As an independent chronicler of all things downtown, DPJ takes a comprehensive approach to covering the urban living movement in Phoenix and, with this Conversation series, spotlighting the people who make it move.
“Of the million or so people who will come downtown, most of them will not be from out of state. ”
Mayor Greg Stanton sat down with us to reflect on the progress downtown stakeholders have made over the last year in helping to create the vibrant urban core that we all want. We covered so much ground with the Mayor that we are breaking our conversation into two parts. This first part focuses on the success we’ve had in our city with bringing a wide-range of downtown stakeholders together to increase events and opportunities for people to experience our city center. And, of course, we spoke about the opportunities that events such as the coming Pro Bowl and Super Bowl present for downtown.
Stanton is rooted in Phoenix, with lifelong ties to the urban core. He grew up on the northwest side of Phoenix, in a family that made sure to get downtown on a semi-regular basis. There were frequent outings, mostly by bus, to attend free Phoenix Symphony pops concerts, visit the library, or marvel at the miniatures in the Phoenix Art Museum. He moved away for college, but returned as a professional lawyer and worked in downtown. When he became the councilman for District 6, his district was the wide-ranging, but he was always considered a strong advocate for downtown.
As a downtown advocate, Mayor Stanton has been keenly aware that all of the stakeholders who are investing their time, passion and their treasure in our urban core are critical to building the downtown we want. He believes that Downtown Phoenix, Inc. has been key player in the last year in bringing these diverse stakeholders to the same table with an equal voice to plan our collective future:
It’s the age old dilemma of ‘who runs downtown?’ Is it the big companies with big headquarters or is it the smaller businesses, smaller entrepreneurs and locally-owned businesses, or the working artists?
A lot of people really felt that they were making it happen in downtown – Roosevelt Row, Grand, the restauranteurs – and they felt like, in some way, they weren’t being listened to in terms of the positive changes that should be happening in downtown. That was probably a false dichotomy previously, but with DPI we’ve made it a false dichotomy by putting all those groups in the same room at the same time, with the exact same decision-making capacity.
The main criticism of the old decision-making model for downtown was that it was too focused on building stuff and less focused on the street level activity and the life. As Mayor, I love both equally. DPI has come together with a focus not just on bringing life back to downtown, but making downtown the center of life in this valley and state. So far, that is the number one accomplishment of DPI: the success they’ve had in bringing new activities and new life to downtown.
In the midst of all the great downtown-based activities that exist from Zombie Walk to First Fridays, pub crawls, the Viva Phoenix music festival, family movie nights at the Downtown Civic Center Park and more, Downtown is about to host one million plus guests in the week between the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl.
We asked the Mayor to talk a little about what that means for the future of Downtown. Who are the audiences? What will they learn about Downtown?
One audience is the 100,000 + people who are coming to Phoenix because of football – fans or those associated with the team, etc. Some may not have tickets, but will be participating in all the game related events and activities. We want to make sure they have the very best experience, that we’re the very best hosts, that we’ve thrown out the welcome mat, the red carpet…. Being a great host begets other great hosting opportunities, so we are absolutely focused on being the very best host possible.
Many of these visitors will be involved in a decision-making capacities in their various companies, and can influence future decisions to come to Phoenix.It’s part of the ongoing brand of Phoenix. Having the world’s friendliest airport and being able to host events of the highest magnitude, not just have the facilities but the feel that people get when they come to Phoenix – a warm welcoming feel.
The next significant audience that Mayor Stanton pointed to are the downtown pioneers: the downtown businesses, entrepreneurs and restauranteurs who are already committed to downtown.
As we block off twelve blocks, we want to ensure that those who are inside are the first option for the million or so people that will come downtown. I want to make sure that those who are already here and have made that investment will feel like the Super Bowl was a worthwhile endeavor for them and not a drive-by that happened to them.
The third group that the Mayor identified was perhaps the most significant.
Of the million or so people who will come downtown, most of them will not be from out of state. Most of these visitors will be from here and many of them have not been to downtown before, or maybe for a Diamondbacks or Suns game. Most of them will not have had a significant downtown Phoenix experience. Many of them may think because of perceptions about urban downtowns around the country that it won’t be a positive experience.
This event can have a sustaining legacy by providing a unique opportunity on those four or five nights when people are coming down for Super Bowl Central and related events to have the very best experience and think:
Of the million or so people who will come downtown, most of them will not be from out of state. Most of these visitors will be from here and many of them have not been to downtown before, or maybe for a Diamondbacks or Suns game. Most of them will not have had a significant downtown Phoenix experience. Many of them may think because of perceptions about urban downtowns around the country that it won’t be a positive experience. This event can have a sustaining legacy by providing a unique opportunity on those four or five nights when people are coming down for Super Bowl Central and related events to have the very best experience and think:
– ‘That was pretty fun.’
– ‘That restaurant we tried was great, and we can go back for the great food and great service.’
– ‘I saw things that I wasn’t aware of that are in my downtown.’
That is going to be the great lasting impact of the Super Bowl: A whole new feeling of what downtown Phoenix is to the rest of the Valley.
Next week we’ll finish the conversation with the Mayor’s thoughts on the challenges and opportunities presented by other seismic changes that are in the process of transforming what Downtown Phoenix means to our collective future.