"X" marks the what?
I suppose it's necessary to note the new downtown Phoenix marketing campaign, based on "X marks the spot" -- get it, "Downtown PhoeniX." How much did the brainos at the Downtown Phoenix Partnership pay a Scottsdale marketing outfit for this piece of originality and brilliance? Journalists apparently don't ask such impertinent questions anymore.
At least the insipid Copper Square is gone -- a name I warned against when it was rolled out eight years ago and yet was flogged tirelessly and tiresomely by the Partnership -- and how much money was wasted on that? Enough to subsidize a downtown drug store? Copper Square? Who, after all, wants to live in a city without a downtown? And what did copper have to do with Phoenix (nothing)? That "branding effort" was mainly confusing. So many times people would stop me on a sidewalk downtown and ask where was "the Copper Square?"
No doubt in a metropolitan area with some of the poorest-educated, poorest-paid people, living in suburban subdivisions and voting overwhelmingly for wealthy Republican John Sidney McCain III and the unqualified and dangerous Sarah Palin, there's a need to sell downtown. On the Republic's site, where the lunatic fringe holds court in commenting on stories, the "X" news was greeted with comments such as "Xtra crime" and "Xtra homeless."
The reality, of course, is that the really lurid crime happens in the suburbs, from the sad linear slums of Maryvale to the newest "gated community." Downtown is profoundly safe, especially on event nights. Otherwise, it's safe but very very empty. As for the homeless: they are downtown because the suburbs zone out any public spaces and refuse to fund services. I long wanted to put the homeless shelter in Anthem with regular bus service. After all, most of the homeless come from suburbs and the suburban dysfunction of the "American dream" gone wrong.
The reality is that most metro Phoenix residents have suburban values. They can't imagine anything enticing or exciting about a downtown. Most have come from a suburb in the Midwest, with the terrible bigotry, ignorance and preconceptions of two or three generations of segregated suburban living. Or they have come from a small town. I know native Phoenicians who have not been downtown in years and have never ridden a city bus. They can't imagine a life not based on endless driving, malls and wide speedways. This is very different from, say, Seattle or Denver, where you find many residents with urban values, and cities with choices: urban and suburban.
Good luck changing this. "X" won't do it (although it was easy money for the Scottsdale ad shop).
I once hoped that the way to change this situation was by luring urbanites from elsewhere, who were looking for a more affordable city, and who are, by their nature, often pioneers. This happened in San Diego -- it took years for long-time San Diegans living up on the mesas to come downtown; the tipping point came from newcomers living downtown. For them, the live-work-play (kill your car) lifestyle was immensely appealing.
Unfortunately, Phoenix lacks the business base to make this happen. ASU, light rail, convention center -- all great. But all taxpayer money at work. Phoenix lacks the employers who would locate downtown, providing the well-paid, high-value jobs that urbanites -- being better educated -- tend to seek. Without that nearby spending power, retail can't flower (it certainly can't compete for suburban mall drivers -- sorry CityScape). Shockingly, no organization seems to be in the business of recruiting business downtown, a basic development capacity for a downtown turnaround. Nor can the city seem to address fundamental problems, such as blight, land banking, lack of affordable space, shade and sidewalk appeal. Nor will the Krackpot Legislature allow tax increment financing.
Changing these weaknesses would allow downtown and the Central Corridor to fully capitalize on some major strengths: abundant land, freeway connections to rival any suburb, light rail and central location. Until then, downtown will lag. (It doesn't help that the Biosciences Campus is going do slowly).
Yes, it's better than 20 years ago, when so much civic malpractice was done, including tearing down buildings that could have provided restored, cool space for small businesses, clustering social services downtown, clear-cutting the historic capitol mall neighborhood -- which could have become a restored jewel -- allowing unlimited teardowns and sending businesses to the 'burbs.
It's better, but this is not 1988. Now a great downtown is an essential economic, civic and social asset for a metropolitan area, and Phoenix is badly behind its competitors. It doesn't really matter if Phoenix is ahead of El Paso or Fresno or Toledo. That's not where the race for quality is being held. Phoenix's real rival cities offer options in living arrangements, as well as quality density that makes for innovation and business synergies. These not only make them more competitive in the global race for talent, innovation and capital. They make them more survivable in the new age of discontinuity we are about to enter.
hectoracuna wrote:Say, HooverDam, I thought I saw you whizzing by on your bike while I sat at Maizie's patio on a recent night. Was gonna wave, but I couldn't put down my beer fast enough. By then you'd disappeared into the dark. That a regular route for you? Here's a wave-out to ya!
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