By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Mill makeover: Thanks for a great article about the redevelopment gone haywire in downtown Tempe. As a longtime resident in Tempe (since 1968), I too decry what has been done to a once wonderful and vibrant environment. Contrary to what Harry Mitchell has stated, Mill Avenue was a thriving area when he and the rest of the "movers and shakers" decided to give Mill a makeover. Yes, there was a "hippie" culture there. In fact, it was the "hippies" who showed these same movers and shakers that downtown Tempe could be made into a viable business area.
In fact, these "hippie" entrepreneurs started the revitalization process by moving into an undesirable, run-down area because it was affordable. They helped clean up the area. They attracted new people to downtown to check out all of the artisans who had set up shop there. And they started the "MAMA Fair," which was taken over by the so-called "DTC" (Downtown Tempe Committee) that promptly took over and kicked MAMA out and mainstreamed everything. What started out as a great way for local artisans to display and sell their work has been replaced by (mostly) gypsies who travel from fair to fair.
Yes, there was a so-called "biker bar" there, but the bikers pretty much stayed to themselves. The students and locals had their own watering hole favorites. We had live local bands at the Casa Loma. We had a place to shop for hardware (Tempe Hardware) or lumber (O'Malleys). We had a supermarket. We had a bakery. We had fast food (Whataburger and Jack in the-Box). We had places for college students to congregate and mix with locals. In other words, it was a real downtown -- not this artificial environment we have in its place. I used to love going to Mill, but no more! Now I, and most of the locals I know, try to avoid going downtown, and the parking situation is not the only reason.
What we see today is a homogenized, pasteurized version of a downtown. If you were to knock me out and then wake me up in downtown San Antonio or San Diego or any other redeveloped red-bricked downtown in the USA, I would be hard-pressed to tell you which town I was in. All the buildings and the names on the buildings are the same in all of these towns. So much for unique!
That's gotta hurt: Cool is indeed dead in downtown Tempe and has been for about 10 years now. The commercialization, indeed mallification, of Tempe is not unique: It has happened everywhere in the nation as brand-name positioning has become the national religion. It is interesting that while vociferously protesting Dennis Cahill as a tool of special interests, the good folks of Tempe were gullible enough to elect Hugh Hallman. This man is an attorney with enough money and backing to mount an extremely slick ad campaign in order to buy enough votes to win the mayoral job in Tempe. There is no way a guy whose image screams "Mr. Conservative Mainstream" is going to bring back the real heart of Tempe. If folks in the downtown area thought things were bad before, wait until Hallman gets finished reaming them. Guaranteed this dude won't use lube. Hell, he probably won't even bother to ask if it was good for us. At least Mayor Neil Giuliano would have been that polite. Oh well. Maybe in the next election, people will get active and really learn who is who and not just vote for the best sound bite.