Can Third Thursdays Save Mill Avenue?

I wrote yesterday that I wished every day could be like Third Friday, a monthly night in downtown Phoenix where artsy types hang out for casual openings, and buyers have a chance to see new shows (and buy art) before the mobs hit on First Friday. Third Friday's refreshing, fiercely local, and a great community builder.

I can't say the same about Third Thursday.

Last night, the City of Tempe and the Downtown Tempe Community (DTC) hosted its first Third Thursday, and took another stab at the alliteration overkill that often happens when we decide to turn a day into a monthly festival.

The Thursday market held in the courtyard of Madcap Theater had been on hiatus since late December, when the DTC decided to reorganize and wait for things to heat up again. Last night, they hoped to kick things off again with a bash.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about community events and giving a chance to give people something to do on Mill Avenue other than stumbling around singing Journey while whistling at the girl crossing the street in peep-toe boots and the latest attempt to turn an XL T-shirt into a knotted dress.

And Mill Avenue's needed an adrenaline shot for a while. Ever since the great migration of local boutiques, a great antique bookstore, a giant bookstore (that's now pulling out of two more Valley locations) and a few coffee shops, Mill Avenue's turned into a great place to park, get something to eat or drink from the almost overwhelming amount of bars and restaurants, and leave.

And last night, I wanted to do exactly that.

The big kick off hosted mainstagers Wild Man Phil with Stumpy the Tortoise (whoever the hell that was), the Las Brisas Mallet Masters (not kidding), and ZZ the Tomato doing face painting. The stores, big and small box, pulled racks onto the sidewalks for "street shopping" as traffic continued to breeze down Mill Avenue.

There was a good number of food trucks I love like Trucking Good Food and Paradise Melts (not that Mill Ave. needed more food), that was next to a courtyard of "artisan vendors," which meant more sand art and foreign-made tchotckes than I could ever hope for. And after last night, all I could hope for Mill Avenue was more than a circus act Third Thursday.

Third Thursday's tagline is "Expect More" and I really did.

For a hotspot in a hip college town, I'd expect to see a revitalization of empty storefronts with lower rents (take the Marshall Way's example or Scottsdale Public Art's INFLUX) with art and art spaces for show and creation (I have high hopes for the Fixx if they work on their hours).

For an avenue yards away from one of the largest universities in the country, I expect a place to take small creative classes from local creatives, to work together, to read a book, or to see a decent band play, or hell, to eat pie. And for one of the most diverse cities in the state, I'd expect to see a couple places to hang out when you're not 21-years-old yet and don't have plans for a sugar-coated sidewalk where you can your face painted.

To be fair, some of these places even exist just a PBR toss away on the hip little corner of Ash Avenue, where you can grab a kickass cup of coffee and hang out for a day before splurging on a few paintbrushes and spraycans. So maybe it's time for Mill Avenue to take some notes:

Enough with the festivals. With more involvement and less show, Mill Avenue can be a place where people can go and build community on every day or night of the month.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton