Architecture and Design

Roosevelt Row: The Fight to Keep Downtown Phoenix "Authentic" Is a Fight to Let It Become Something It's Never Been

Jimbo Reid is pissed off.

He's mad that there aren't any "cute chicks" today in Jobot, a coffee shop in an old house on Fifth Street. He's angry that the guy he's talking to on Jobot's cracked front porch keeps asking him about gentrification. He's fuming because the latte he ordered didn't come topped with a cute drawing made out of steamed milk, "like they always used to do at this fucking place."

Mostly, though, Reid is angry because the downtown Phoenix he knows and loves is, he says, about to go away.

"Come back here in five years," Reid barks, waving a heavily tattooed arm out at Fifth Street, "and I'll be sitting here at a Starbuck's, and she--" and here he jabs a tattooed thumb at a young woman with fuchsia hair wearing mismatched leggings and what looks to be a bustier, "will be some tight-ass lawyer on her way to an office."

He offers this last word as a vulgarity. Reid does not like offices. He doesn't like national chains. And he really hates that "the suits," as he calls them, are about to bulldoze the thing about Phoenix he loves the most: Roosevelt Row, the hip, scruffy arts district that has helped transform downtown Phoenix from a bombed-out also-ran feared by suburbanites to a destination for many of those same suburbanites -- and in a relatively short time, too.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela