Sorry, We're Closed

Downtown businesses are struggling to stay afloat

"Add to that the complication that it was never built to code," he adds.

"And in that process, developers -- nobody -- can afford to wait. We had some of this leased several times, but tenants can't wait," Hogarty says.

Don Keuth of Phoenix Community Alliance, a coalition of business and civic leaders, educators and government employees helping revitalize downtown Phoenix, calls the Gold Spot's efforts "heroic." Keuth says the city needs to find ways to aid people like Hogarty more quickly.

Eric Brown, president of Artisan Homes, is one of the few developers building downtown.
Emily Piraino
Eric Brown, president of Artisan Homes, is one of the few developers building downtown.
The owners of Orpheum Lofts will try to lure rich people to move downtown.
Emily Piraino
The owners of Orpheum Lofts will try to lure rich people to move downtown.

But it hasn't yet. David Lacy owns Willo Baking Company and My Florist Cafe on Seventh Avenue and McDowell. Lacy wants to revitalize the entire block. He's bought virtually all the property on the north side of McDowell between Fifth and Seventh avenues. "You can't rehab one building. You have to rehab all the buildings," he says.

For now, that means providing parking spaces. He thought about asking the city for assistance, but knew the process would take about a year for approval. "I can't wait that long," he says. (He's opening a market next year and a pastry store after that.)

So with his own money -- roughly $500,000 -- Lacy's developed the parking spaces he needs to accommodate his long-term vision.

"Within three years you're going to find this intersection is completely rebuilt," Lacy says. "And the city's done nothing. Nothing. Nothing."


Mike Hogarty and David Lacy are betting that it won't be too long before their retail shops and parking spaces are filled with people who not only work downtown but live there.

But for now, it's a hard sell.

"A lot of bars close early," says Star Mays, the waitress from the Hard Rock Cafe who lives on Ninth Street and Van Buren. But, she says, even if the downtown bars stay open, few people are inside. "How cool is it to go to a bar where no one's there? I usually go to Scottsdale."

The 28-year-old Mays lives downtown because the rent's relatively cheap, $750 a month, and she could walk to work if she wanted to. But she doesn't want to. "Sometimes, there's prostitutes on the street at six in the morning," she says. Not to mention drug dealers and crack addicts.

Still, there is a nice church close to her apartment. But there's a porn shop close, too. "My mom doesn't like me living here," Mays says.

Her mother needn't worry; Mays is leaving once her lease is up.

Betsy Schmidt used to live downtown, but moved farther out -- very far out -- when she grew tired of the crime and the lack of services in downtown.

"I had cars broken into," says Schmidt, who now lives in Carefree and runs a business there, too. "Police helicopters flew over at least once a night. I heard gunshots. . . . There was nowhere to grocery shop."

Nine years ago, when she moved to the Valley, Schmidt wanted a living experience comparable to Seattle, where she'd lived before.

"Seattle has transportation, it has arts, it has culture. And it's pretty. They've been preserving their architectural history for 100 years," Schmidt says. "I think the problem with Phoenix is it never had style. It never had a community feeling. There was never any vision."

She lived downtown for five years. She thinks the biggest problem with downtown is apathy. "I think a lot of people who move here have moved here to be uninvolved and uncommitted. In Seattle, people cared."

But not everyone sees downtown the way Mays and Schmidt do. It's people like Alex Patane that downtown business owners and residential property developers are hoping to attract.

"It's the best decision I made to live down here and be near my work," says Patane, who lives at Artisan Parkview at Seventh Street and Washington.

Patane works as a communications specialist for the Valley's light-rail system, which is scheduled to open in 2006. It's the main reason she moved downtown two years ago. She says cities with a transit system experience "an urban renaissance" they wouldn't otherwise.

"I could talk about this stuff all day," she says.

But she doesn't. Instead, in her less effusive moments, she says she wanted to live downtown because "studies have shown that property value increases near the light rail." And there'll be a station stop outside her door.

More than the light rail, Patane loves the urban setting. "It's the life. It's awesome," she says.

Originally from New York, she spent too many years living in north Scottsdale. "There's no flavor. No personality," she says. She grew tired "of the McMansions." Now, she loves to walk to work, loves it that she's not stuck in traffic an hour a day.

She admits she won't run at night. But that's what the gym's for. She's never had her car vandalized, never felt threatened. And as for things to do, she says she walks to concerts at the Dodge Theatre, or to movies at the Arizona Center.

The smaller, hipper places are out there, too. "It's a matter of really patronizing businesses," she says. "You've got to think outside the box."

Ethan Albert, Patane's boyfriend, lives in the Roosevelt Historic District, at Central and Culver. "He doesn't share my enthusiasm," Patane says.

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2 comments
patientlywaiting
patientlywaiting

I'm not sure I agree with the reason why Daniel Malventano of Daniel's states for not expanding in the downtown area. I think he couldn't afford to expand, PERIOD! I've been waiting months for payment of an invoice (which, by the way, is under $150.00). He must have fallen into dire financial straits, poor fellar.

patientlywaiting
patientlywaiting

I'm not sure I agree with the reason why Daniel Malventano of Daniel's states for not expanding in the downtown area. I think he couldn't afford to expand, PERIOD! I've been waiting months for payment of an invoice (which, by the way, is under $150.00). He must have fallen into dire financial straits, poor fellar.

 
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