Blog Archives

Phoenix ranks as 14th-safest U.S. city

[Source: Ofelia Madrid, Arizona Republic] — The Phoenix metropolitan area is considered the United States’ 14th-safest city, according to a recently released forbes.com list.  The business magazine ranked the 40 largest metropolitan areas in America, based on four categories of danger.  Statistics included 2008 workplace-death rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2008 traffic death rates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and natural-disaster risk, using rankings from green living site SustainLane.com.  Also considered was the FBI’s violent-crime rate from the bureau’s 2008 uniform crime report.

Phoenix-Scottsdale-Mesa finished just ahead of Chicago and Austin.  Phoenix metro had the fifth-lowest risk for a natural disaster.  Minneapolis topped this year’s forbes.com list as the safest city in the United States, with the online magazine touting the city’s low crime rate.  Milwaukee ranked second with the lowest natural-disaster risk and Portland, Ore., ranked third, with the lowest crime rate of all the areas considered.  [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix ranks as 14th-safest U.S. city.]

Viewpoint: Opportunity for Downtown Phoenix?

[Source: Adam Klawonn, Phoenix Magazine, June 30, 2009] — Last week, Phoenix City manager Frank Fairbanks announced he was retiring in November after nearly 20 years in the driver’s seat at City Hall.  Today, Phoenix has grown to become the fifth largest city in the country with more than 1.5 million people.  Obviously, Fairbanks was successful.  But even as thankful as some folks are for his work, there are others who are just as thankful that he hung up his shingle.  This is not in a negative way, mind you, but in a way that looks forward to hiring a fresh set of eyes — one that focuses more closely on Downtown development.

Despite his good work, Fairbanks was often viewed as a hurdle by hardcore fans of the Downtown lifestyle.  Even as they pleaded with City Hall to focus more on the area, Fairbanks was loathe to invest more public money there for development and infrastructure because, thus far, he felt he wasn’t seeing a real return on the city’s investment.  As a result, most of the new policies affecting Downtown came from the community-at-large and the office of Mayor Phil Gordon — and sometimes encountered resistance from Fairbanks.

There’s already talk of where the next city manager should come from. City officials have said they will conduct a national search.  The final approval rests with the City Council.  Some folks would like to see Phoenix court managers from cities with vibrant downtowns and light-rail transit.  This includes places such as Denver, Salt Lake City, and Portland.

This could be a the turning point for Downtown that those Phoenix crowds were looking for, says Dean Brennan, a former Phoenix planning official who is now a principal with the Project for Livable Communities.  “Getting someone with downtown [development] experience in a city where they have a light rail system would be a great combination,” he says.

You haven’t heard the last of this topic.  The conversation will only get louder as November gets closer.  We’ll have a feature that paints the complete picture later this fall.  [Note: For other viewpoints on this topic: “Phoenix will miss Frank Fairbanks,” Arizona Republic editorial; “The model modern city manager,” Jon Talton, Rogue Columnist blog]

Skyline struggles to give Phoenix sense of identity

[Source: Richard Nilsen, Arizona Republic] — A city’s skyline is its ID photo.  Think the Transamerica Pyramid and the Golden Gate Bridge for San Francisco, the George Washington Bridge, and the Empire State Building for Manhattan.  And Dallas, well, Dallas has its freeway flyovers.  But what is Phoenix’s mug shot?  

“The first view of most visitors to Phoenix is the downtown towers silhouetted against Camelback, Mummy, or South mountains as their airplanes bank for a landing,” says Max Underwood, an Arizona State University architecture professor. The mountains are certainly part of it, but what about those buildings?  Do they give Phoenix a sense of self?

Phoenix is now the fifth-largest city in the nation, and it keeps getting bigger.  But smaller cities have a more distinct architectural profile: San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Denver.  “Our high-rises are not interesting enough, varied enough, tall enough or numerous enough to create a skyline worth talking about,” says Grady Gammage Jr., a Valley lawyer and urban-planning critic.

It isn’t just a question of individual buildings of architectural distinction — Phoenix has several of those. It’s about an overall sense of architecture as a source of civic pride and urban identity.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Where will Phoenicians gather outdoors to meet, debate?

With the demise of Patriots Square Park in downtown Phoenix and the limited amount of acreage at the now-under-construction Downtown Civic Space, where will the grand public gatherings be held in or around downtown Phoenix?

Barack Obama rally, Waterfront Park, Portland, OR May 18, 2008. (oregonianphoto]As a reference point from another Western U.S. city, Portland, OR’s Waterfront Park hosted a May 18, 2008 primary rally for Presidential candidate Barack Obama.  The local fire department estimated 75,000 people in attendance, while the Washington Post, in their coverage of this event, considered the record crowd to be the size of a city.

A proposal by the local chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), pictured at left, “envisions a more formalized public space in downtown Phoenix which expands the proposed boundaries of the space into the streets, and invites casual public interaction with retail shops, food and beverage options, and shaded seating areas separated and protected by street bollards.”