Us vs. Them

Make downtown attractive to locals, not to outsiders wearing knee socks and nametags. It only makes sense.

Essential services are missing. Where do you rent a DVD or a VCR? You can't.

While there is a charming rare-edition bookstore south of Patriots Park, there is no general-interest bookstore. That needs to change.

Downtown will never function year-round until we address the sun-and-shade landscaping so critical in the summer. Several decades ago, ASU architecture students envisioned Rio Salado. More recently, the school addressed the problems of a desert city in the summer. What will it cost? We need adjustable shading just like we have adjustable water flow in the canals. What would that look like?

There’s plenty of room for creativity downtown. How about a Park N Swap instead of a vacant lot? It could be one part of a diverse street culture.
Jackie Mercandetti
There’s plenty of room for creativity downtown. How about a Park N Swap instead of a vacant lot? It could be one part of a diverse street culture.
Soviet-style architecture dominates downtown. We deserve better. We deserve a livable core city.
Jackie Mercandetti
Soviet-style architecture dominates downtown. We deserve better. We deserve a livable core city.

We should expect that city politicians realize that this sort of shade infrastructure is as important to a vital downtown as light-rail or an expanded convention center. The confrontation with the summer sun should include the city's commitment to introduce an enormous desert-plants nursery downtown that will seed the landscaping that needs to happen. The palm tree, which you see all over the core city, is not a native plant. Worse, the palm throws off only pencil-thin shadow for protection. We need thousands of paloverde and mesquite trees downtown. The most wonderful outdoor space in the Valley is the Desert Botanical Garden. Downtown Phoenix needs to follow in these cool footsteps.

It is impossible to predict what might follow in the wake of such structural revitalization. Small business operators dream their own dreams, but there is no reason not to ask impertinent questions.

For years this newspaper has published announcements about the noontime, brown-bag entertainment at Patriots Park. Have you ever seen Jimmy Eat World or the Gin Blossoms or any of the other local bands that broke out nationally downtown?

Don't be silly.

And never mind lunchtime entertainment, what about at night when it counts? The city needs an entertainment czar, no older than 25, to book hot bands into downtown bars.

Bars and live music are critical.

The city needs more downtown bars. You need the kind of saloon where you tell the bartender to "Set 'em up, Joe." Alice Tatum singing in the background wouldn't hurt.

But you need more than that.

Look, it's about sex.

In an exhaustive Web site search of downtown revivals across the country, you never read about the critical role of hooking up. Some significant part of the success of First Friday flows out of the ambient sexual tension of so many people checking each other out. Music is the excuse at the Emerald Lounge, but a lot of people are also taking care of business. Or hoping to.

There are too many blue-ribbon commissions composed of middle-aged dignitaries who've forgotten that there is an entire world of people who do not go night-night at 9 p.m.

What is to become of the Icehouse?

Why aren't European movies, art movies, revival movies, documentaries shown at the Orpheum on a daily basis?

Real downtowns have shopping, and lots of it.

Why not create a Park N Swap downtown? It is a great scene with huge crowds. Bring it downtown every weekend with bands. This also offers a chance to pull large numbers of Mexican citizens into the mix. We will never have a diverse downtown without Mexicans having a piece of the pie. And I'm not talking about mariachis.

Doesn't it strike any of you as symptomatic of everything that is wrong that, with all the terrific Mexican restaurants in the Valley, the choices downtown are so limited? Look at 16th Street, south of Indian School, and the possibilities are apparent.

We need Mexican Popsicle carts downtown, as well as the roach coaches selling tacos. Specialty shops, like those in Sunnyslope that sell Oaxacan pottery, should be downtown. If you look at 16th Street, you find carnicerias, mariscos huts, panderias, and all things Latin. Central Avenue should take a cue. And if shuttles can move the pseudo-arts crowd among galleries on the first Friday of every month, why can't the same shuttles move downtown residents back and forth to the thriving culture of 16th Street?

Downtown does not mean: Black here. Brown there. White everywhere.

What else?

Good downtowns have vendors that sell magazines and newspapers, out-of-town newspapers and thousands of magazine titles.

Have you visited the police museum on the southeast corner of Patriots Park? One thing we surely ought to push is the history of crime in Phoenix. I mean the real history. Local commentator Jana Bommersbach wrote a book about downtown Phoenix's most notorious murderer, Winnie Ruth Judd. Bommersbach ought to lecture at the museum about Winnie Ruth Judd. Ex-Corporation Commissioner Jim Irvin should introduce a hologram exhibit featuring Charles Keating, Don Bolles, Joe Arpaio, Bishop O'Brien. This could be the sort of museum that the average person might actually enjoy.

We also have amazing sports history here. I'd love to see some place with tapes of Charles Barkley interviews. Or Mark Grace explaining how a rookie is designated to sleep with an ugly woman to break a team slump (a rookie is currently needed to step forward).

There are several hundred professional athletes who reside here in the Valley. They should all be showing local kids how to play ball. (It wasn't all that long ago when ballplayers worked as teamsters and salesmen in the off-season to make ends meet. Those days are gone, but kids still have needs in the off-season.)

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