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Why Gangplank didn’t locate in downtown Phoenix

[Source: Derek Neighbors, Gangplank, December 19, 2008] — People often ask why we didn’t locate in downtown Phoenix when we moved Gangplank.  I always try to be polite with my response (or usually I do).  However, the truth is because we feel that downtown Phoenix is dead.  It has been for a long time.  Twenty years of pouring money into it hasn’t changed much.  Now before you go and label me a hater (which I am), I will say that I worked for nearly ten years at the heart of downtown.

While I remain in love with the concept of a vibrant downtown, those ten years taught me that our downtown is a lost hope.  It is bustling with people from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, but then it turns into the proverbial ghost town.  Light rail or billions of dollars in cash infusions won’t change this.  Adding skyscrapers and professional sports arenas certainly hasn’t.

The problem is Phoenix is where people from high rent places like Chicago, California, etc. come to own a piece of the American dream (land/home ownership) or from the mid-west where rural (space) is a way of life.  The people dwell by choice in our suburbs.  In order for downtown Phoenix to not be dead, it has be inhabited by the people currently choosing the edges. I don’t see this happening on a scale large enough to make an immediate difference.

So back to Gangplank, there is a myth that if you centrally locate you attract a large base of the greater community.  The problem is downtown Phoenix has NO PEOPLE, making it effectively the center of “bullshit and nowhere.”  West or East side residents have little interest in driving 30 to 50 miles nor do North or South residents, when the destination is nowhere.  Metro Phoenix is now big enough that picking a side actually yields better results than picking the uninhabited middle.  Yes, I’m sure I have pissed several people I respect off by now, but signs that the current movement is failing yet again are written all over the wall.  This economy is not helping.  Both the USA Today: “Pain on Main Street: Timing proves bad for Phoenix” and Arizona Republic: “Developers scale back $900 million CityScape project in Phoenix” ran articles on the subject lately.

While there are many locals that remain hopeful like Sam: “Deserted After Dark” and Tyler: “The State of Downtown Phoenix…”  Let’s face it, when a downtown ambassador employed by merchants to assist visitors, says he often sends tourists to Scottsdale and Tempe when they ask about night life. Then states, “It’s a ghost town.”  That’s a pretty strong sign that there are serious problems with the current formula.  I love metro Phoenix (including its downtown) and I hope that I am wrong, but as of now I’m not willing to gamble my money on it.

Before you respond… Do you live in downtown Phoenix?  If not, why?  If so, do you have a spouse and kids?  For now I would classify downtown approx. 19th Ave to 24th Street between Thomas and Buckeye (16 or so square miles).  [Note: To read the full blog entry and comments, click here.]

Quote of the Day: “It’s a ghost town”

“Steffin Newman, a downtown [Phoenix] ambassador employed by merchants to assist visitors, said he often sends tourists to Scottsdale and Tempe when they ask about night life.  ‘Since I started here six months ago, it’s looked like recession to me,’ he sighed.  ‘It’s a ghost town.'”

Since Steffin’s comments appeared in the December 12 USA Today, apparently he’s been suspended.