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October 11, 2010


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When the time is right, I hope Jon will revisit other dormant but delusional pipe dreams, like "The Sunshine Corridor" strategy that would link Phoenix and Tucson into one long "growthgasm" (Jon's term, I believe) Then, there's the dream about putting a MILLION souls in the far West and far East reaches of the Valley. If there's any long term good to be gleaned from the real estate debacle, it may be that these three will never happen, at least on the scale originally envisioned!

The bread-and-circuses aspect of American culture (along with big-box shopping and worshipping) was founded on an unrepeatable set of circumstances, i.e., cheap oil, easy credit, a housing boom, and an economy "that spread the wealth around". Say goodbye to all that.

The pall hanging over Phoenix and Las Vegas reflects this fundamental economic shift. Discretionary spending at mega-entertainment complexes is now decreasing. Shopping is less fun and more prudential. And unless the US suddenly and unexpectedly revives itself, overextended and unsustainable sprawl will be the memento mori of our civilzation. Here's Adam Nagourney's report from Las Vegas in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/03/us/03vegas.html?em=&pagewanted=all

Servicing this bloat will be, at a minimum, interesting. Eventually we will withdraw from unrealistic growth edges, both as government retrenches and homebuyers calculate energy expenditures they can no longer afford. Does Peoria really want to provide police protection in southern Yavapai County? Deannexation may become a buzz word of the coming decade.

The "free-market" stakeholders in this real-estate hustle don't know it yet, but they'll be begging the government for help fairly soon. Maybe they can host a tea party to air their grievances. As for Far West Mesa, a fortress of "real" Americans like Ev Mecham, Jan Brewer, Jack Harper, and Diane McCarthy, there's very little to mourn. It was bucolic once but the cancer spread like wildfire.

/yes, money spewed out for millionaire sports venues and already affluent owners and players, yet Glendale public libary (and branches) are now only open ~30 hours per week…

Maybe the desert will reassert/reinsert itself in time. Ghost towns can be charming tourist attractions. In this case it would be adorned with multiple colloseums and circi maximi (highways). Like "City" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_%28artwork%29 ) it could represent civilization to this point, though less attractive and long-lasting.

The United States has one REAL problem. THERE ARE NO JOBS.

Everything else follows that, including the mirage, phony sports entertainment economy.

The plutocrats that run the US would rather scam people with stadiums and sports than to pay Americans to work at real jobs.

I continue to rue the day that Bill Bidwill decided to head west. Were it not for him, I imagine that Phoenix would have had an expansion team in 1995 (instead of the Jacksonville Jaguars). We'd have a stadium in the middle of civilization, a team with its own history and identity, and an owner who wasn't universally hated. Of course, Bidwill is one in a long line of Midwesterners who moved to Phoenix and then decided to build in the middle of nowhere; at least U of P Stadium isn't a stucco shitbox.

I call it the "dysfunctional barbershop syndrome".

I'm noticing it here on this blog.

It's where things are so bad, that they can't be solved by a visit to the barbershop.

Remember, in the old days, any world problem could be solved by a bunch of down to earth guys at a barbershop.

Now when I go to the barbershop, everyone realizes that things are too bad and eveyone is too divided, so the discussion is kept to small talk, sports maybe, but heavy issues are avoided. Too much overkill from cable news and the internet.

People are tired and they know deep down that their voice means nothing. Our country is out of control and we are just along for the ride.
Sooooo, how bout them Cardinals?

"I call it the 'dysfunctional barbershop syndrome'." - azrebel

Sure, let's blame it all on Supercuts.

I agree with the Glendale debacle Jon writes about here. Public money should not have been spent to this extent in Glendale. They could have served the community much more with the extension of light rail from MetroCenter in Phoenix to Westgate; however, now the Glendale extension is on hold for a few years longer while the city of Glendale tries to find funding for their portion of the rail costs. They are asking Phoenix, and even blaming Phoenix, for the money arguing that Phoenix residents should pay for Glendale's rail extension since most of the riders into the city would originate from Phoenix!

One disagreement with Jon here is that I would have strongly objected to another HUGE BOX taking up too much space and footprint in downtown Phoenix for yet another stadium. There were no viable options in downtown for this huge box and plans for it in downtown would call for the destruction of rows upon rows of historic places and houses in Evans-Churchill and the Roosevelt Row! NO THANK YOU! The artist colony in this area would have been decimated and replaced with parking and one huge structure used en masse roughly 8-12 times per yer for the big football games (including the Fiesta Bowl, an occasional Super Bowl, and the BCS National Championship Game which rotates every few years back to Glendale). Instead, downtown Phoenix needs to continue its path of adaptive reuse that has turned many buildings, neighborhoods and areas into beautiful and useful destinations: http://adaptivereuse.info/tag/phoenix/

I think it may have been a better idea to build this in Tempe across the lake from Sun Devil Stadium even if it meant sinking the foundation and field many feet below ground to accommodate FAA concerns. Even then, the Tempe site now houses high density condos and apartments with more to come when the time is right.

Given all this, Glendale was the best location for the stadium, if only the private business interests were held more financially responsible for the construction and development of the area. There are plans for this of course; high density development that I don't believe will occur because the city and nearby residents are already crying foul over "packing all those condos and business" into a small space with little parking because the expansive lots would be replaced with small streets lined with buildings facing them. The city, ever suburban minded cannot embrace such a place. Besides they are also fighting another development that would surely bring them money. The Tohono O'odham Nation plans to build a massive casino just north of the "stadium district." http://www.yourwestvalley.com/glendale/article_d2b7d616-c5f0-11df-92a4-001cc4c03286.html

Glendale needs to collect from wealthy owners those developers who've gained from these investments. These venues are assets to the community just not with this amount of debt saddled on the tax payers. Scottsdale was right, in this regard, to reject the stadium being built at the Los Arcos site.

I'll also take the opposing view of suburban sprawl here with Jon. Unlike Arrowhead "Ranch" in a much more distant north Glendale, Westgate is not far from Central Phoenix and only a few miles from the small, historic downtown Glendale and is scheduled to be connected with lightrail.

Soleri, Jan Brewer is not from/lives in Mesa she is actually a resident of Glendale...but did you hear, a recent poll only has Goddard 3 percentage points behind Brewer. There's hope in upsetting Brewer who at one time had a 20% lead. Can it be that her absence from public appearances and hilarious, although sad performance at her only debate is making a Goddard victory likely???


When I took my young daughter to her first game downtown at BOB, I was pleased to see her looking around in wonder as we walked the corridors towards our seats. Happily astounded, she said, "This is just like the mall!"

As a child in Illinois, my reaction to my first visit to Wrigley Field was much different.

Today, my daughter continues to be more interested in malls than in sports. Of course, the world that surrounds her is one, big, ugly mall.

phxSUNSfan, I enjoyed - and agreed with - your analysis about the stadium. I was very relieved when the location search finally dropped downtown. Unfortunately, biotech is doing to Evans Churchill what pro football didn't. This wouldn't matter so much if the economic benefits were somewhat more obvious that they've been so far.

I mentioned Jan Brewer (and other rightwing poohbahs) were from Far West Mesa, an ironic if unclear way of saying Glendale.

I'll just make the point that healthy downtowns can have stadiums AND vibrant arts districts AND major biotech centers, etc. etc. Phoenix ended up with none of this. Roosevelt Row is stymied by land bankers and lack of investment. The biosciences campus is barely growing. The city has allowed blocks to be clearcut. All this without the dreaded football stadium.

As for Arrowhead "Ranch" being close to central Phoenix, I guess that depends on definitions, gas prices and tolerance for long driving. I was amazed on my most recent long stay in Phoenix how long it takes to get places and how inconvenient everything is...compared with Seattle, where things are walkable and within blocks. I'm spoiled.

When I lived in Seattle's eastern 'burbs', I and many of my friends would regularly bike to Seattle for a commute, sport, or for just the shear joy: There are so many wonderful routes and destinations. It was thrilling to live in a region where right angles are an intrusion, rather than the theme.

To Rate Crimes, maybe you should take your daughter to Chase Field...I kid but I do not find it mall like at all! I actually really enjoy games and the atmosphere at the ballpark. Maybe you need to focus on the diamond next season? Despite the horrific season the D-backs still drew over 2 million fans this season. A solid showing by fans in any market but surprising for this lowly club; image a winning season.

As for Arrowhead "Ranch" being close to downtown I think Jon may have mistaken what I wrote as I do not think it is close to Central Phoenix by any stretch of the definition. I was referring to Westgate. I have not been to Arrowhead in a few years and have no need to since I do most of my living along the light rail route and the other transit/pedestrian oriented areas with the occasional Scottsdale nightlife excursion.

As for a stadium in downtown Phoenix, there are already 2 huge venues amongst the largest in their respective professional sport(MLB and NBA). Another stadium would clearly be overkill in the relatively small area that is downtown and would have surely meant a second Garage Mahal monstrosity. Despite the area needing much more development a stadium the size of UoP is ill-fitting as housing and office in dense development are much more desirable. Though the bio-med campus has not been developed to its full potential it still has promise especially with the groundbreaking of UA's med school.

Soleri, I think TGEN/IGC and the universities' buildings are much more attractive and offer extremely desirable research/med/health care jobs that are high wage. Job growth from these institutions are and will increase and I am a fan of the redevelopment of three historic Phoenix Union High School buildings (built around the same time as Monroe School...circa 1912). They stand in stark contrast to the modern TGEN edifice and I like that dichotomy.

I'll also add that I enjoy CityScape with its restaurants, hip bars/lounges, and look forward to shopping that will soon open. I'm optimistic about downtown development.

Rate Crimes, you should try biking some of Phoenix' urban bike trails including the Sonoran Bikeway through Central Phoenix. In fact this interurban trail is over 50 miles long and crosses many urban trails. Phoenix is famous for these paths and has one of the largest system of paths, urban trails, and bikeways in the nation.


Thanks phxSUNSfan, I'm aware of the urban trails in Phx, and have ridden them on occasion. However, at my level of riding (~6,000 miles each year), when in Arizona, I join the AZ Brumbys and ride out to climb the hills in the canyons northeast of Mesa, or head out to Mt. Lemon, Mt. Graham, Skull Valley, Snowbowl, etc.

When in Seattle, I only have to step outside my door and ride in any direction to find similar challenges.

While AZ has many amazing riders, it is nothing like Seattle where each weekend one will see dozens of large (20+) groups of competitive cyclists.

In AZ, fewer cyclists commute with regularity, for good reason: http://www.azcentral.com/community/tempe/articles/2010/10/14/20101014tempe-fatal-bicycle-accident1014.html. Even specified and marked bike routes are often death traps for Arizona's cyclists.

Not to turn this into a city vs city debate, but I've live in the South Sound region for most of my life (Oly) and do not recall any terrain in Seattle that would be anything like Snow Bowl or Mt. Lemon; unless you mean that you can find similar rides like the Sonoran Bikeway in metro Seattle. Even then I find your statement highly unlikely.

You mentioned you are a member of Brumby's so I am assuming you are a Mesa or Gilbert resident: There is a common trend I've notice from most Phoenix detractors who have moved to the metro area from other cities; the complaint that Phoenix lacks certain amenities found in "X" city. Well, not to be too obvious or mean spirited but you can't really complain about transit options and walkable neighborhoods if you choose to live in suburban Gilbert/Mesa!

I am jumping to conclusions about the region you live, azrebel, but this does not diminish the fact that what I described above is common. As for death traps on marked routes for cyclists in the city and in bike-paths, I'll call your bluff as this is a rare occurrence. Bike deaths can also be found in Seattle ( http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008707544_webcyclist04m.html ).

The central city region is full of commuting cyclist as well as Tempe. The opening of new bike shops in these areas is one sign of the rising number of cyclist using transit and the streets in Phoenix as a commuting option; a great new shop I recently discovered (one of many) is located next to Lux at the Campbell and Central light rail station. Growth in the Central City region, and increasing transit (especially light rail) ridership has made streets much more inviting.

Back to Glendale; I think the city needs to focus on attracting more valley residents to the region (especially west valley residents) including finding more transit options faster than is currently happening.

Glendale also needs to focus on job growth. I am dumbfounded that new solar plants have been courted by cities like Goodyear and Surprise.

Where is Glendale's effort to get these employers within their boundaries. It is after all Arizona's fourth largest city!

I meant to include a link, but here is a company Glendale could have benefited from, instead basing its operation in smaller Goodyear: http://www.brighterenergy.org/17375/news/solar/suntech-opens-solar-panel-factory-in-goodyear-arizona/

phxSUNSfan wrote:

"Public money should not have been spent to this extent in Glendale. They could have served the community much more with the extension of light rail from MetroCenter in Phoenix to Westgate..."

First they'll have to extend it to Metro Center. Currently, light rail ends on the west side at 19th Avenue and Montebello (between Bethany Home and Missouri). Metro Center only has bus service (such as it is).

Emil, I wrote that Glendale's line would extend to Metro Center because that is the currently plan. The Phoenix "northwest extension" which would end in the Metro Center area, if not the mall itself, and would then continue on into Glendale city limits where Glendale would be responsible for paying for its portion.

Correction: Corridors for a Glendale extension DO NOT depend on Phoenix extending to Metro Center. Corridors envisioned for rail into Glendale include the Montebello Station to as far north as a future Northern and 19th Ave station station. http://www.valleymetro.org/images/uploads/lightrail_future_ext_uploads/Corridor-Extentions-High-Capacity-Transit-3-10.jpg

Glendale has proposed bypassing its downtown to instead link Westgate via I-10 and the Loop 101. Phoenix objects because it would put most of the burden of cost on Phoenix since this alignment falls nearly entirely within Phoenix boundaries and includes the cities of Tolleson and Avondale which do not have the population nor funds to participate in rail construction.

Glendale is neglecting its historic core and the denser population in that area of the city.

"It was competing for retail sales tax and development fees against Phoenix, Peoria and Surprise."

Regional government, anyone? These pocket municipalities could do a lot better -- in fact, so could Phoenix -- if they all worked together to share resources and plan a unified development strategy.

phxSUNSfan, in Seattle I only had to step out my door, ride a few blocks and arrive at the foot of Cougar Mtn (Zoo Hill). Four of those climbs are equivalent to anything near Phx. Of course, there are infinite challenging rides in the WA and OR mountains (RAMROD, Mt. Baker, etc.).

In my decades in AZ, I enjoyed, to varying degrees, living in Scottsdale, Tempe, Phoenix, Mesa, and Gilbert. In all cities but Scottsdale, I typically walked or rode my bike to my work.

I have less experience with Seattle (a few years), but there is NO debate: Seattle is far and away the greater city/metropolis, and . . . it has a possible future.

Finally, while bicyclists can be (and are) struck by a car on any road, the regular injustices perpetrated on Arizona bicyclists are truly astounding. http://www.notonemorecyclist.com/
Seattle is far, far more bicycle-friendly. And, especially for a bicyclist, the air in the Seattle region is simply delicious!

RC (Rate Crimes), I am very familiar with Seattle and the Puget Sound Region and Cougar Mountain is "right outside your door" much like Anthem is right outside mine downtown. I am an avid runner and loved (still do when I visit)running the trails in Cougar Mountain with friends who still live there.

While I agree that Seattle has a much nicer, more palatable, and greater downtown the "metropolis" of Seattle is just as suburban and spread out as metro Phoenix (more so actually).

I remember downtown Seattle in the 80's and 90's and my parents in the 70's and it was not as it is today and has been (re)developed since the late 80's with much success. Downtown Phoenix likewise can, and I believe it will, have a similar future.

Thanks for the link I am very much in favor of promoting safety for cycling in AZ!

phxSUNSfan, my door is in Issaquah. Cougar Mt. is literally on my doorstep. For me and my fellow riders, rolling into Seattle is an easy, and beautiful ride on a multitude of routes over and around scenic lakes. From home, I've ridden to both Portland and Vancouver, BC each in a single day.

In Phoenix, we would skirt downtown and sometimes ride up South Mountain. However, our lungs would pay a terrible price. In truth, there is no fair comparison. Seattle rocks!

Phoenix can hold on to its extant delusion only as long as it continues to drain and evaporate its aquifer to cool nuclear reactors.

phxSUNSfan, not to be argumentative about a hypothetical, but I don't quite see Phoenix ever having a Seattle-caliber downtown. Talton has detailed many of the reasons why, some sui generis and some civic malpractice. Probably the simplest explanation is the fact that Seattle's downtown has a much bigger footprint and vastly larger (and better) building stock. There was something in place to improve, preserve, and sometimes redevelop. Phoenix? Not remotely as much.

But downtown Seattle has something downtown Phoenix would never have under the best of scenarios: a world-class setting. Puget Sound and the varous lakes nearby are simply stunning amenities. By contrast, Phoenix's rather low mountain vistas simply don't compare.

There are great cities not nearly as blessed as Seattle, of course. Could Phoenix have been one of them? It wouldn't be hard to imagine a better outcome than the one Phoenix has settled for. Still, I think present-day reality is pretty much an accurate guide to Phoenix's potential. Too much flat land, very cheap energy, and an anti-urban bias paved the path of least resistance.

Soleri I slightly agree with you but, of course, see different outcomes and opinions living in the Central City. Unlike other metro areas, including Seattle, Phoenix has not spread out as far as most. Prime examples of real catastrophic suburban sprawl would be Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis, Orlando, and even Seattle...nowhere in metro Phoenix can you drive 60 miles in one direction and STILL be in the suburbs!

What I've also noticed about Phoenix is that those who moved here to escape the city they once lived in(usually where it snowed and mass transit was part of life). These people seek Phoenix for the single family home...initially; however, as noted in recent trends and population growth downtown many choose to move into central Phoenix. Older generations, like my parents, are also skipping the planned Sun City retirement path and instead looking to live the condo, historic neighborhood, etc lifestyle.

Surprisingly, there is a renewed interested in living "car free" and along light rail. The Central Ave Corridor is gaining from these changing attitudes and tastes. Seattle does have a larger downtown footprint but Central Phoenix' footprint and high-rise corridor is larger than downtown Seattle and offers plenty of opportunity to expand high density living and working areas (from Jefferson to Camelback--nearly 5 miles). These areas include modern, sleek high-rises to hundred year old homes. Areas once overlooked by anyone unfamiliar with Phoenix (which was pretty everyone).

RC, Cougar Mtn is still 15-18 miles from Issaquah...and still hardly the Sonoran Bikeway. What seems to be the problem is actually tastes in landscapes. I don't like the dreariness of Seattle nor the lakes and moldy greenery which is why I've chosen to live in Phoenix where the environment speaks to me. I am one of those who flourish in the heat, where 100° is not an impediment or an invitation to complain that the Sonoran Desert is hot...

I love some of the architecture in Seattle but those modern upside down good humor bar high-rises are awful and they are the new Seattle cliche; much like the "colorful" flat faced Seattle one-shape fits all suburban home found from Yelm to Bellingham.

Of course what follows is completely my opinion but its one I feel strongly about: The nightlife and activity you'd expect most large cities to embrace, especially for 20-30 year old's is strongly lacking in Seattle. I believe this is setting Phoenix up for being a great place for young professionals like myself to call home. I was in Oly/Seattle last year for my high school 10 year reunion and nearly fell asleep lounging in Seattle lounges and "clubs." Does anyone dance in Seattle???

especially as a gay man, I am bored by the offering of nightlife in Seattle! Booooring! Jobs are great but its expensive, its dreary, and the scene is ghastly ghostly...Phoenix, even during these troubled times has been ranked as one of the best cities for young professionals, college grads, and entrepreneurs:

phxSUNSfan, I feel we're talking past each other here. I don't recognize this Phoenix you write about, certainly not in its physical form. I'm not a clubber so I don't comparison shop on that level. OTOH, in its urban form and texture, Seattle's core is one of America's best. Phoenix is Lubbock on steroids.

Certainly, Central Avenue is the place to focus. When it was first exploding in the late 50s, it promised to be another Wilshire Blvd. But the city never knitted together north of Thomas. So, 50 some years later we're still looking at a signature bouldevard with grotesque gaps in its streetscape. Central Avenue is our Champs d'Elysees except there's no trimuphal arch because the victory march stalled decades ago.

Another way to look at this situation is the erosion of real-world retail in central Phoenix. Up until 1990, Phoenix had adequate shopping at Park Central. Once that was gutted, there wasn't really anything except the promise of "exciting boutiques" at places like Arizona Center, Collier Center, and now CityScape. A retail sector that serves only conventioneers and downtown office workers is not real. It's not even viable, which is why the city necessarily subsidizes these projects. I want CityScape to succeed. I also want there to be water on Mars.

The trendlines have been uniformly negative for the past 20 years. Yes, there was an uptick during the last decade when some new projects opened. Even here, you have to ask what kind of city would accept the architecturally horrifying Tapestry on Central (aka, Short Sales on Main Street), or the Phoenix Art Museum, which makes no attempt to engage the little urban energy that exists in central Phoenix.

Youth shall be served, so please don't let my pessimism here cloud that prospect. We need people like you. My experience is that the most creative and energetic people midwife brilliant flashes of possibility, whereupon they exhaust themselves trying to realize even a small fraction of them. The inevitable move to Portland (or Seattle, San Diego or Denver) is announced less as a defeat than a simple acknowledgement that it can't happen here because this is a city of dead-enders, mostly reactionary, who have their slice of paradise and intend to maintain the original vision until cremation.

Hey Sol, I'll try to make this short and sweet (I've been told I write as much as I like to talk)! However, I enjoy reading Jon's essays and the usually awful perspectives of others regarding Phoenix on Rogue's site.

It is intriguing and energizing for some reason. Perhaps it is as such because I've fallen for the city, its stark desert landscapes, and yes, even the people (not so much the suburban transplants). Unlike what I read here I've met individuals with roots who love Phoenix as well.

Not to mention that my family goes back to 1921 in Phoenix specifically, and Arizona much longer. I find the "young" city invigorating, challenging, and full of promise. Many of my friends who have lived in metro Phoenix longer than I have abandoned their Chandler apartments or north Scottsdale Tuscan "inspired" condos for a much more vibrant Central City/Tempe abode. Many choosing to "reverse commute" into the Chandler hi-tech corporate colonies (for example) while living somewhere with substance.

No, downtown does not yet boast an experience like Pacific Place or Pike's but Phoenix has character (despite the availability of undeveloped lots). I for one, cannot wait for the shops to open at CityScape and know platoons of young professionals who await the convenience of the place. Don't get me started on the delicious fare of downtown restaurants that now offer fabulous experiences and unique menus...dare I say fierce? :-) Verde anyone, perhaps Moira? I'm even looking forward to the "conveyor belt sushi".

Not to be argumentative Soleri...I like, not love, Tapestry and have a different opinion on PAM (Phoenix Art Museum)as you might have guessed. I have friends who live there and don't find it a horrid place at all even though it isn't my style. I enjoy its contours much more than the drab Seattle condos where minimalism is taken to the absolute extreme it seems (gray glassed faced condos to match the gray sky I guess). http://cheapshitcondos.com/wordpress/

Much like suburban Phoenix, the modern Seattle glass and steel coldness has won over the human scale Seattle charm that I remember. It is now much less scalable. At least the empty lots in Phoenix leave room for smart development with street level mass transit available.

Another Phoenix advantage is that our light rail feels open and being at street level allows for a much more natural pedestrian interaction with the sidewalks and buildings. I'm not a fan of the tunnels and yet more gray, steel enclosures of the Seattle system. I can go on but I think I've beaten my opinion to death here...

Sports teams are relentless in arguing that they are powerful revenue producers for the businesses and cities around their locations. Events like the Phoenix Open or Spring Training manage to include a paragraph about economic impact in most of their news coverage. Few people question these numbers with cost analysis. But how many events take place at the Cardinals' stadium each year? Is it busy 30 days out of the year with games, tractor pulls, shows and events? Local fans are suckers for these economic impact stories and then support the teams' lobbying with city councils. Our nostalgic affection for these sports out weighs the logic of what drain they are on our local economies.

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