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.
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.