Blog Archives

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.
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Yelpers try to make business boom for midtown Phoenix hotel

[Source: Christina Boomer, ABC 15 News] — The Clarendon Hotel is a 105-room boutique hotel at 401 W. Clarendon in midtown Phoenix.  It boasts a courtyard pool complete with a tiled catwalk separating the cool water with a 50-seat hot tub.  There is also a chic rooftop bar with great views of Piestewa Peak and central Phoenix.  But like many hotels the economic downturn is challenging.

For Clarendon they have the recession to contend with and the competition from the nearby Downtown Sheraton.  The recently opened 1,000 room city-owned hotel was funded with hotel revenue bonds and sits just a little over three miles from the Clarendon.  It was designed to accommodate the extra visitors expected when the Phoenix Convention Center opens in mid-January.  But for right now Clarendon’s owner Ben Bethel says the additional rooms are sapping business away from smaller hotels like his.

This is where Yelp.com comes in to play.  In the “talk” section of the website locals and regulars are sounding off, encouraging people to visit the Clarendon and ensure it makes it until January.  Yelper Amber Williams explained she and others support small businesses in this economic downturn because they tend not to have a far-reaching and large advertising budget like the bigger chains.

ABC15 News asked city officials, “How is the Downtown Sheraton is funded?”  Here is the response we received from City of Phoenix Public Information Officer Sina Matthes:  “In June of 2004, the Phoenix City Council authorized the formation of the nonprofit Downtown Phoenix Hotel Corporation to finance, design, and construct a 1,000 room convention hotel.  The Hotel Corporation issued $350 million in hotel revenue bonds to finance the project.  No city general funds were used to finance the hotel.  Debt service and operating expenses for the hotel are paid from hotel revenues.  The Hotel Corporation entered into an operating agreement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts to manage and operate the hotel under the Sheraton brand.”

The New York Times spends 36 hours in Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix at night (David Kadlubowski, New York Times)

[Source: Randal Archibold, New York Times] — Like the myth behind its namesake, Phoenix seems to have come out of nowhere to rank as the nation’s fifth largest city. Even long-timers have a tough time explaining the city’s appeal. Phoenix has left no firm mark in pop culture, aside from a bit role in the opening shot of “Psycho.”

The list of famous area residents is rather short: Barry Goldwater, John McCain, Jordin Sparks are among the better known.  And the city is an inferno in the summer.  The other nine months of the year, however, are gorgeous and sunny, making it a perfect time to visit the city’s new bounty of top-notch golf courses, fashionable resorts, eye-opening museums, and cool night life.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

RadiatePhx to meet at new downtown Phoenix Sheraton, Nov. 25

radiatephxRadiatePhx is a non-traditional networking group that meets once a month to support smart growth in our emerging city. It is intended to be an informal and fun forum for connecting people, ideas, and vision. This month the group will gather in the District Lounge in the new Sheraton Phoenix Downtown and welcome Brady Lamar, the Sheraton’s Director of Food & Beverage, and Chef Nathan Crouser, District’s Chef de Cuisine.  They will share their vision, including their focus on local food.

The evening’s featured menu items include Cheeseburger Sliders & Sweet Po’ Boy Shrimp Sliders.  The featured beverage will their White Peach Sangria.   If you have not yet seen the Sheraton’s beautiful interior or tasted their delectable menu, then plan to attend:

  • Date: Tuesday, November 25
  • Time: 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Place: Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, District Lounge
  • RSVP here

Economy slows downtown development, but Phoenix mayor optimistic

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Mayor Phil Gordon’s annual speech on October 17 on downtown Phoenix was carefully staged to spotlight blockbuster city projects, but the shaky economy stole the show.  The mayor spoke at a $350 million city-financed hotel that opened Sept. 30.  Afterward, he took some residents and key political and business leaders for a surprise spin on Metro, the $1.4 billion light-rail project expected to open Dec. 27.  Tough financial times, however, have knocked out many of the forces that made boom-time projects — such as new condos and office buildings — possible, city officials and experts say.

Unlike previous years, Gordon didn’t unveil any new, splashy development proposals.  And although Gordon was upbeat, he acknowledged that major obstacles lie ahead.  “The economy of our city, state and nation is struggling,” said the mayor, who has staked his political career on reviving downtown Phoenix.  “Times will be hard for the next two years, but we’ll continue to manage our way through.”  [Note: To read the mayor’s full speech, click here.]

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.]

Silenced bells ring again at downtown Phoenix basilica

[Source: Tony Arranaga, Channel 15] — From glory, to hard times, to papal blessings, St. Mary’s Basilica in Downtown Phoenix has weathered more than a century to sing once again.  Parishoners, growing in numbers in recent years, heard silenced bells toll once again late Saturday afternoon.  Jerome Doris says the three bells were silenced after the church went through a rough period with the rest of downtown.

The church spent nearly $60,000 to fix the three bells, and is looking to make other improvements to keep up with the rapid growth in that section of Phoenix.  ASU’s downtown campus is up and running, so is a nearby high rise Sheraton Hotel, and the newest wing of the convention center is set to open early next year.  St. Mary’s is hoping to raise two million dollars to finish other upgrades around the facility.  The church is raffling a car later this month, to find out more, click here.

Arizona’s largest hotel opens in downtown Phoenix

Thanks to Edward Jensen, a student at ASU and avid local blogger, here are some photos of the newly-opened Sheraton Hotel in downtown Phoenix.

Phoenix Mayor’s 2008 State of Downtown address set for Oct. 16

Phoenix Mayor Gordon’s 5th annual State of Downtown address will be held on Thursday, October 16, 2008 at the new Sheraton Downtown Phoenix, 340 N. 3rd St.  A reception will begin at 5 p.m. and speech at 6:30 p.m.   Valet parking available.  RSVP by October 10 to the Downtown Phoenix Partnership at 602-744-6401 or e-mail.

Hotel growth anticipated for downtown Phoenix, report says

Sheraton, downtown Phoenix

[Source: Kasia Kowalczyk, Hoteliers Market Intelligence Report] — The onset of [significant downtown Phoenix] development activity has spurred the addition of several proposed hotels.  Downtown Phoenix has long awaited the addition of a new convention hotel, and the call will be answered with the opening of the 1,000-room Sheraton on October 1, 2008.  This city-funded project, which includes 80,000 square feet of meeting space, was budgeted along with the expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center, and the combined projects will be able to accommodate events that would have otherwise passed Phoenix by.  The hotel is one of Sheraton’s grandest undertakings and will be the largest hotel in the state of Arizona.  The Hotel Monroe, Hotel Palomar by Kimpton (as part of the CityScape project), and TWELVE Hotel and Residences are among the other high-end hospitality projects planned for downtown…

Generally, historical occupancy levels have shown steady increases since the market’s low point in 2001.  This growth is a result of record convention activity, increased air travel to the area, and the business of major institutions within downtown Phoenix.  Occupancy growth, which peaked in 2005, has been attributed to the city’s unprecedented expansion efforts over the last five years, as well as a relative undersupply of nationally branded hotel chains within the Central Business District.  Hoteliers look forward to the stronger occupancies associated with increased convention attendance.  Average rate growth in recent years has been significant as well.  This growth is due to strong demand in downtown Phoenix generated by the area’s development, especially from high-rated clientele associated with the biomedical research industry and commercial development activity.  Significant average rate increases noted in 2005, 2006, and 2007 were due to the influx in demand from many of the city’s law firms, banks, and development teams, as well as the positive national economic trends of the last few years.

Economic trends experienced on a national level in the latter half of 2007 and so far into 2008 have resulted in decreased business travel due to rising fuel prices, job losses, and corporate budget cuts. Although Phoenix is not necessarily sheltered from the impacts of these discouraging trends, the capital city benefits from a strong and stable government presence, new mixed-use development efforts that have already secured financing, and the imminent opening of the expanded convention center.  Thus, operating statistics for Phoenix hotels are expected to experience continued growth, but at a slower pace than in former years.  [Note: To read the full report, click here.]