Sunday, September 4, 2011

Between Here and There - There Is a Chair

Chair in between Downtown and "Downtown" Downtown - Photo: Stacey Champion
For those of you not familiar with Downtown Phoenix, there's downtown and then there's "downtown" downtown (downtown2).  Living in the Coronado Historic District, compared to other cities where I've lived, I would consider where I live to be midtown, as it's north of the 10 freeway, but for suburb dwellers, I just say downtown so I don't confuse them.

So why is downtown so split off from downtown2?  Well, that's a good question...  Though the main answer in my eyes is what you see above.  Vacant lots.  Lots of them.  Lots of lots.  Dirt lots.  Many of them city owned.  Many of the others being land-banked by people who don't live in downtown OR downtown2.

Was there stuff on these lots before they were dirt lots?  Yep.  But now they're just big, glaring disconnects between downtown and downtown2.

Read Kevin Beechinor + Mike McDearmon's fabulous "Aiding and Abetting" for great detail, plus solutions.

The Valley of the Sunflowers project is a good start for these gaping holes that cut our city in two, and will hopefully wake up our city leaders to the fact that not only do these projects make the residents happy and beautify the neighborhoods, but they also generate fantastic press, which is a welcome thing for our political doom and gloom State.  The folks at Roosevelt Row are forging ahead along with many engaged and committed community members, and our little downtown has been getting some recent good press, like the Nick Blumberg KJZZ story.

We all would like to eventually see things built on these lots - albeit if it's good design, and not a cookie cut-out of the suburban stucco gated community ick that downtowners or anyone else with good taste and a love of real architecture can't stand.

But until then, "temporary" has become many years for most of these lots.  I hope the City of Phoenix, along with the new incoming Mayor, will open their eyes just a little wider and do a better job at thinking just a little further outside of the box.  This would be my dream project for one of the lots, and is something I'd like to try to make happen within the next two years.  

What are YOUR ideas???


  1. Small desert friendly parks, at least until someone decides to build something appropriate on them. Interesting, inexpensive shade structures and desert trees.
    Linda HB

  2. Then you'd LOVE Parking(ing) Day Phoenix! It's on Sept. 16 and you can find the info and event on FaceBook!

  3. There is no true downtown aka "commerce center"(law firms, offices, banks, government buildings) in many U.S. cities that can become an active engaged environment. Los Angeles downtown, San Francisco near Embarcadero Center, Austin, even Tucson. People have to get the district concept. Forget whatever you are calling downtown i.e. Renaissance Center, CityScape, the various places where balls are hurled, they are places for commerce on a level that only provides the ability to feed people at lunch and maybe give them a place to rest their head for a couple nights, or learn about sustainable practices at a meeting at the Convention Center.

    The smartest thing I've heard in years was when Cindy Gentry coined the name "Market District", which hasn't grown enough yet to stick. That's too bad. At least one of your clients ought to get that and join up with the others.

    In all these cities, people travel even a short distance out of the downtown to the districts. Yes, the infill is important, but it's how you get OUT of the downtown that determines activity, and gives small business the chance to thrive. It also avoids the D.P.P. noose.

    Screw downtown. Think District.

  4. Steve,

    Every downtown has "districts" and the same can be said for Downtown Phoenix. The point I was/am trying to make, is that the now 2 distinct downtowns - need to become 1 big downtown - (with the addition of districts people come accustomed to, i.e. "arts district") - by filling in all the gaping holes that create the feeling of separation. Though I know it will get there over time with the right leadership, the key is to creatively use the empty space in the interim until this development can happen.

  5. Great work friend! We appreciate all you do for downtown.

  6. Thanks, Dwayne! There is a giant rum-filled coconut with my name on it at the end of this week! And ditto to you. Hope you're hanging in there with the construction. :-)

  7. Ms Champion, Have you seen Derek's bike shop in Garfield? Derek is the founder of Hoodride that used to be on 5th Street next door to MADE art boutique but has since moved to a backyard in Garfield inside of an upcycled container. It is a great example of your dream for vacant lot activation right here in PHX. I, too, am a big fan of the re-purposed container, storefronts! Let's do it!!!