for downtown Phoenix

[Source: Betty Beard, Arizona Republic] — For all its looming high-rises and growth, downtown Phoenix hasn’t become so big that entrepreneurs feel squeezed out.  In fact, owners of small businesses in and near downtown Phoenix see only opportunity in the urban professional workers; the growing nightlife; the expanding Arizona State University campus; and the tripling of the Phoenix Convention Center coupled with a new 1,000-room Sheraton hotel.  They watch optimistically as new offices and residential and retail buildings are being constructed, and they’re especially eager for Saturday’s arrival of light rail.

Progress in downtown Phoenix is noticed, though some say it hasn’t come quickly enough.  The area is not yet the vibrant, 24-hour urban core many expected.  One big challenge is increasing pedestrian traffic because downtown Phoenix isn’t as compact as other downtowns in the Valley.  Most small businesses are on the fringes of downtown, where owners still can find an old building with character that can be leased cheaply enough (maybe in the range of $15 to $18 a square foot) to allow the property to become profitable.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.] 

Editor’s Note: Downtown Voices Coalition has long called for investment in and promotion of Phoenix’s locally owned businesses.  Summary recommendations from the 2004 “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown” report are highlighted below.  To review the full report, click here.

Locally Owned Business: Sustain a unique and thriving downtown by choosing to invest in our local economy, cultivate consumer choice, and encourage cultural diversity by nurturing small, locally owned businesses.  The City should be willing to effectively “co-sign” for any developer who is willing to place locally owned businesses in new projects, and offer incentives to developers who seek out local businesses as tenants.  Fifty percent of the businesses located in the Phoenix Convention Center should be locally owned.  A study should be initiated to show the positive impact locally owned businesses have on the economy and use these findings to engage potential lenders and developers, and to inform policy makers.

Small businesses rate quality of life, downtowns of Arizona cities

The O’Neil Associates/ASBA Economic Indicators Monitor asked 3,000 small businesses across the state two questions about quality of life.  The first of these asked, “Which of these cities do you believe has the best quality of life?”  Three cities dominated responses.  Tempe was the city chosen most often for best quality of life, with fully a quarter (25%) of respondents.  Tempe was followed by Tucson (21%), and Prescott (21%).  No other city received responses in double digits, although Phoenix (8%), Flagstaff (7%), and Gilbert (7%) were notable.

Quality of Life









When focus was moved exclusively to the issue of the best downtown, only four cities received significant numbers of mentions.  Again, the most commonly cited city was Tempe (29%).  This was followed by Phoenix (23%), Scottsdale (21%), and Prescott (15%).

Best Downtown









The results are taken from the Q3 O’Neil Associates/ASBA Arizona Economic Indicators Monitor.  Results provide insights into the perceptions of business owners on the economic health and vitality of the Arizona economy.  The survey has a margin of error (at the 95% confidence level) of approximately +/-6%.  For a complete copy of all O’Neil Associates/ASBA Arizona Economic Indicators Monitor reports released to date, as well as opinion research reports on an array of other topics, click here.

“The Happening” happens to be happening in downtown Phoenix, Nov. 1

The Happening at Copper Square[Source: Arizona Republic] — The second annual Happening in Downtown Phoenix is Saturday, Nov. 1 and includes a loft and home tour, a pub crawl, the What’s Happening Street Expo, the third annual Parade of the Arts, and the first It’s Happening sweepstakes.  The festivities begin at 10 a.m. on Fifth Street between Roosevelt and Garfield streets and will continue until 2 a.m. For more information or to purchase tickets for the loft/home tour and pub crawl, click here.

The event is sponsored by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership in conjunction with the Phoenix Community Alliance, the Mayor’s Office, and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.  The goal is showcase the growing array of living and entertainment options in the 90-block area that makes up downtown Phoenix. “We’re excited about this year’s celebration and the opportunity to showcase the energy and dynamism of the downtown scene,” said David Roderique, DPP’s president and CEO.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Should Phoenix light rail hours extend to 1 a.m.?

Advocates for a vibrant, 24/7 downtown Phoenix hope to convince the Phoenix City Council to extend light rail closing hours from Midnight to 1 a.m.  The Council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee will discuss this matter at their Thursday, September 18 meeting at City Hall, 12th Floor, 200 W. Washington St. (start time is 9 a.m.).  The public is invited to attend.

To view the full meeting agenda, click here.  To read the Downtown Voices Coalition position statement on the matter, click here.

Idea of the Day: Dealing with empty lots

15th Ave. & McDowell Rd., Phoenix, AZ

From time to time, we’ll throw out an “Idea of the Day” culled from sources here in Arizona and elsewhere.  The following idea comes from a recent article in New London, Connecticut’s daily newspaper, The Day, about their city’s attempt to deal with vacant, dormat lots in their downtown, a problem experienced in many cities across the U.S., including Phoenix:

“Frank McLaughlin, a downtown developer, and Penny Parsekian, the New London Main Street CEO, said some people have started talking about reverse taxation: levying a higher tax on a property that is vacant.  ‘What happens is, that vacancy devalues the property around it, and so there should be a fee for that,’ Parsekian said.  ‘It’s been that way in Germany forever — you get taxed on the land instead of the property.  And vacant land gets taxed at a higher rate.'”

Downtown Voices statement on Phoenix light rail evening hours

At a recent Mayor’s breakfast meeting, the scheduled times of operation of light rail were announced.  The trains, as it was reported at this meeting, will shut down between 12 midnight and 4:45 a.m. except for “special events.”

If downtown Phoenix is ever going to become what its proponents have stressed it should be, a “24/7 vibrant downtown” then not having light rail run 24 hours a day is a detriment to achieving this goal.  The reasons are many:

  • Closing time for nightlife and entertainment is generally 2 a.m., with many other locations doing “after-hours” past the traditional bar closing times.
  • Restaurant and bar workers don’t finish at midnight, and they are the ones who would use late-night public transportation.
  • Taking people who stay out late night and use light rail as their “designated driver” would reduce DUI arrests and accidents caused by impaired drivers.
  • It is the measure of a city’s vitality and growth when it recognizes that a true “24/7” downtown doesn’t close at 12 midnight.

This doesn’t mean the train needs to run every 20 minutes.  If trains could just run a once an hour schedule, riders would at least know there is a way with some patience to avoid driving.  

Funding could be partnered with many different entities, including the hospitality and beverage industry and various anti-DUI organizations.

Downtown Voices Coalition, by a unanimous vote of its steering committee, asks the Mayor, City Council, and interested parties to find a solution for running light rail on a 24 hour schedule.

Thank you.


Steve Weiss, Chair, Steering Committee, Downtown Voices Coalition

Mark your calendar for Urban Affair, Sept. 26 – Oct. 3

Phoenix Art Museum“Urban Affair” begins at the Phoenix Art Museum on Friday, September 26, 2008.  The goal of the week-long series of events is to showcase:

  • Phoenix’s arts community conveying the energy and vitality of urban life;
  • Downtown development projects that are reshaping the urban core;
  • Design elements and amenities highlighted in revitalized historic neighborhoods; and
  • The creative businesses and individuals for whom downtown is inspiration and home.

For more information, click here.

Mayor Gordon to discuss downtown emerging projects, June 3

Join Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and members of the downtown business community to discuss emerging projects and initiatives in Downtown Phoenix.  With the light rail construction wrapping up and cranes moving around each day, Mayor Gordon will share his vision of the “next steps” for downtown.  Coffee will be provided.

  • Date: Tuesday, June 3, 2008
  • Time: 8:15 to 9 a.m.
  • Place: Tom’s Tavern, One Renaissance Square, located at Central Avenue & Washington on the northeast corner
  • Parking: Parking at the Patriots Park underground garage will be validated
  • RSVP: Click here