Jerry's World

Jerry Colangelo and his pals have gobbled up the lion’s share of public development dollars. If downtown’s to be saved, City Hall’s got to share the wealth.

So now, with Colangelo's backing, the Partnership is scrambling to find ways to fill a void that was created after it backed the destruction of what might have been a major arts-and entertainment district.

"Our challenge clearly is that we need to continue to focus on activities that create 24/7 type of demand [downtown]," says Kearney. "That's the challenge. We recognize it."

Adds Colangelo, "In other words, you have to create a whole different atmosphere."

Business permits jumped  with the BOB's opening in '98, but fell precipitously  afterward.
Source: City of Phoenix
Business permits jumped with the BOB's opening in '98, but fell precipitously afterward.

It all sounds good, the artists community says, but can Colangelo and the DPP be trusted with such a task? Will they not find a way to take all the money from this diversification for themselves and cut out the little guy? Will they not be inclined to create a Disneyland-style Main Street U.S.A. downtown that is devoid of soul and sophistication?

In other words, do they really get it -- or really even want to get it?

Beatrice Moore knows what kind of atmosphere she would like downtown.

"You need an interesting mix of all different kinds of people together," she says. "That's what makes for a truly exciting and vibrant neighborhood."

Moore is the rare artist with the mind of a financier. While she has the hippie skepticism of government and big corporations that served as the backbeat of the '60s, she also understands the economic forces driving real estate development.

All reasons that she is outraged by what she considers blatant self-dealing at the expense of taxpayers by Colangelo and the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

Moore is not afraid to speak out. Anti-war banners hang from outside her 15th Avenue studio tucked behind the Bikini Lounge, located in one of the buildings she owns.

A seasoned warrior from years of development battles, she has not let the struggle diminish her creative fires. An explosion of colorful paintings fill the interior of her studio where she continues to hone her painting skills.

"Moore is one of the truly interesting characters in downtown," says downtown artist Therrien, who like Moore, has long irritated city officials with outspoken views on downtown development.

Nor surprisingly, Moore has polar-opposite opinions on development, neighborhoods and the role of artists than Colangelo and the Partnership. She believes in E.F. Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful" motto.

For Moore, a rich life is not one that revolves around accumulating money. Rather than cashing in on her extensive real estate holdings that she and her partner, Tony Zahn, have acquired over the last decade along Grand Avenue, the couple wants to eventually place the properties in a trust so they can be used as low-cost, studios for young artists for decades to come.

Moore and Zahn arrived in downtown Phoenix in 1986, setting up housekeeping in a bungalow near 15th Avenue and Fillmore. The couple rented an art space in the Madison Studios in the warehouse district near Second Street and Madison.

By early 1989, they began hearing rumors about Colangelo's plans to build an arena in the warehouse district. In March 1989, they helped organize the first Art Detour, which has since become an annual event that spurred the creation of Artlink, the downtown arts group.

They used the first Art Detour to alert politicians, including then-Mayor Terry Goddard (now Arizona's Attorney General) that there was an active artist community in the warehouse district that should be protected from the wrecking ball.

Despite loud protests that generated extensive press coverage, Moore and Zahn were among the artists moved out of the area to make way for the arena. The couple set up another studio on West Jackson Street, across from the Icehouse. That warehouse was later torn down by the county as part of its jail-expansion project.

Upset by the relocation, Moore says they began to look for affordable warehouses to purchase. They soon identified some properties along Grand and bought their first warehouse in 1992. Rumors of a coming baseball stadium began circulating a couple of years later and accelerated their efforts to acquire warehouse property.

The couple now owns buildings sprinkled along Grand and have converted most of them into low-rent studios. Sticking to a philosophy of "start small and build on it," Moore wants the studios to remain integrated into a diverse community of mostly homes and small businesses.

Grand Avenue is attractive, she says, because it's a neighborhood of "real businesses," including industrial enterprises that have been around for many years.

"As soon as it becomes all art spaces, cafes and cute little boutiques, the rents get very high and property taxes go way up," she says. In other words, she doesn't want to see the upward cycle spin out of control so that it becomes impossible for artists and long-time residents to afford to live in the neighborhood.

Moore says the city and the DPP have lost many opportunities to encourage relatively low-cost rehabilitation of older buildings downtown, many of which have since been destroyed.

"They basically eradicated areas that could have been interesting for mixed-use, that could have been small-scale infill that makes people want to wander around downtown.

"You have to have something that attracts people so they want to walk. If it's all concrete and huge buildings, there is nothing to draw somebody down to take a look. Unfortunately, they placed one concrete mega-block after another."

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