Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Thoughts On CityScape

I was recently asked my thoughts on CityScape (and the retailers).  I thought some of you may be interested in what I had to say, so here it is.

My thoughts on CityScape: (Warning - I'm rather philosophical this evening :))

When we think about our travels, whether it's in the U.S. or abroad, I think it's fair to say that most people are won over by a city by its vibrancy and charm, which in this case equates to life in/on the streets, unique experiences, and interesting things to look at.  As an example, the people who would rather browse around an eclectic used bookstore, where the owner comes to greet you and chat, aren't going to prefer to spend the same amount of time (or wish to go at all) to a large box store book retailer.

I think this equates well to the people who actually LIVE downtown.  We like unique. We like charming. We like knowing who we're giving our hard-earned dollars to. 

Life and vibrancy should be on the STREETS - not behind nondescript block walls.  I could name 20 streets throughout the places I've lived and traveled that I've loved for these reasons.  People watching is part of the urban experience.  Watching buses and bikes go by, people walking, people talking.
Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN

I think CityScape blew it with bad suburban design.  The people who want to feel "safe' will continue to shop in malls.  It (CityScape) was not designed or built with the locals in mind, doesn't lend itself to a being an interesting destination where you'd want to spend any real amount of time, and even the "square' (which tries to pose as a "park" in some people's minds) lacks any sort of warmth, shade, or substance to make it interesting.

It makes me sad, because there are so many talented architects and designers here in Phoenix who DO get it, and it was such a fantastic opportunity to take a step in the right direction towards progressive, creative growth.

As far as the retailers go, I personally would have liked to see fewer big name retailers, and the only "chains" at least those that are local to our State. Though I understand it comes down to a $$$ situation, I would have rather seen smaller, organic growth with quality versus quantity, and a more thoughtful selection of tenants.  Of course with the main point being, these tenants would be facing the STREET, where you could shop like a normal human being does in cities across the country.

Can't you picture it? Cafes on the street, trees, awnings providing shade, interesting boutiques and bars, live jazz music streaming out of the doors into the street on warm spring evenings, smells from the shops... I can almost taste it.

Instead we have a "gated community feeling" shopping/entertainment plaza in the heart of our city.  And unfortunately it doesn't have much of a pulse or soul...
CityScape, Phoenix, AZ

So until things change, those of us who live in or near downtown will continue to stick to our edges - Roosevelt area, Grand Ave. - the places where you can feel the heartbeat.  Creative visionaries make any great city and draw people in - including business.  The powers that be just need to start listening to the people who actually live here...

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Confessions of an Eco Girl...

I tend to hold on to my possessions.  Maybe it's the Midwestern in me, having grown up surrounded by people whose root cellars were full of home-made canned goods and every basement contained a large freezer filled with enough food for the Apocalypse...

I still have the (very tattered and thin) favorite nightgown I wore when I was 3 which has a fish on it and says "Don't Pollute the Ocean."  Apparently I had a thing for the environment even then.

So it shouldn't come as a big surprise, knowing these things about me, that I become just as weirdly attached to my vehicles, and choose to drive them and drive them until there's just no more hope.

My very first car, which I bought with my own $1500 when I was 21 (I always lived in urban cities so had relied on public transport my whole life until that point) was a little Ford Escort.  I had that car when I moved to Los Angeles and found great pleasure in attending swanky events and demonstrating to the valet how the windows rolled up and down, and how the locks pushed down and pulled up.  I made a ton of money back then, but refused to get a new car in part because:

 a) I was stubborn
 b) I was scared to death of being car jacked
and c) I had more fun spending my money on amazing trips.

I ended up selling my little Escort for $500 when I moved to Maui, and yes, I think I may have cried when I sold it.  Ridiculous, but true.

I could tell you every car and truck I owned and loved after her.  the 1978 Chevy Luv Maui cruiser with a lumber rack and a hole in the floor board big enough for a small child to fall through , my rusty, yellow VW convertible bug I drove when Zane was a baby, my Dodge Ram pickup I'd fill with found objects and metal after I learned how to weld...  They all had good car lives I'd like to think.  I talk to my cars like some people talk to their plants, but that's beside the point.

Eight years ago I bought my Rav.  It's name is just Rav Rav, in part because that's the sound she makes when she climbs up hills.  It wasn't new, had 70,000 miles on it when I bought it, and it's been paid off for years now. As far as cars go, it's been a pretty stellar vehicle.  When my battery died last summer and I called AAA, the guy who came out just about shit his pants when he looked at it, and actually took a picture because the battery was 10 years old!  Apparently it was a good battery!

So on April 12th, I drove Miss Zoe to ballet class just like every other Monday evening.  I dropped off the kids, made sure Zoe was settled into her class, then drove down the street to quickly deposit a check at the bank.  As I left the bank, I heard a loud clunk.  Uh - oh.

I made it back to the dance studio and got it parked.  When we came out of the dance studio, it wouldn't go into reverse.  In fact, it refused to do anything but Rav without moving at all.  AAA.

"My car is locked in gear.  I need a tow truck."

They sent a locksmith van.  Figures...  It was a long evening that entailed calling boyfriend to rescue and feed kids while I waited for a real tow truck, had to keep my foot on the brake as he winched my car back out of the spot and onto the trailer, was horrified when he stopped at Circle K to buy dish soap to use to "slide" my car off the trailer bed, and waited patiently for bad news from my awesome mechanic.  Yep - dead transmission.

Thankfully I have great friends, a fabulous boyfriend, and live in close proximity to the light rail, so even though the no car situation has been a major pain in my ass, I've managed.

So this past weekend, a good friend of mine was heading to Aruba for the week, and my car situation (or lack there of) got brought up.  He offered to loan me his car while he was away.

That car, is a HUMMER.

Yep, a Hummer.  Me - Miss Rogue Green Hostess, Miss environmental consultant, is in short-term possession of the Anti Christ of vehicles to the sustainability world.

Because it's an H3, it apparently gets great gas mileage for a Hummer - a whopping 19 mpg on the highway.

I've driven it as little as possible, but I've driven it.  I'm not going to lie, in comparison to my stinky mom car, there are some things I've really appreciated.  The swanky leather seats are pretty comfy.  The satellite radio with a bazillion stations rocked my world and I've driven Zane crazy with my incessant channel switching.  Talk radio, BBC, every genre of music, traffic updates from other cities, obscure radio personalities.  I found myself going back to the reggae station most of the time though, because I think I was trying to balance things out in my brain with my hippie soul driving what is basically a war vehicle.  What a weird feeling.

I found myself blurting out loud to strangers:

"This isn't my car, I'm just borrowing it."

I dreaded being seen in it, and found myself scouting the area for people I knew before I would leap out of it and run away.  

My boyfriend has been trying to sneak pictures of me in front of it all week, no doubt to try to use as incriminating evidence and blackmail material for possible naughty favors in return.  (I scream then run away, shouting obscenities and laughing.)

So when my mechanic sent me a text yesterday to tell me my car was finally fixed, I almost wept.  Okay, maybe not actual tears weeping, but I don't think I've ever been more grateful for my little Rav Rav, though I am extremely thankful my friend entrusted his car to me while he was away so I didn't have to schlep kids and groceries on the bus because I'm a car spoiled consumer apparently.  Hey, none of us are perfect.

When we went to pick it up today and got in, Zane said,
"Yep, it still stinks.  I sure do like that new car smell the Hummer has."  (He's a 12 year old boy, so what would you expect?)
I of course crinkled my nose and launched into a lecture about volatile organic compounds and how he should be thrilled we even have a car at all, because we never had a car when I was growing up and we walked miles and took the bus everywhere.

Jesus.  Am I getting old?

Driving the Rav after driving environmental Anti Christ sort of felt like driving a golf cart.

But it's my golf cart.

And I swear this baby has another 80,000 to 90,000 miles in her...