Blog Archives

Touring downtown Phoenix… by bike

Visiting the murals in the alley behind 5th St. near Roosevelt (photo source: Tony Arranaga)

[Source:] — I took my neighbors on a hour long bike tour of downtown Phoenix.  Mike and Jane were not too familiar with the backstory to some of the historic sights in our urban core, so it was fun to give them some background on the landmarks in the heart of the city.

We started in the Evans Churchill neighborhood near 4th Street and Fillmore.  We visited the community garden near Conspire Coffee and the murals in the alley behind 5th Street near Roosevelt in the arts district.  Mike, Jane and I then went to the Phoenix Public Market, the Westward Ho and Civic Space Park.  Our tour then continued south on 1st Avenue to see the Orpheum Lofts, 44 Monroe and the old City Hall.

Next. we made our way over to Hanny’s Restaurant, which used to be home to a high end department store back in the day.  We then stopped by St. Mary’s Basilica where Pope John Paul II visited several years ago.  Our trip ended at Heritage Square and then we stoppped for a bite to eat at Front Row – TGIFriday’s restaurant inside Chase Field where the Arizona Diamondbacks play ball.

How did I do?  Where would you take friends or out of town guests to explore the heart of Phoenix?  [Note: Read the full blog entry at Touring downtown Phoenix… by bike.]

5 downtown Phoenix projects win Valley Forward awards (6 if you count light rail)

Civic Space Park, "Her Secret is Patience," and adjoining Taylor Place and light rail win awards

[Source: Shaun McKinnon, Arizona Republic] — The Valley’s light-rail system received the top prize Saturday night in Valley Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards, a program that honors contributions to livability and sustainability.  The rail system, which opened less than a year ago, was recognized for connecting Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe with a transportation network that contest judges noted had already exceeded expectations.  “While light rail won’t solve the Valley’s transportation challenges, it offers a flexible and cost-effective alternative to the automobile and was designed to be integrated with all modes of transport,” said Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward, a community group that works on livability and sustainability issues.

The group presents its awards in more than a dozen categories each year to cities, community groups and private businesses. From among the category winners, the judges choose one to receive the President’s Award, the contest’s best-in-show recognition.

Metro Light Rail won a first place in the Livable Communities, Multimodal Transportation and Connectivity category.  The awards are named “Crescordia,” a Greek term that means “to grow in harmony.”  More than 150 entries were submitted for the awards. The rest of the winners:

Downtown Phoenix

  • Civic Space Park, a 2.8-acre public space near Central Avenue and Fillmore Street in Phoenix, was honored for its mix of gathering spaces and storefronts, built with efficient use of materials.
  • Her Secret is Patience, the billowing outdoor sculpture suspended above Phoenix’s Civic Space Park, won the top public-art honor. The judges saw “an important statement about fostering sense of place, community and pride.”
  • Hanny’s, a restaurant and lounge in downtown Phoenix, won for its adaptive reuse of a historic building.
  • Habitat, the living wall and garden at the Phoenix Convention Center, was recognized for its design and use of resources to provide a comfortable gathering place.
  • Arizona State University’s Taylor Place, a student housing complex at the school’s downtown Phoenix campus, won for multi-family residential building.


  • The headquarters of Sundt, a Tempe-based contractor, was recognized for its green-building achievements, which included energy-saving features and efficient use of materials.
  • The Tempe Transportation Center won two first-place awards, one for industrial and public works buildings and structures, and one for its rooftop landscaping in the site development category.
  • ASU’s campus solarization project was honored for an effort to generate more renewable power on the school’s Tempe campus.
  • Burgis Envirolutions was honored in the environmental-technologies category for its organic-refuse conversion process, which transforms more than a ton of food waste each day into a nutrient-rich effluent.

Other locales

  • Phoenix’s Bag Central Station, a campaign to recycle plastic bags, was honored in the environmental education and communication category.
  • A remodeled Sunnyslope office building was recognized for its side development and landscape at the remodeled 40-year-old building.  Imirzian and Associates architects and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects were named in the award.
  • ASU’s Polytechnic Campus was honored for transforming a site on the former Williams Air Force Base into what the judges described as a walkable, shady campus.
  • The Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale was recognized for the work done to re-vegetate the site, the use of rainwater harvesting for water and solar energy to provide its power needs.

For a complete list of categories with merit award winners, click here.

Celebrating downtown Phoenix via Get Your Phx

5928_135682899637_135682644637_3266102_4066150_n[Source: Arizona Republic MetroMix] — Get Your Phx (pronounced “fix”) may still be in its infancy, only starting up in January 2009, but this celebration of downtown Phoenix’s urban pioneers is evolving as quickly as the city it honors.  It’s a monthly gathering of roughly 40 young politicos and downtown enthusiasts at all the studios, restaurants, and galleries soon to be musts on everyone’s to-visit list, all learning about the foodies, politicians, musicians, restaurateurs, and artists responsible for the rebirth of downtown Phoenix.

Ken Clark, a Phoenix real-estate agent and downtown advocate, is the mastermind behind the parties, which he likens to a “Central Phoenix Booster Club.”  Celebrated businesses in the past have been SideBar, Hanny’s, the Clarendon Hotel and Suites’ Gallo Blanco Cafe, and Monorchid Creative Studios.  “The underlying principle is these are people who are taking a huge risk, and if you have ever taken a risk with a business you know what a challenge that is,” said Clark.  “They are taking a risk on making central Phoenix better, measurably better.”

But these events are not to be confused with your average networking cocktail hour.  Yes there are drinks, and yes they are even catered at times, although donations are welcomed.  And business cards will inevitably be passed around, but building a larger contact list is not the goal.  “This is a relationship based on a shared optimism for downtown,” said Clark.  “Not all of us could build a building, or start a restaurant, but what we can do is celebrate those people who do.  There is so much energy going on for central Phoenix, and people want to be a part of that. It is almost like watching something being born, and you don’t often get to do that.  This (Get Your Phx) provides a way for people to see the birth of this new lifestyle and city.”  [Note: Read the full article at Celebrating downtown Phoenix via Get Your Phx.]

“Icons of Phoenix” premieres March 6


Local artist Jason Hill will premiere “Icons of Phoenix,” his latest series of handcrafted prints during Art Detour in March at Practical Art in Phoenix.  View Jason Hill’s new hand-printed silkscreen editions of iconic architectural landmarks in Phoenix, including Arcosanti, Taliesin West, Luhrs Tower, Westward Ho, Security Building, Rosson House, Hanny’s, Phoenix Towers, and the Phoenix Financial Center. Each image will be available in signed & numbered editions of five, printed with pearlescent pigments on 21″ x 17″ 80 lb. Neenah Environment paper.

A reception for the artist will be held Friday, March 6, 2009, beginning at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served.  The event is free and open to the public.  No RSVPs are necessary.  The exhibition will continue until March 31.  Practical Art is located at 5070 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix, just a block and a half north of Camelback. During this show, Practical Art will be a stop on the annual Art Detour route, March 6 -8, 2009, sponsored by ArtLink.

Hanny’s infuses downtown Phoenix with classic fare in a historic building

[Source: Michele Laudig, Phoenix New Times] — Finally, something to cheer about.  In a city where preservationists have new reasons to gripe all the time — sharp mid-century homes getting razed to make way for McMansions, architecturally significant buildings being bulldozed so somebody can slap up another generic bank or strip mall — there’s good news about at least one historic building.  Better yet, it’s right downtown.  And the icing on the cake?  It’s home to a new restaurant called Hanny’s.

Like its stark International Style building façade, Hanny’s all-day menu is streamlined, featuring just a handful of starters, pizzas, sandwiches, and salads.  It’s well-crafted, affordable fare that’s perfect for a light lunch, an informal dinner, a happy hour snack, or a late-night nosh — not destination dining by any stretch, but considering the beautifully restored surroundings and the sheer character that this place brings to the area, it’s still a Phoenix destination.

Hanny’s has quite a story.  It’s named after businessman Vic Hanny’s “Distinguished Store for Men and Women” originally located there, a place where generations of Phoenicians shopped for designer-label clothing.  After the store was shuttered in the ’80s, the circa 1947 Hanny’s building sat vacant, occasionally getting torched by the fire department to train firefighters.  It was added to the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 2005, the same year the city negotiated with restaurateur Karl Kopp (owner of Scottsdale’s AZ88, as well as spots in Milwaukee and Manhattan) to exchange it for a building he owned on Central Avenue. City officials wanted to acquire Kopp’s property as part of the planned ASU Downtown Campus; Kopp was willing to bring the historic Hanny’s building back to its vintage grandeur.

Three years and $5 million later, Hanny’s is a well-polished modernist gem.  Artist Janis Leonard — known for her cheeky, rotating installations at AZ88 — designed the spare, elegant interior, where charcoal-colored banquettes line the perimeter, chocolate leather chairs hug smooth granite-topped tables, and soft uplighting emphasizes dramatically high ceilings (high enough to have a curvy mezzanine overlooking the dining room).  Everything gleams, from terrazzo floors to the bar in the middle of the space, where a bright red meat slicer sits like a candy apple behind glass.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Hanny’s reopens as downtown Phoenix restaurant

[Source: Howard Seftel, Arizona Republic] — It took Karl Kopp three years, but the man behind long-running AZ88 has finally opened his downtown spot, Hanny’s.  Hanny’s, old-timers will recall, was downtown Phoenix’s showcase department store for decades, until it closed almost 20 years ago.  The new Hanny’s is at the same address.  Kopp is hoping it will generate the same kind of spirited and spirit-fueled vibe as AZ88, a place, he says, “to eat, meet and talk.”  The late-night hours and wallet-friendly prices, he believes, will encourage downtown dwellers and event-goers to hang out.

The menu is certainly accessible enough.  Appetizers include onion strings ($7), grilled cauliflower ($7.50) and pancetta-wrapped shrimp ($12).  Looking for greenery?  There’s a chopped salad with hard-boiled egg, avocado, hearts of palm and artichokes ($11).  Among the sandwiches are charred pork loin on Italian bread ($8) and a P.A.T. — pancetta, arugula and tomato — on toasted English muffin ($8.50).  Kopp wants you stick around for desserts like tiramisu ($7) and donuts with chocolate sauce ($5).  A variety of cocktails, classic and contemporary, and a well-crafted international wine list are two other inducements to stop in.