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"We didn't come at this as traditional developers," says Hallmark. "We are in this because it's the right thing to do and it's simply not going to happen otherwise."
Maybe Hallmark is right. A new breed of developer might be what's needed in Phoenix. According to the city's Jason Harris, there are currently no plans to subsidize local businesses or even to give incentives to people to develop their dirt lots (which polka-dot the entire downtown redevelopment district a result of the fact that there's a lot of money to be made in land trading) the way Portland and Austin do. The topic has been broached at the city level, but that's the thing about cities they take a long time to make decisions.
Van Buren St. & Second Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Category: Community Venues
Region: Central Phoenix
While Phoenix is mulling things over, some local entrepreneurs are doing everything they can to build businesses downtown. Roosevelt Row has been fairly successful. On a street that was once close to empty save for the flophouses and drug dealers, restaurants, shops and housing all locally owned and operated have cropped up in the past five years.
At Artisan Village, a mixed-use condo-retail building at Seventh Street and Roosevelt, there are 10 live/work units where tenants are required to open a business in the storefronts. It hasn't been easy for all of them. Retail Laboratory closed up shop and moved to the Biltmore Fashion Park. There is a requirement for owners of the storefronts to keep retail spaces open; currently eight of the 10 storefronts are open with the exception of Retail Laboratory and one other empty space.
Kelly McDonald, owner of Mojo Music, says business has been slow. He didn't make even $5,000 during an eight-week period this summer. But it didn't surprise him. He knows it comes with the territory of opening a shop downtown, and luckily business is picking up again.
"The store turned a year old November 9," he says of his "child." "It's now crawling after spending its first year eating, pooping, whining and keeping me up at night."
Carla Wade, who owns Carly's Bistro at Second Street and Roosevelt just down the road from Artisan, has also seen business picking up.
"We've seen a lot of growth since we first opened [in May 2005]," she says. "More and more people are coming to the area on non-event evenings. Probably most of the businesses . . . have been in business about the same length of time, and that might have something to do with it."
This area's success, achieved without city support, suggests that maybe all Phoenix needs to do is allow businesses to grow and provide basic services to places where commerce has already started to flourish.
Greg Esser, president of the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, says he isn't asking the city to do much. He's just trying to get Phoenix to provide basic services to help the street. If the city could do simple things plant trees for shade, fix cracks in the sidewalk, put up streetlights in some of these neighborhoods and redevelopment areas, it's likely more people would start using the streets simply because they'd be more appealing, he says. In other words, the key to Phoenix's success lies not just in urban plans, condos or ASU-size projects, but also in fixing the small stuff.
True, no one wants to walk past a blank wall or a dirt lot for block upon block.
"If they [the city of Phoenix] concentrate on parking, public transportation and pedestrian-friendly design, this entire area could be a hub for activity," says Esser. "We're only four blocks from Chase Field, but you'd never think of it. People here will actually get in their car and drive down there. Right now it's vacant land. It's unsettling and uncomfortable to walk two blocks of empty territory."
It's all about filling in the blanks large and small.