Letters

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
Tempe

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!

Thank you for your vision.

Nancy Jonap
Phoenix

Social studies: Let me first commend you on your excellent cover story. Having moved to the Valley approximately two years ago, I was immediately taken aback by the fragmented social scenes and/or lack thereof downtown. Being a supporter of the arts, and specifically music, I was disheartened to learn of the Valley's dismal indie/underground scene in the form of frequent cancellations by acts I admire. Lack of advance ticket sales and little to virtually no local promotion, let alone no accessible radio.

Hailing from the Midwest, I reveled in the fact that whatever I may miss in Cleveland, I could always, without fail, catch in the surrounding cities of Chicago, Detroit and Toronto. Further puzzling me is our city's recent tie with Chicago in the Top 5 of traffic congestion. For such a large and ever-expanding city, it is even more confusing as to why a total of only 49 paying customers over 15 events at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art turned out, resulting in half of all scheduled exhibits being scrapped. An absolutely baffling statistic uncovered in your piece!

Also surprising is heading downtown for a baseball game, then wondering in amazement at the complete evacuation of the city once the game's final pitch is thrown. There is nothing in central Phoenix to keep people in the city after a game, concert, art event, etc. No restaurants or bars certainly contribute to this dilemma. While I applaud the efforts of those associated with First Fridays as well as those struggling to regain a foothold downtown by bringing in live music (most notably the kind folks at Modified Arts), let's hope the blue-ribbon task force can not only address the urgency of the situation but remedy this serious and key issue for the Valley and its residents.

As for Richard Florida's appearance at the Orpheum on October 21, count me in.

James Broscheid
Via e-mail

A streetcar named light-rail: I read your article on downtown with great interest. I am not a regular New Times reader, but I will make it a point to follow the Downtown Special Project series.

There are a lot of us who know it can be better in central Phoenix, and want to put some positive energy into it. I am encouraged by light-rail (known as streetcars in my native San Francisco, so I know they work), TGen, the downtown ASU presence, and the possibility of a downtown UofA College of Medicine campus.

I'm not so pessimistic about the convention center thing -- Philadelphia's Convention Center is a good example of how it can be done right: bring it right up to the sidewalks, and have neat street-level stuff as part of it.

Thanks for taking this on!
Jack Kerrigan

Via e-mail

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