radiatebannerThis month’s RadiatePhx event is a bit unique. Usually the discussion centers on the great things happening around Central Phoenix. This time, RadiatePhx wants to hear what you don’t like about living in Downtown Phoenix. What can we improve? What needs fixing? How do we create a world-class Downtown that we can all respect? Don’t think of these points as complaints — think of them as constructive criticism. Join moderator Tyler Hurst at the event and let your thoughts be known. Tyler’s guest blog below is just the tip of the iceberg. See you on Tuesday. -Ed.

Downtown Phoenix isn’t about businesses, buildings or parks. It’s about people. Those that live, work and/or play here make this place what it is. It’s not that great. Sure, there’s plenty of potential and lots of usable space, but we really haven’t done much.

Copper Square was a failed experiment. Have you EVER seen that place busy? Elsewhere, it’s impossible to walk anywhere north of I-10. And what are we doing about it? Well, nothing, really. We’re having our little events and hoping that something good will happen. Then we congratulate each other. It’s time to stop flailing blindly and get on the same page. Let’s share our gripes and figure out ways to get better. Here are mine.

  1. Anything fun is spaced too far away. We have small little hives of activity connected with long, dark patches of absolutely nothing.
  2. A lot of the people living here are liberal artists. They don’t make much money, don’t understand how to make money and seem content with First Fridays for selling anything. Yeah, good luck with that.
  3. We have tons of groups, yet no one talks to each other. Go ask marketing people they’ll tell you the same. We all have our own thing on our own day, and they’re all sparsely attended.
  4. Everyone wants a creative class down here, but no one understands what the hell that even is.
  5. Most are against anything corporate or chain, yet they don’t understand that’s where the money comes from.
  6. Everything is shiny happy unicorn rainbows all the time. THE BEST EVENT EVER! First Friday was a blast! The little scavenger hunt we had changed my life (OK, that last one was actually fun)! It’s called perspective. Try it.
  7. No one looks around. Nice TwitterHunt last week, CenPho businesses. Didn’t bother to check that many of the people using social media had their own GeekWeekAZ and were too tired to participate, did you?
  8. Too many businesses think A) Twitter is the answer or B) don’t have a clue what the internet, much less social media, even is. I live downtown and I don’t hear a damn thing about what goes on down here, and I’m constantly searching social media channels. It’s about BALANCE.
  9. Everyone bitches, but no one bitches out loud and in public. Pissed about Modified Arts? SAY SOMETHING. Want to start a music venue? ASK AROUND.
  10. We want our Downtown to be just like someone else’s. It doesn’t work that way. While I love the Gaslamp District, our city leaders seem too concerned with north Phoenix to make that happen. You want to improve your city? DO IT.
  11. Phoenix thinks it has an image problem, when Phoenix IS THE PROBLEM. It’s foot-burning, nose-drying, armpit-sweating hot five months every year here, and we have a Downtown WITHOUT ANY SHADED SIDEWALKS.
  12. You built a park in the middle of the city and didn’t bother to shade it. Instead, we got a floating cervix that only looks good at night.
  13. The Arizona Republic still exists, apparently above questioning. Does anyone even read that rag anymore? Arpaio met with Biden? WHO’S REPORTING WHAT?
  14. Businesses think light rail is the answer. No, being amazing is the answer. Light rail is just a more efficient way of bringing people to you.
  15. Too often, criticism is passed off as complaining. Ever try asking a critic if they’re willing to help? I bet they are!
  16. ASU has been allowed to grow in the middle of Downtown, without any sort of clear plan as to what role it will play in the community. Right now, it offers residents limited WiFi. Woohoo.
  17. There’s always talk about shopping local, yet no one actually does it. Ever seen unmanageable lines at the Phoenix Public Market? Me neither.
  18. That people probably haven’t even read this far.

Agree or disagree, get down to Local Breeze on Tuesday, November 24 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and get your point across. You don’t count if you don’t show up. Let’s be constructive and make a difference.

RSVP for RadiatePhx here or on Facebook.

Local Breeze is located at 606 N. 4th Ave. in Roosevelt (602.368.3613) — light rail station at Central/1st avenues and Van Buren Street.


  • The downtown park isn’t shaded? Uh what? There’s large shade structures throughout the park, and big leafy trees planted throughout the park. Its a brand freakin’ new park, its going to take some time for the trees to grow, thats how trees work. The Downtown Civic Space park is easily the best park in Phoenix, its one of the few with green grass and shade that will eventually shade more than 50% of the park.

  • Seriously, complaining that the parks/sidewalks don’t have enough shade for 5 months out of the year? I’m sorry, if I wanted shade I’d stay inside.

    Plus, for those of you who haven’t lived in the Northeast, they don’t heat the sidewalks (ok they do some places but just so that they don’t have to use salt on them to de-ice.. and just the sidewalk, not the airspace above it) or keep the grass green and the temperatures comfortable in parks in the middle of winter.

    I’m sorry, but we live in the desert. If you can’t handle being outside for 5 months out of the year, move somewhere you can tolerate better.

    • Really? So how do you expect masses of people to get from business to business to spend money downtown? Whether you’re on the light rail, walking or driving, we MUST go outside often. Businesses want walkable areas, because that encourage people to hang out, meet friends and spend money.

      It’s 2009. Technology has sufficiently advanced that we should be able to block the sun when we want to.

      • The same way they do when the visit the mega-malls around town. People don’t seem to have a problem walking half a mile in the blazing sun at Tempe Marketplace or Chandler Fashion Center to go to the chain stores, but ask them to walk two blocks in downtown and they suddenly shrivel up.

        Again, the lack of street life is a bigger hindrance to downtown that the lack of shade. If the empty lots are filled in, shade will come along with it through building shadows, awnings, etc. but more importantly, people will walk if there are interesting things to see and do along the way. After all millions of people walk the streets of NYC and Chicago each in extreme cold because there are interesting things to see and do. They will do the same thing here if the streets are more active.

        As for the park, there is there are 9 months a year where it is great to stretch out under an open sky this time of year. For the 3 or 4 months when it is unbearably hot in the sun, there are still the evening hours to enjoy the park, as people in other hot climates do. (Besides the park is at it’s finest in the evenings anyway; this was part of a conscious design effort.)

        • I have a problem walking that far in those malls! The difference is that there are more places to stop and USUALLY fans or misters. You need a Camelbak to make it through a day in downtown Phoenix.

  • Will-
    What shade? The shade over the small, concrete area?

    Why are we planting leafy trees in the middle of the desert? We tried that up at the UofP stadium and the trees died in just a few years.

    We’ll all be dead by the time the trees shade the park, IF they can survive that long.

    • Are you a landscape architect? A botanist? A gardener? I highly doubt it as you’re complaining about the City planting leafy trees in the desert. You do know the Sonoran desert is the wettest in the world and giant leafy trees are found in the Sonoran desert, right? The Arizona Ash, Aligator Juniper, Arizona sycamore, Ironwood, Utah Juniper, Arizona alder, Arizona Cyprus and Fremont Cottonwood are hardly little spindly sticks and they somehow do just fine here.

      The trees in the park aren’t natives but they are low water usage plants. The city was also smart enough to use permeable pavers throughout the park to reduce the heat island effect and to help rain water seep into the water table and help the trees planted there. They also used a special soil system to help the roots grow strong (in case of monsoons)

      On the one hand you bitch about not enough shade, then when the city plants trees that will eventually shade 70% of the park, you bitch again. Well which way do you want it? Shade or not? Are you saying the City should only plant 100% native non riparian trees? That would get a little dull after a while only seeing mesquite, palo verdes and palo breas across the city don’t you think?

      Take a walk through Willo, Encanto, Roosevelt, or Arcadia and realize that plants that aren’t strictly native can do just fine here with proper care. Perhaps it was a maintenance and care issue at UofP rather than what was planted (though I cant say for sure as Im not familiar with the situation).

      Furthermore “Her Secret is Patience” is freakin’ beautiful at any time of day or night (but especially at night) and does exactly what good public art should. It gets people talking, gets people to come look at it, and gets people interested.

      This city has screwed up a lot of things post WW2 regarding its downtown but the Civic Space park isn’t one of them, in fact they hit the ball out of the park.

      • You’re wrong. Totally wrong. But that’s cool, I hope you enjoy the floating cervix.

        The shade won’t be covering 50% of the park until I’m dead. Good luck living that long.

        Have you COMPLETELY missed the point of this article?

        • What am I wrong about? Those trees I listed all grow here, do they not? With proper maintenance the trees planted will eventually shade the majority of the park, will they not? You do realize its far too expensive and difficult to just plant fully mature trees and to have them establish their root system (especially with our monsoons), right? Do you know what the CAP is and that it allows us to have leafy trees?

          The city just won an award for the park btw (http://phoenix.gov/news/112309award.html), so Ill take the professionals word for it that its a good design.

          If you don’t like “Her Secret is Patience” thats a personal taste thing and I can’t convince you one way or the other. But to call it a ‘floating cervix’ is uncreative and unfunny. But the rest of your ‘points’ about the park are just factually inaccurate, so I felt the need to correct them.

          Also here’s a drawing of Central Park in 1860 from Harpers Weekly:
          http://www.brattlebookshop.com/Stuff/images/centralpark.jpg

          Not exactly the shady wonderland it is today. Trees take time to grow, be patient, its a virtue after all.

  • AZKansei-

    Really? So how do you expect masses of people to get from business to business to spend money downtown? Whether you’re on the light rail, walking or driving, we MUST go outside often. Businesses want walkable areas, because that encourage people to hang out, meet friends and spend money.

    It’s 2009. Technology has sufficiently advanced that we should be able to block the sun when we want to.

  • Someone’s greatest strength is often the flip side of their greatest weakness (example confident versus cocky) I think you hit some good points but don’t agree with everything. It does amaze me that the greater Phoenix area is the 5th largest metropolitan area in the United States yet still seems like such a small town sometimes. 5th street is cool and all, but it’s one block. Shouldn’t the 5th largest city have something cooler than one block?

    One of the things we struggle with that you don’t talk about is that we are a horizontal city rather than a vertical city. There are streets in this town that are 50 miles long. For someone to living in Chandler to come all the way downtown on a given evening they want to be sure its worth it, and not experiment with a show that might or might not suck. Meanwhile New York has thousands of people living close by. People are always bitching about condos going up, but I figure more people downtown living, more asses in seats. Of course, more condos makes it more expensive for people to live. I have noticed the light rail has been very helpful with this. Yet I agree that it is not the only answer.

    “We have tons of groups, yet no one talks to each other. Go ask marketing people they’ll tell you the same. We all have our own thing on our own day, and they’re all sparsely attended.”

    I don’t see this as a problem, big diverse cities should have lots of groups doing their own things. That is why the people/venues/event who cross groups are such value.

    “Most are against anything corporate or chain, yet they don’t understand that’s where the money comes from.”

    I don’t agree. I do think it would be awesome if we had more corporations or chains based in Phoenix. Bank of America has dramatically helped my hometown of Charlotte, NC. However, corporations not based in the city, ultimately take money out of the city, its basic urban studies. Even if Wells Fargo gives a donation for a event, ultimately they are taking more money out than putting money in.

    “we have a Downtown WITHOUT ANY SHADED SIDEWALKS.”
    Could not agree more with this one.

    “We want our Downtown to be just like someone else’s. It doesn’t work that way.”
    Could not agree more with this one.

    “ASU has been allowed to grow in the middle of Downtown, without any sort of clear plan as to what role it will play in the community. Right now, it offers residents limited WiFi. Woohoo.”

    ASU seems to only care about ASU. It does mean more people walking around and that’s pretty cool, but I have yet to see a lot of spillover.

    Also the City is very had to deal with. The regulations in this town are very tough to navigate, basically every independent venue could be shut down at any moment from the city. This makes everything seem temporal at best. Starting a venue that meets are regulations is basically impossible unless you have very very deep pockets, and deep pockets demands something “safe.”

    I won’t be there on Tuesday as I will be visiting family for Thanksgiving. However, I look forward to other radiate events.

    • Great comments, Kevin. I agree with you on just about everything. To support your statement about venues and the city, it couldn’t be more true. I know of a group dilligently looking to start up a performing arts venue, but the city (and the landlords) simply refuse to make it easier to do such a thing. Unless you have tons (literally tons) of money that you can afford to lose in starting a venue, it simply isn’t possible in this town. That’s the sad truth.

  • Shane

    I agree with most of Kevin’s response, but have a problem with any statement that begins with “I don’t see this as an issue.” This is something the first three commenters have in common, and it’s one more thing that’s not working for Phoenix: a tendency to dismiss problems that aren’t *personally* relevant rather than figuring out how to fix it for the people that care.

    Maybe you’re satisfied with the amount of shade in the park. Others aren’t. Don’t expect them to come buy anything from you there on a hot day.

    Maybe you don’t have a need for shaded sidewalks, but some people do, and they’re not going to walk down the street to your event.

    Sure, there are benefits to having lots of small, mobile, intelligent groups working on their own thing, but surely there are also benefits to getting those units working together on occasion. For example, the Torch Theatre has made some great strides in promoting a greater, unified local improv scene, without creating any barriers to the success of individual troupes, some of which have made impressive in-roads of their own.

    • Torch Theatre would definitely counted as a success in the making, but, like everything else, they have a long, long way to go.

      Great to see them going in the right direction!

  • I’m not going to debate Tyler’s 18 points, at least not online. Maybe I’ll focus on a few if I attend Radiate next Tuesday. Regardless, I’m going to take issue the statement that “Usually the discussion centers on the great things happening around Central Phoenix.” Admittedly, I’ve been to only two Radiate events, so I can’t claim to be an expert, but I recall plenty of cynicism, skepticism, and disappointment expressed about Downtown during those events. Of course, those expressions of negativity have been balanced with positive statements as well, leading to a realistic portrayal of a place that is fundamentally good, but like all places, in need of some serious improvement.

    Sometimes, a balanced approach that blends constructive criticism with civic pride is misunderstood as “boosterism,” particularly among those who seem inclined toward incessant pessimism. Nevertheless, my response is always, “What boosterism?” If anything, Phoenix has an inferiority complex, so I’m never really sure what the voices of negativity think they are going to accomplish by amplifying that inferiority complex. Regardless, next Tuesday’s discussion should be an interesting one.

    • It’s going to be recorded, so bring your A game.

  • Steve

    A “real” downtown is actually a place to work and then leave. San Francisco and Los Angeles both have business districts that they describe as “downtown”. It’s the other districts nearby, and not artificially created districts like the proposed “Jackson Entertainment District”, that define a city’s culture.

    I love that the area around the Downtown Public Market might end up as the Market District. I dig the quirky feel of Grand Avenue and the local roll your own flavor of Roosevelt Row. 5th Street between Roosevelt and Garfield is a reminder of what could have been if speculators and the city hadn’t flattened the Evans Churchill neighborhood to the South. We could use more of that in the Triangle District North of Grand Avenue.

    The answer I think isn’t vertical building as much as outward looking horizontal projects. Artisan Lofts are a great example. You can achieve density without going 8 stories.

    There will be no investments above 2 million dollars in the next 2-5 years in this area we call downtown. It’s the $50,000 to 1 million dollar investments, exactly what was mentioned by folks at the Richard Florida panel so many odd years ago,that could have made it happen already and might still make it happen in the future. Fortunately, that kind of money can still be done by locals.

    People ARE doing it, on a grass-roots, locally-based privately financed way. As a result, it’s small steps, not corporate or mega-mall giant steps. The over-priced condo market didn’t work. I don’t think CityScape is a fix, it’s a suburban dream in a business district. It is going to be a draw to those either leasing those condos or the under 21 ASU coeds who wish light rail ran directly to Tempe Marketplace.

    • Correct, we don’t need necessarily go HIGH, but we need to go dense. Lots of empty buildings and lots downtown that could (I say this not knowing who owns them, of course) be renovated, razed or built upon.

  • Steve

    Sorry but I need to elaborate. I don’t mean flattening is what we need in the Triangle District, I mean opening that area up to what’s happened on 5th Street is more of what we need!

    The Triangle District vigorously fought off the inclusion of their area in the Arts and Small Business District Overlay. Until they decide they want to be a part of it, nothing like 5th Street can happen.

  • Upton Sinclair

    “A lot of the people living here are liberal artists. They don’t make much money, don’t understand how to make money and seem content with First Fridays for selling anything. Yeah, good luck with that.”

    STOP THE PRESSES! are you saying that Liberals are impractical? HATE SPEECH! you’re obviously a corrupt racist sexist homophobic anti-immigrant republican.

    FREE ARNOLD SHLONGOWITZ!

  • PHX

    The weather is not the problem,

    Ever been to Las Vegas Strip in the summer? full of people walking around when its 100+ but people still walk because there is something to do. we need at least a quarter of a mile in downtown Phoenix as a “strip” with galleries markets theaters, retail, service, etc.
    Density Density Density

  • Steve Weiss

    Tonight’s issue was ignored. I desperately tried to keep Tyler on point to the topic but then realized he’s not, nor should be, a moderator. Moderators are opinion-less, they facilitate the discussion, stay mute except to keep the discussion on track.

    Whomever decided Tyler should moderate should understand he has opinions, but doesn’t have moderator skills.

    Tyler would have probably been a good voice in the audience for what he personally feels is wrong about downtown…as a matter of fact he actually expressed this, see the above column. The stuff he said to open the discussion was just a reiteration of the column above. Ok, cool, and though it went on awhile maybe it brought others who didn’t read the column above a basis for discussion.

    If we wish to figure out how to fix it, that’s another topic. Maybe a Chautauqa ( http://www.ciweb.org/ ). At least, a facilitated experience. Stay tuned for this in very early 2010.

    But that’s not why folks showed up.

    The result; the diverse engaged group that came tonight were denied the opportunity to voice their thoughts on what’s wrong with downtown, the sole purpose of why so many really great, thoughtful and ACTIVE people were there. I spoke before the discussion with at least one person who has and will affect downtown in huge ways. He has helped much of the cool stuff that does exist TO exist. That person came with a list of things he wanted to put out there, but after the topic got separated from the discussion I couldn’t find him anywhere. He split.

    It’s really too bad, and I only hope those same people who left unsatisfied this evening won’t feel their voices won’t be important the next time they’re asked to give their opinions.

    • Stephen Chilton

      I could not agree more with Steve Weiss.

      I was hoping this event would be more of a chance to discus these problems with people who care but every time the group would start to discus a point Tyler had brought up he would immediately steer it to some new point and not give the group chance to actually address any of his first concern or build on them.

      I wish he would have come with a few tangible concerns to discus and not a large laundry list of vague grips.

      • Ask to have another event. Problem solved.

    • Perhaps the purpose of my visit was either miscommunicated to me or to you. Why don’t you suggest a topic for next time and offer your services?

  • I’d love to moderate a event where people come with their lists of “What’s Wrong With Downtown”. If a compiled list comes from the discussion from Tuesday night, that would be a good start, but I strongly felt the evening was lacking input from the group who showed up to speak. I’d suggest folks doing this online, but I feel bad for the other folks who’d rather speak than write what they think.

    Downtown Voices Coalition is working on creating a facilitated discussion in mid-January on the topic of Moving Forward. As DVC has worked with a position statement and plan for the last five years, we seek to acknowledge what’s happened already and what still needs to happen.

    See the website http://www.downtownvoices.org and click on PRIORITY ISSUES to see what came from the original event from which DVC grew. Many items in this paper were adopted by the city for its Downtown Strategic Plan, and it’s hoped that the priorities that rise in this event will lend themselves to the next Phoenix General Plan.

  • Hey Steve, I’ve pulled together such a WWWD list based on past/present DVC discussions, the DPJ Local Breeze event, meetings of PCA’s budding central/downtown Phoenix marketing initiative, and a gazillion conversations with friends and associates at locally-owned coffee shops! What’s additive about the list is that it provides the “who to contact” to share one’s concerns about WWWD (moving the discussion from “moan & groan” to “take action”). I’ll share the list with you. Jim