Letters from the week of October 9, 2003

 Ice Burg

City slickers: Thank you for that wonderful piece on downtown Phoenix ("Exploding Downtown," Michael Lacey, October 2). I found myself yelling with agreement while reading it to my husband in the car on our way downtown this morning.

I am from New York and he is from Chicago and we have lived in the Valley for 19 years. We couldn't agree more about everything you said, and both cities have wonderful ethnic neighborhoods we both fondly remember and miss. We recently purchased a wonderful historic house on Fifth Avenue and Fillmore with dreams of turning it into a neighborhood cafe and cultural gathering spot, and hoped to lure back our son (a musician) and daughter-in-law (an artist) to oversee this dream. They live in Los Angeles and informed us the only way they'd come back would be to live and work downtown, a perfect mix.

However, we have encountered enormous red tape while trying to develop this property and have almost given up many times. But somehow, every time we drive back down we fall in love again.

What this city needs is a soul and a population that is proud of their city. What you describe is exactly how we feel. We are planning to attend the Orpheum meeting and only hope the city fathers wake up and stop making it so hard for the small business entrepreneur to open businesses downtown. It only takes a few and the rest will follow.

My children's friends are always complaining about the lack of things going on here compared to Portland and Seattle and other great towns. We are committed to the vision and commend you for putting it so eloquently.

Karen and Tony Martingilio
Via e-mail

'hood winked: I'd like to mention that Jane Jacobs made many of the same points in her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jacobs also talked about safety, mentioning that "eyes on the street" were important. Strangers must be willing to keep an eye out for the welfare of strangers. I think "neighborhoods" are needed, not just "street life," because even those creative types occasionally have children. A "neighborhood" doesn't have to be dull. Jacobs advocates all-night bars. They keep more people on the street at all hours.

Maureen Schmid

The lights are much brighter there: One word: Hooray! Thanks for that great piece!

I've been hoping and praying for someone to make known this issue of our "plastic downtown." You have excellent insight and do great comparisons with Vegas, Orlando and Oaxaca! I really like some of your ideas. Please keep voicing your opinion about this stuff!

Also, though I am encouraged to see that Richard Florida is coming to share his ideas on a vibrant downtown, I'm still pretty discouraged about the "blue ribbon task force" and their apparent mindset of Phoenix needing more events, epicenters and condos. How does the everyday citizen who would love to see a thriving downtown voice his/her opinion about what we feel the downtown needs? Thanks again for that insightful and well-done article!

Mike Quinn
Via e-mail

Things'll be great when you're . . . : I wanted to drop you a quick line and let you know how much I appreciated your article this week regarding downtown. As a recent re-locator to downtown, there are many things I would like to see happen, especially coming from cities such as Minneapolis and Chicago. I've read many articles on this subject and none have been as entertaining or coherent as this one. The mere thought of moonlight bingo initially made me laugh, but hey, why not?

So with that being said, I wanted to thank you for giving a new perspective on what we should do with downtown. Now if only someone would do it.

Elizabeth Nelson
Via e-mail

The vision thing: Thank you for a terrific article; you eloquently restate my vision.

I have lived in the downtown Phoenix area for more than three years. I am born and raised a "New Yorker" and have spent the past 14 years in Phoenix, although I travel home on an average of four times a year just for that art and cultural diversity "fix." I have chosen to stay in Phoenix for a few more years because I enjoy "living on the edge," which is how I describe downtown Phoenix.

Prior to the election of our new mayor, Phil Gordon, I had the opportunity to meet with him and to ask him about his vision for the downtown area. Unfortunately, his response was that until there is more housing, we will struggle to get retail into the community. In fact, he stated that he "couldn't even pay a bookstore, such as Borders, to come." He explained that without the people, they won't invest.

I somehow find this difficult to understand having grown up in a very different world. I verbalized my sentiments on this feeling that there must be a balance: people, retail, more people, more retail. It seemed to me that while my ideas were acknowledged, I was just one individual with no political or financial clout to make a difference. I did ask Mr. Gordon how I could become more involved in the growth of our city and he suggested that I speak with my city councilman, Mr. Johnson, to see about becoming a member of the Village Planning Committee. My call to his office was never returned!

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