Downtowners rejoiced when news broke that Angels Trumpet Ale House would bring craft beer downtown. When the ale house opens early in 2012 near Roosevelt Row it will be helping to fill in some of the missing gaps in our urban fabric. So what else does downtown still need? What other pieces of the urban puzzle are missing? This list is by no means exhaustive; these ideas are just a few of the possibilities that would continue to make downtown more vibrant and enjoyable.

Tammie Coe Cake

1) A downtown bookstore
Contrary to popular belief, bookstores are not going extinct. Borders Books closed because it was a big-box chain unable to compete. Overpriced merchandise and huge overhead costs didn’t help. Mom and pop bookstores remain a community asset, a gathering place to discuss ideas, meet authors, participate in workshops, and chat with booksellers/neighbors/friends about the books you’ve read. Could the Downtown Phoenix community sustain and benefit from such a business? Absolutely.

2) A downtown dessert restaurant
If you’re like most Phoenicians you’ve probably been to San Diego at least once this year and chances are you’ve been to Extraordinary Desserts. But where can Phoenicians go for the same quality and selection of tasty treats? Our own Tammie Coe Cakes bakes some sweet pastries and other goodies, but the Roosevelt location has only a small café with limited seating while the Arcadia location has none. Downtown needs a dessert restaurant, they make for a fine first date, or any reason really. Who doesn’t like dessert?

3) A downtown dog park
Yup, we still need one. The city formed an 80+ member Ad Hoc Dog Park Committee earlier this year. (Honestly, what other committee has that many members?) The Dog Park Committee made a recommendation for a downtown location that was ignored. Instead, the downtown dog park will be in Hance Park, a location the nearby neighbors objected to, which still leaves the downtown residents who are south of Hance Park without any off-leash green space for their four-legged companions.

4) A downtown vegetarian restaurant
Don’t let the word “vegetarian” send you running for a T-bone steak. Green New American Vegetarian in Tempe prepares food with lots of fresh vegetables and organic ingredients to create pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and noodle bowls all of which can be enjoyed by non-vegetarians.


5) A Whiskey Bar
There is no shortage of fantastic bars downtown with the word “bar” in the name, Rum Bar, Bar Smith, Side Bar, FilmBar, Bliss/reBar, but we are lacking a bar dedicated to one of the West’s most beloved spirits- a whiskey bar. Denver, Colorado has one. And while we’re at it, why not a dedicated tequila bar for the West’s other favorite spirit! Word on the street is the Rasputin Vodka Bar is still slated for CityScape. At least we are on the right track.


  • Jim Menici

    Yay for a book store! I don’t understand why there isn’t one already. You have a huge student population from ASU, which is growing, plus locals. You could have a combined book store plus coffee/snack bar and make a lot of money off of that, given the right location.

    • Jim Menici

      I meant to say ASU/UA. Don’t want to give all the credit when both are participating with growing that campus.

  • Will Novak

    Downtown PHX has improved a lot in the last decade, but it still needs a lot of stuff (in no particular order):

    ~ A hardware store. If you live in a loft Downtown and need to buy a nail to hang a picture, you can’t buy one Downtown (nearest one is in the 5 Points area)

    ~ Office Supply store. Downtown PHX is the highest concentration of office space in the Valley and there’s not a freaking office supply store, thats a joke.

    ~ Department Store(s): As much as Downtown hipsters love boutiques and small local stores, bigger Department stores are needed too. Successful Cities have both big and small stores Downtown. Downtown had been dead since Goldwaters, Diamonds and Korricks moved out all those years ago. The next step for Downtown should be trying to attract a Target (even a CityTarget would do), Khols (or Marshalls, or something similar), etc.

    ~ A REAL grocery store: The Downtown Public Market is great, but for most people they’ll still need to make weekly trips to Safeway/Bashas/wherever. The Oakville in CityScape is a grocery store in name only. A Fresh & Easy (or whichever chain) somewhere nearby the Public Market so that shoppers can “chain” together their store trips while walking would be key.

    ~ Good Mexican food: Isn’t it amazing that in a City like Phoenix the only Mexican option downtown seems to be the Matador? There’s also Mi Amigo’s but its a cheesy chain in a sterile location, and El Portal but thats fast food. A few more QUALITY Mexican options would be nice.

    ~ Hotel Space: The addition of the Sheraton & Westin is great but Downtown PHX still is woefully low on hotel rooms compared to comparable cities. But the Hotel Monroe really needs to happen as well to provide more unique options. Down the road the Westward Ho needs to be reclaimed as a high end boutique hotel, it should reclaim its place as the Queen of Downtown hotels (note: I’m all for the old folks staying in Downtown, but I’d rather them be in new construction, designed for their needs)

    ~ More urban rental housing: Alta PHX was a nice addition, Downtown needs many more projects like that. The more urban the design of the project it seems the better the leasing does. Downtown is still way under served by affordable urban rentals versus how many people would like to take a chance on living downtown.

    ~ Chinese food: There’s Sing High, which is neat that its been around 80 years, but its pretty terrible. Downtown needs more Chinese, or really pan Asian, dining options.

    ~ Arts & Crafts Supply store: With Roosevelt Row & Lower Grand being the heart of the arts community one would think there’s enough of a market to support a large Arts Supply store. A Michael’s, or even more preferably, Arizona Arts Supply would be terrific. The nearest AZ Arts Supply is up on Indian School Rd and 16th, which isn’t accessible to Downtowners by Light Rail and is an auto oriented destination.

    ~ Basketball courts: Arizona is a basketball state. The Suns are Phoenix’s favorite team, in Northern AZ we have High School girls basketball teams that draw 10K+, and obviously college hoops is king in Southern Tucson. Yet “Arizona’s Urban Heart” doesn’t have a single public basketball court in its Downtown- why??? The useless NE portion of Civic Space should’ve been a basketball court. As ASU builds there new Downtown SRC if there’s left over external space, instead of using it for parking, how about a hoops court? Phoenix needs its own Rucker Park.

    ~ Expanded Higher Education options: Downtown ASU/UA is great, its a good springboard going forward. The PHX School of Law moving into the old Phelps building is good too. But, Downtown PHX is the largest collection of working adults in the Valley, why aren’t there more ‘colleges’ that cater to that crowd located Downtown? PHX leadership needs to work on filling empty class B office space with classrooms from schools like University of Phoenix, DeVry, ITT, etc.
    Additionally the Valley in general is in desperate need of a Liberal Arts college. Phoenix College should be “graduated” to a 4 year college and fill that gap. That would of course create a gap in Community College options, so PC’s Downtown campus could be expanded into a full scale Community College- that would compliment ASU and UA very well.
    Finally the Art Institute of Phoenix is in a soul crushingly bland office park along the I-17, shouldn’t a school with its mission be HQ’d Downtown? There are so many empty lots between Hance Park & Roosevelt Row, that would be a great place to try to attract the Art Institute too.

    ~ Union Station: Commuter rail and Amtrak need to be brought back to Union Station. That building is a gem thats just languishing. Luckily there’s been more and more talk about these sorts of things in recent years. Light Rail can’t (and shouldn’t) bring people from far afield areas, we need County wide Commuter Rail.

    ~ More Museums: Downtown/Central PHX does well in this regard, but it could be better.
    There’s no physical building for the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. A physical Arizona Sports HOF/Museum would be a great addition to Downtown which is already the Valley’s sports hub. The surface lot just North of Chase Field (7th St/Jefferson) would be an ideal location.
    It would also be nice if Downtown or Central PHX had a Natural History Museum. There’s one in Downtown Mesa, its nice, but small, and not really the size or quality befitting a Metro of our size and status.
    We all love the PHX Art Museum but its fairly small too (I know its not Downtown proper-shhh). Denver & Milwaukee’s new Art Museums have become a landmarks for those Cities, it would be nice to see PAM expand in that way. There’s really no substantial collection of Ancient Mediterranean (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc) anywhere in the State, it would be nice if PAM had a wing for that. In the future I’d love to see PAM expand into a new building on their current surface lot and use the current building as a specific Modern & Contemporary Art Museum. Here’s how PAM stacks up to Museums in other cities by number of works of art in the collection:

    PHX: 18,000
    MIL: 25,000
    DEN: 68,000
    SLC: 17,000
    SEA: 25,000
    StL: 30,000

    PHX Museum of History: We used to have one, it closed, thats depressing. A City can’t succeed that doesn’t know, celebrate and learn from its history. As the economy recovers, bringing back the History museum needs to be a priority.

    ~ Shade, shade shade: better shade and pedestrian connections of course are key. Narrower streets, better bike lanes and bicycle boulevards, big shady trees that are planted properly so they don’t die, etc. While the City waits for the economy to recover and bring more businesses Downtown it should be focusing on laying the groundwork infrastructure wise.

    You’re right on the bookstore of course. The best option would be Changing Hands opening a new location in Downtown. The old Circles Discs and Tapes building might be good, but its perhaps a bit on the small side. I long for the day when Downtown PHX has its answer to Portland’s Powell Books.

  • Will Novak

    Oh also, Downtown desperately needs more large Corporation HQs, that more than anything is what defines a Downtown. Unfortunately, Phoenix doesn’t have many Fortune 500 or 1000 companies and for the most part the ones we do have aren’t located in the CBD.

    Our next Mayor (hopefully Stanton) needs to convince local large firms to move Downtown and have a presence there. Being a signature in your Cities downtown is part of having Civic pride (like what BofA has done in Charlotte) and too few Valley companies seem to have that pride.

    Cold Stone Creamery should have their HQ Downtown with a signature store on the ground floor. They could also have something like a mini version of the Coca Cola Experience in ATL where people can taste test experimental flavors, discontinued flavors, etc. Something like that would be a big attraction.

    PetSmart should be Downtown with a signature location as well. There’s no pet stores in Downtown Phoenix and one of the biggest Pet store brands in the Nation is HQ’d in the City! Thats ridiculous.

    Avnet, Republic Services, GoDaddy, Harkins (with a signature Cine Capri location), U Haul, Swift Transportation, etc. are all local and should all be aggressively lured to Downtown. If the Resolution Copper mine project ever moves forward PHX leadership should aggressively pursue landing an American HQ for BHP Bilitons mining operations.

    Phoenix leadership used to aggressively lure large corporations to the Valley but by the 70s they rested on their laurels. Obviously, its long past time to reverse that trend.

    • You propose that the key to making Downtown Phoenix great is to uproot businesses from nearby towns?

      • Will Novak

        Yes Tyler, making Downtown Phoenix the main hub for large businesses in the Valley is very important. If we continue to have large corporations HQ’d in suburban office parks along the 101, Phoenix and Downtown will never succeed.

        By the by, most of the large corporations I listed are already HQ’d in Phoenix, just in suburban sections of town. Only Harkins, GoDaddy and Cold Stone are located in another Valley municipality, Scottsdale.

        Having your CBD be well…the Center for businesses is a pretty well understood concept and widely accepted. I’m not sure what your vague criticism is here.

        • Taking from other cities makes them weaker.

          And I completely disagree that large corporations are the key to a thriving downtown. All they do is make the place busier between 9-5, without adding much to the night and weekend life that Downtown Phoenix desperately needs.

          • Will Novak

            If Phoenix can’t compete with Scottsdale for corporate HQ’s, how are we supposed to compete regionally with SLC, Denver and San Diego? Or internationally with other desert cities like Riyadh or Abu Dhabi?

            Why are you concerned about ‘weakening’ the Scottsdale Airpark (or office complexes along the 101) anyway? That should be a place for small and mid sized businesses, not some of the largest corporations in the State.

            Your point that somehow more corporate HQs downtown and more night life being independent from each other is entirely wrong. If things are busier in Downtown from 9-5 there will naturally be more spill over after hours. More office workers who stay for D’backs games, to go to Stand Up Live or just have a drink somewhere.

            New large corporate HQ’s in the Downtown also means new construction, new jobs, and new street level retail- which could be geared for more late night uses. Not to mention the dramatic increase in the PHX tax base that go toward road diets, shade, parks and other urban infrastructure.

            Downtown PHX has a very small employment base downtown for a City of our size. The more people who work Downtown, the more people who will be open to living Downtown. It also means more people potentially moving into close in neighborhoods like Willo or Coronado. If you strengthen the historic hoods that form a perimeter around Downtown, you strengthen Downtown itself.

            The silly notion that Downtown needs to be totally geared for the nightlife loving hipster doofus crowd at the expense of the 9-5’ers is strange. Great cities have great Downtowns, great Downtowns have something for everyone (and lots of it). Place for families, kids, teens, 20 somethings and especially the 9-5 crowd.

  • I would love to see a bookstore downtown. The closest one I know of I believe closed down [at the Biltmore] so that would be a great improvement and I am sure it would be super crowded. A dog park would also be fabulous, as a dog owner who lives in a condo, there aren’t many options other than walking my dog for me. I know my dog and I would completely use it!

  • Regarding dog parks, it would not be a good idea to place one at the western panhandle of Margaret T Hance Park at Culver and 3rd.

    Visit http://www.closeshawneebarkparknow.org to see why. Your neighbors in Chandler hope you don’t create another Shawnee Bark Park in Phoenix.