Landscape architecture professionals from across the U.S. and around the world recently attended the annual meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects at the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix. Christopher Hume, a newspaper columnist from Toronto, attended the event and reflected on his visit here. It’s a rather unfortunate (misinformed/tired?) takeaway of our city.  Stacey Champion, a local sustainability advocate, shared her response to his column with DPJ.

Dear Mr. Hume,

In response to your recent article on Phoenix, I would like to say the following:

I’m sorry to admit that much of what you say about Phoenix is true. In fact, just this morning, I witnessed two historic buildings (built in 1909 and 1929) in the warehouse district be demolished so the PHX Suns VIP’s can have a surface parking lot for valet parking. Yep, another parking lot. Just what we need in the bulls-eye of climate change – another parking lot to add to our ever-growing asphalt jungle that is a major contributor to our little urban heat island effect problem we have going on here.

But when you speak of “locals,” I get the sense that you never actually conversed with one, or explored the vibrant areas of our downtown community such as Roosevelt Row, or took the time to do a bit of research on the local happenings offered in our downtown community – of which there are many.

I’m guessing you didn’t witness our Critical Mass bike ride, or walk over to the pop up park that is a creative temporary use project on 2nd St. & Roosevelt or check out the always full bike rack at the Crescent Ballroom.

I have a sneaking suspicion you made some very broad assumptions and looked for only those things to back them up.

Pedal Craft PHX is just one event that reflects the energy of the downtown Phoenix community. Photo by Jack London.

I don’t really blame you, because Phoenix is a truly unique city. I feel I can make this statement as I’ve lived in several other major metropolitan cities in the U.S., and Phoenix is indeed an odd bird. It’s the kind of city that doesn’t slap its cool across your face, but makes you go on a bit of a treasure hunt first. It’s the kind of city that’s full of hidden gems and interesting people and innovation. Believe it or not, it’s easy to be creative and innovative in this city.

I’ve had numerous coming to Jesus moments about living in Arizona for the past 14 years, but can honestly say I love this place and consider it my home. Phoenix has grown on me.

I can tell you that we have one of the most tight-knit communities I’ve ever encountered – especially in a city of this size. I can also tell you that we collectively are working to make improvements on a daily basis, with regard to sustainability, vibrancy, walkability, placemaking, policy improvements and community building.

It’s really a shame you didn’t talk to us – the people who live here. Many of whom don’t own cars but bike and rely on public transport such as the light rail on a daily basis, which in my experience as a resident is heavily utilized.

As a strong community advocate and activist; I find your pessimism insulting and your lack of foresight and hope as depressing as the poor planning and greed which got us into this mess in the first place. I would make the suggestion that in the future, when you write off a city of nearly 6 million people and banish us to the abyss of stucco and strip malls that you at least first try to connect with a real local to see things from a different perspective. I’d be more than happy to give you a tour any time.

Ms. Champion

  • Catherine Slye

    Wow. Such vitriol from Hume. Did he have to stand in the sun outside? I mean, wtf pissed him off so much to write such crap about OUR city. What a dink.