Parking Breaks

Phoenix's shadow governors had keen ideas for the warehouse district south of Bank One Ballpark. But property owners told them where they could park them.

Margaret Mullen is the hatchet woman, but any notion that she is ordered around by the board's big boys is probably mistaken.

"To say that she takes direction every day from somebody would be a misstatement," says one of the downtown cognoscenti. "She knows her job. She's got the biggest brass balls in downtown Phoenix and she swings them around. It's not just because someone tells her what to do. That just misjudges her talent."

Mullen, it is said, walks perfectly in synch with her masters, handing out favors and squashing dissent.

Mullen's initials are all over the memos and correspondence regarding stadium-area development in the files of the City Manager's Office. Mullen has clout and she has a say in any project within the boundaries of her regency, because, in essence, the city has delegated much of its planning function to the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

Last fall, the DPP hired Michael Dollin at ASU to lead workshops with the property owners in the warehouse district to find out what impact the new stadium would have on their businesses. Mullen wanted to know who took deliveries when, who needed access to the railroad, who needed sidewalks that could be driven over by trucks. And she wanted to short-circuit any problems inadvertently caused by stadium events.

"That's our job," she says.
And though she insists that the workshops were not intended to expand the DPP's realm, Mullen's invitation to property owners for the second workshop flatly stated, "Once we have addressed all potential issues, we will begin discussing the possibility of extending the Partnership boundaries to include the area from Central to 7th Street and from the tracks south to Lincoln."

The impetus, she says, came from the property owners.
"As they started talking, the problem of traffic down there and the lack of infrastructure came up," she says. "Some places have lighting, some places don't; some places have adequate parking, some places don't. They said, 'We'd like the partnership to extend their boundaries,' and we said, 'You can't do it that way. It's not an arbitrary thing. But if you're interested, you have to take responsibility for it.'"

Ray Pacioni, who owns a parking lot and three buildings south of the tracks, stepped forward.

"What are we? Chopped liver?" Pacioni asks. "I was looking at all the growth and all the good things that happened north of Jackson, and I went to ask why we don't have our own partnership."

He thought that if the south-of-the-tracks landowners took initiative, maybe the city would take notice and start investing in the neighborhood.

"If the landowners themselves formed some cohesive voice, we could go to the city and say, 'Hey, look, we're paying X amount of money for these things. How about you guys stepping up?'"

And so Pacioni walked from warehouse to warehouse with a petition that called for their annexation into the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

And why not?
"I can't imagine why anybody wouldn't want this area to be clean and bright and safer," he says.

Others could.

Ray Pacioni swears that the idea to extend the boundaries of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership to include all of the East Warehouse District came out of his imagination; Mullen swears the same. And all of the functionaries in the City Manager's Office tilt their heads quizzically with every question, in unison, smile evasively, chuckle and tell you they didn't read this memo and that you took that memo out of context. In the absence of straight answers, the memos and other official documents in the files in the City Manager's Office hint at Manifest Destiny.

Regardless of where the expansionist impetus came from, it fit wonderfully into the city's development plans, specifically as set out in a document adopted by the City Council in 1990 titled Downtown Phoenix: A 25-Year Vision. That council imagined a warehouse district full of artsy-fartsy coffee shops and jazz clubs.

And Pacioni's vision also fit perfectly into DPP visions. The machine was set in motion, regardless of whether it really represented the majority interest in the warehouse district.

In a January 19 memo to the partnership's board of directors, Mullen wrote, "The consensus of the Board at the time was that addressing south of the tracks was critical due to the construction of the ballpark, the development it will present and the need to address that area as a gateway into Downtown."

She went on to say that the partnership and the city would have to "fast track this work" in order to get it into the 1997 budget.

Five days later, Ray Pacioni made his formal pitch to the partnership.
As the minutes of that meeting report, "Mr. Colangelo pointed out that he felt incorporating this area was critical, since it would become another major entrance into Downtown."

Then Michael Ratner, a board member and an owner of Tom's Tavern, worried aloud that the DPP's funds shouldn't be "drained from the existing area," raising questions about just how much revenue could be squeezed out of the warehouse district. Likely it did not need and could not afford the kinds of projects and services in the northern reaches of the fiefdom. It would need to be a separate district.

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