Ben Bethel, owner and GM of the Clarendon Hotel, recently offered up the below suggestions to elevate Downtown Phoenix to the next level. Mind you, these are simply Ben’s thoughts and ideas, but it made us wonder what our neighbors and Downtown visitors think about accelerating these ideas into reality. Voice your opinions in the comments section, and let us know what else is needed to affect change in Downtown Phoenix.

-DPJ

Streetlamps to immediately define the neighborhood, let’s get some funds together and purchase streetlamps for the high-traffic areas: Roosevelt Street from 7th Avenue to 7th Street, then extend to 15th Avenue to 16th Street, as well as 7th Avenue and 7th Street from Roosevelt to McDowell. If you check sites like alibaba.com and buy direct from manufacturers, the solar-powered LED streetlamps range from $200-$1,200 each — there are no trenches to dig or streets to rip up, they don’t need wiring, the bulbs last 20 years and need no maintenance, and once installed you can pull the copper from the old streetlamps and sell it and pay for a nice portion of this project.

Here’s a link to the streetlamps — there are literally thousands to choose from.

When will the farmers market move to 1st Street from Hance Park to Fillmore, or at least Roosevelt to Fillmore to start? The current parking lot is a lawsuit waiting to happen — I see people tripping over parking blocks, potholes and uneven pavement while also nearly strangling themselves on low-hanging tarps that are literally as short as me — 5’8″. One small spark and you could have people screaming in pain while turning into plastic army men.

The current lot could be used for parking for the market, while the street could space the booths further apart — and when booths are separated by about two booths’ worth of dead space, sales for merchants can be 300-500% higher, as people can capture someone and spend time with them. The more time spent with someone before they move on to another booth, the greater chance they will buy something. The higher sales bring in more merchants and better quality ones at that.

I know 1st Street has some improvements coming, but make sure that power is one of them… then you can also have stages set up on the north or south sides of Roosevelt, and the north side of Fillmore as focal points for the market. Newsstand or larger booths (as you would see in Europe or Washington, D.C., or NY or other cities) could become permanent fixtures, ready to open in minutes without all of the set-up and tear-down. This would also help support foot traffic to the businesses along 1st Street and increase sales. The market could become a Saturday and Sunday fixture Downtown.

Once the market is taken care of — or at the same time — change First Fridays to an every Friday event. Hey, the stages are there, the booths are there, you’ll have plenty of space for entertainers — be it street performers or BMX stunt bikes or whatever. The vendors would be different than the farmers market; this is adaptive reuse at its finest. Once Fridays takes off, expand to Saturdays, but with a more adult focus on the music stages.

After these take off, get vendors to come in from Monday to Thursdays — make this the hip, stylish, fun, funky, unique street flea market that all cities die to have — art, jewelry, clothing, furnishings, food, flowers/plants, etc. This is the stuff that makes Florence/Rome/London/Paris/Madrid/NYC amazing cities to live in. This could draw more conventions to town, more hotel rooms, more visitors, more tax revenues.

This would make Phoenix interesting. This would make us stand out. This would give people something to do. This would span two Metro stations — get off at Van Buren, walk the market, get back on at Roosevelt after having lunch/dinner in the area. This would define neighborhoods. This would put us on the map. And it would be cheaper than setting up a single First Friday — after all, First Friday has to be set up then broken down. Here, you’d just be setting up.

PS: While we’re at it, how can I get involved in building a few 500-unit apartment buildings Downtown? We need residents, especially if we don’t want to see CityScape repeat the history of Park Central, Mercado, Arizona Center and Collier Center. Without residents there can’t be life after 5 p.m. Here’s what I think we could do, albeit with a bit more style: Build five 500-unit projects in a very short time frame — I don’t think we’d be able to build them in six days, but here’s proof that it’s possible.

Thanks for listening to my rants/ideas; the opportunity is there, the execution of the ideas for 1st Street is easy and couldn’t make more sense. This could start January 1, and everyone would look great for doing it. Start it as a six-month trial, see how it goes and see if there’s demand. If the demand is high, invest in shade structures and outdoor cooling systems and keep it year-round.


  • Ben,
    Thanks for the comments on the Phoenix Public Market. As a board member for Community Food Connections, the nonprofit organization that runs the Market, I can tell you we are actively working to improve the Market lot. In fact at the end of the year we will be upgrading the entire parking lot including more shade structures (meaning less shade “tarps”), complete resurfacing, landscaping, lighting and misting thanks to a community development block grant through the City of Phoenix. Currently, we are in Pierce Street as well as on the parking lot, now that the cooler weather is here so we are already using the streets. We hope over time to continue growing. It also looks as if Pierce Street will be part of the 1st Street upgrades that you mentioned including a wonderful piece of shade/artwork at the corner of Pierce and Central right at the Market lot.

    In addition to the Saturday market we also have the Wednesday afternoon market from 4-8 pm and now Food Truck Fridays, every Friday from 11 am – 1 pm featuring great local food vendors selling out of their trucks. We also have the Urban Grocery and Wine Bar showcasing many local products and prepared food open 5 days a week at 14 East Pierce. As a non-profit without a lot of funds we need to grow slowly and methodically so perhaps over time we can continue adding other days and events that you mentioned that tie to our mission of supporting local farmers and small businesses as well as build a permanent indoor/outdoor public market.

    Thanks for your suggestions.

    Dan Klocke
    Community Food Connections

  • 1. Street Lamps

    I agree with the idea, but am curious how much grief the city would give erecting self installed street lighting.

    2. Move Farmers Market

    I can’t speak to this item, but sounds reasonable on the surface.

    3. First Friday, Every Friday

    This is a tall order as getting vendors to be regular can be difficult and it loses some of the magic if it happens more regularly. However, the real issue is that your mayor would prefer First Friday to be moved altogether. The intent will be to have it aligned with City Scape where they have made their investment. I have little faith they would agree to that being a regular event.

    4. First Friday All the Time

    See response to item 3.

    5. 500 Unit Apartment

    This is the most valid of all the items. Downtown Phoenix’s biggest problem is that it has virtually no residents compared even to spread out suburban neighborhoods. Without a population base throwing money at big development is a waste. Hello Mercado. Hello Arizona Center. Hello City Scape. This is classic shitty planning by the City of Phoenix.

    The problem is that right now the city is not a good cash position to entice developers with incentives. Even if they were they would do something hideously overpriced and out of alignment with the market. Furthermore, the banks are lending money to developers who would traditionally step up and build market appropriate housing.

    With luck some personally wealthy developer with a mind for urban planning will prance into town and help solve some of these problems. 🙁

  • While these ideas seem well-intentioned, I don’t support the concept of moving the Downtown Phoenix Public Market. I’ve never felt unsafe there and appreciate the density of the market. If it were spaced out along First Street, I’d be more tempted to visit just a few known vendors and move on. The current layout, on the other hand, encourages me to explore and discover new vendors. The existing site continues to be improved. Why not let that effort continue instead of staging a relocation that I’ve never heard anyone else ask for.