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But private business, including, especially, developers, saw the public discord as one more reason to avoid the south.
@body:Despite its proximity to the city center, its fairly well-developed infrastructure, its cheap land, its beautiful landscape and its obvious economic potential, the south side has been seen by Valley business and developers as a leper colony.
The only major grocery stores between the Salt River and South Mountain are along Baseline Road and South Central Avenue.
"You can't buy one football ticket down here," Hart says. There is no movie theatre, no bowling alley, no shopping mall and relatively few restaurants, banks and gas stations. The only car washes are self-serve.
Everyone seems to have an idea for attracting the type of business common to the rest of the Valley.
Some say it's an image problem.
"The bottom line is perception," says Ken Quartermain, deputy director of the Home Builders Association. "Every press report that you read says that there was this gun battle or this drive-by shooting in South Phoenix."
Greg Brownell, broker for an H.C. Elliott Homes development in South Phoenix, remembers the couple who rescinded their new home purchase after hearing the reaction from family and friends to their new South Phoenix address.
Hart remembers the city inspector who insisted on meeting him in the early afternoon to look at a piece of property, saying, "You know, those people down there are very volatile."
Some call for infrastructure.
The 1987 Rio Salado Project--a proposed $2.5 billion river-front development--would have put lakes, parks and commercial development in South Phoenix's front yard. But the countywide initiative was voted down because it didn't affect enough people in the rest of the Valley.
Downtown got Arizona Center, an arena and a new city hall.
North Phoenix got a sea of red-tiled roofs divided into housing developments with scenic names. The state sold 5,700 acres north of the Central Arizona Project to a group of investors for a megaproject known as Desert Ridge.
South Phoenix got more industrial development and low-income housing. And some say success will breed success.
All it will take is one big economic hit, say the planners, and everyone else will rush to South Phoenix like rampaging sheep.
"It needs to be master-planned," Quartermain says. "You need to have a big hit, like a Mountain Park Ranch or a Foothills."
But those kinds of promises have an all-too-familiar ring in South Phoenix.
Members of the Valley's business sector wanted a college. Maricopa Community College District built South Mountain Community College on Baseline Road.
They worried about flooding. The city built bridges that didn't wash out.
They wanted transportation. A major transportation corridor is planned along 51st Avenue.
They wanted a better entrance. The city set about "beautifying" South Central Avenue, in an attempt to make it look more like Greenway Parkway or Cave Creek Road or Scottsdale Road.
Somehow, South Phoenix never seems to be good enough. It has never looked like the rest of the Valley. It has always had more diversity, more divergent aspirations, more conflict--when all is said and done, more character.
And maybe that's been the problem all along.