Best of Phoenix

10 Best Features of Phoenix's Urban Landscape

The 2016 edition of New Times' Best of Phoenix is out now, making an argument for our status as a border town. Here's a list of the best neighborhoods and architectural elements our urban landscape has to offer.

Best Home Tour: Modern Phoenix Home Tour
Okay, so maybe we're a bit biased, but we like to think of Phoenix as a Midcentury Modern mecca. And there's no better way to ogle the impressive and Dwell-worthy architecture from an era past than by attending the Modern Phoenix Home Tour, organized by Phoenix's own Midcentury Modern maven, Alison King.

Best Neighborhood: Windsor Square Historic District
When plans for Windsor Square were announced in 1929, the up-and-coming central Phoenix neighborhood was touted for its proximity to Brophy Prep and the Arizona Biltmore, both of which were newly established. Now, the 260-home historic district features an array of architectural charmers built over many decades, as building was halted for the 1929 market crash, the Great Depression, and again during World War II. The variety makes Windsor's curving streets all the more appealing, as do more recently added nearby attractions like Medlock Plaza shopping and a collection of Upward Projects restaurants.

Best Weird Neighborhood: Sunnyslope
Oh, Sunnyslope, you are an enigma. Between your midcentury marvels and the many places to buy meth, Phoenix natives have long struggled over what to make of you. Fortunately, there are those who were willing to stick by you in your less-than-sunny days and, while we're hesitant to say it, we think it's working. From being featured in home tours to having your streets filled with your own homegrown art walk, we, along with the rest of this town, are slowly coming to terms with the idea that Sunnyslope has changed for the better.

Best Up-and-Coming Neighborhood: Coronado
Think about what makes a good neighborhood. Beautiful, interesting homes? Restaurants and shops? Plenty of things to do in the surrounding area? Good schools? A friendly community? Well, the Coronado Historic District in midtown Phoenix meets each one of these requirements and then some. Besides the lovely 1920s bungalows and charming 1940s ranch homes, families are drawn to this less-than-two-square-mile neighborhood by the schools nestled within, and young professionals love the proximity to downtown and the vibrant artistic presence.

Best Revitalization: Beth Hebrew Synagogue
Built in 1955 by Valley architect Max Kaufman, Beth Hebrew is a treasure of local Modernist architecture, with some fascinating Hebrew and Egyptian design details thrown in for good measure. In March 2015, after years of trying to save the building from destruction, artist and real estate developer Michael Levine bought it and set out to restore it. While the restoration is still a work in progress, the building has played host to Jewish religious services and community events, and Levine has big plans for the future, including film screenings, art exhibitions, and private celebrations.

Best Mission Revival Architecture: St. Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary's Basilica, a.k.a. the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the oldest Catholic church in Phoenix. Its exterior is also an excellent example of Mission Revival architecture. Though originally an adobe church, the current structure dates back to 1913, when the Mission Revival exterior was built under the direction of W.J. Rifley. Last year, St. Mary's celebrated the 100th anniversary of its 1915 dedication.

Best Facelift: Uptown Plaza
Whether you're a midcentury building or a midcentury human, facelifts are rarely a complete success. Which is why we were pleasantly surprised when local developers Vintage Partners did away with the stucco surrounding Uptown Plaza and replaced it with a more honest interpretation of the shopping center's 1955 roots: exposed brick, atomic fonts, neon signs, and some much-improved shade structures.

Best Bathroom: Bill Dambrova’s Goat Heart Studio
Contrary to the advice of old-timey books on home decor, it takes more than matching shag rugs and toilet-tank cozies to perfectly appoint a bathroom. Phoenix artist Bill Dambrova gets it, as evidenced by the bathroom inside his Goat Heart Studio at the historic Bragg's Pie Factory. Vintage ephemera lining bathroom walls from floor to ceiling capture moments from the city's past — or quirkier parts of the artist's personality that take subtler form in his paintings, which are filled with biology-infused abstractions.

Best Place to Office: The Warehouse District
Downtown Phoenix's warehouse district is finally getting the new life it deserves, thanks to a number of business owners who know a good deal when they see one. Located between Jefferson and Grant streets and Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue, the warehouse district offers up a central location, plenty of space, and, with a little remodeling, an industrial charm that would make any startup company swoon.

Best Sign: Rips Ales and Cocktails
No offense to the many great acts, bands, and DJs whose names are listed on the Rips Ales and Cocktails marquee, but that's not what you notice when driving past. Nope, it's that angular sign that grabs your attention, all jagged arrows and bright red contrasted against pale blue. There's a Space Age elegance to the Rips sign, conjuring up surf-rock guitars, standup bass, and thumping drums.