Blog Archives

Opinion: It’s time to close downtown divide

ASU Downtown is run by helicopter parents. They are friendly parents, but they are still helicopter parents. They are the cautious, closed-minded parents that refuse to encourage their children to play with the neighbor kids. They plug in the video game and think their children will be satisfied.

The administration at ASU Downtown has done little to encourage fusion between campus and community. ASU needs to step up and break down the wall that separates it from the rest of downtown Phoenix, instead of continuing to foster isolation. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

The “It’s Time” video released by ASU earlier this month highlights the university as rejuvenating downtown Phoenix, but the campus administration is doing very little to actually realize that. They are failing to intertwine the Downtown campus with the downtown community. Yes, there are 10,000 students that were not here four years ago, but beyond our bodily presence, we are doing very little for the neighborhood.

It’s time for a change in the mindset and direction of the Downtown administration.

College towns around the country are centered on partnerships between universities and local shops, eateries and entertainment. Downtown ASU has not built these partnerships — at all.

ASU signed a massive contract in 2008 with food provider Aramark that lasts until 2023. It ties the hands of students by forcing them to buy ridiculously priced meal plans. ASU created a food monopoly.

In turn, the administration says it is completely unfair to blame ASU’s policies for the closure of eateries like PastaBar and Verde, both within two blocks of campus. But what did the university do to support their businesses?

The university created an isolated campus. We are sheltered, and it’s time ASU puts resources and time into connecting students with the arts district on Roosevelt and the festivals and activities held on Grand Avenue. We can have all the events and celebrations we want in the shade garden of Taylor Place, but when are we actually going to take a step off of the curb and be a key part of downtown life?

Then again, increasing the cost of the U-Pass to $150 from $80 is the incentive we were looking for, right?

Plans are under way to turn the historic U.S. Federal Post Office building into Downtown’s version of the Memorial Union. One of the ideas brought to the table by an administrator is to make the building only accessible to ASU students. It would be a shame to close out the public to one of the only remaining historic buildings left in Phoenix. That’s not community engagement. We should cherish the uniqueness of our area.

The university is also currently planning out the construction of a downtown student recreational facility. I hope this facility is built in partnership with the YMCA. It baffles me why we would invest in a recreational facility when we already have a stellar setup at the YMCA. Both ASU and the YMCA benefit from each other’s presence.

And where was ASU in denouncing the parking lot built at the site of the old Ramada Inn? ASU allowed the city to build another parking lot that is destructive to the urban environment of our campus.

To counter the new block of hot asphalt, we proposed working with ASU and the city of Phoenix to construct a dog park where the McKinley parking lot is currently located. ASU was not willing to take the extra step in bettering our community. Excuses were made. It was easier to say no. The land has to be used for “educational purposes” because bond money was used to purchase the land. I’m glad that a parking lot meets the university’s standards of an educational purpose.

ASU recently sent a mailer to its alums. With a large picture of downtown in the background, bold white letters read: “With urban temperatures 11 degrees higher than in surrounding areas … how do we design cities that stay naturally cool?” It is a great question, ASU. Unless my knowledge of science is off, I don’t think parking lots are naturally cooling.

Are these advertisements reflecting reality? I am one of the most outspoken supporters of the great attributes of this campus, but there is so much more to be done.

Students need to take responsibility as well. While we bicker about elections and tuition or wave our pom-poms on Taylor Mall, we need to rise above and do our part.

The downtown community is intriguing. This fall, I hope the helicopter ASU administrators begin encouraging their kids to go out and play ball with the neighbors. They are waiting.

Vaughn Hillyard is a journalism sophomore at the Walter Cronkite School and the founder and president of ASU Downtown Alive!

“Converse at the Y”: Silent Auction at Downtown Phoenix YMCA on Monday

[Source: Christen Bejar, New Times’ Jackalope Ranch]

​Phoenix Artists Design Chucks to Benefit the YMCA

Converse generally don’t say much about someone’s personality — they get beat up, scuffed, and worn beyond belief because they’re everyday, kick-around shoes. But a freshly painted collection of the shoes at the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA is giving a new attitude to high-top sneakers for a good cause.


Photograph: Christen Bejar/New Times

A selection of Converse Chuck Taylor shoes are on display for “Converse at the Y”, a silent auction to benefit the center’s kid members from March 21 to 28.


Twenty five artists including “Crafty Chica” Kathy Murillo and her husband Patrick Murillo of Mantastic Crafts, Latino print maker Joe Ray, metal sculptor Pete Deise, and painters J.J. Horner and Jenny Ignaszewski, received a pair of Chucks with no instructions other than to go to town and have them back in a month.

“We didn’t tell them they had to adhere to anything specific like ‘put in the Y logo here’ or something, we just let them go at it,” says Jeff Myers, executive director of the Lincoln YMCA in downtown Phoenix. “I was blown away by the diversity of what we got back.”

The auction was put together to involve community members and benefit the Strong Kids and Families campaign, which allows kids who are unable to pay for a membership to participate in the YMCA and its activities.

Chairman of the board at the YMCA and resident artist Jenny Ignaszewski, took the reigns for the event and put out every artistic connection she knew to generate participants and donations.

Ignaszewski says the most difficult part of organizing the show wasn’t convincing artists to participate or community members to donate — the hardest part was getting 25 pairs of shoes.

“We actually couldn’t get ahold of Converse,” says Ignaszewski regarding how the YMCA got all the shoes for the event.

“But I was at a show with another artist friend and he said Cowtown [Skateboards] had good connections. Sure enough the owner showed up and we were in business.”

Cowtown Skateboards in Tempe donated all of the shoes, which, post-decoration, feature tribal designs, superhero themes, metal works and more.

The bidding for each pair starts at $100 with a $1000 “buy now” price for anyone who is particularly in love with a special pair they see.

“Converse at the Y” closes March 28 with a final party counting down the last hours of the auction from 4:30 to 7 p.m. In the meantime, any bids can be made on the shoes in the main lobby of the center during regular business hours.

The Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA is located at 350 N. 1st Ave. in Phoenix.

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