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December 22, 2011


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"The trouble with Central is that it isn't central to anything any more."

The Avenue is centered below a brown cloud of pollution and above a growing, toxic pool of water; as well as being the anchor of untempered sprawl.

"The Avenue is centered below a brown cloud of pollution and above a growing, toxic pool of water; as well as being the anchor of untempered sprawl."

Yes, L.A. sucks! ;-)

Trivial errata: that's the SE corner of Central and Van Buren with the picture of the coffee shop.

The Geronimo Room was part of Coffee Dan's, a California-based chain renowned for its Googie's architectural style. Arizona had two - one at Park Central and one at El Con Mall in Tucson.

St Francis Xavier Church was built in the late '50s. It was Brophy Prep that was the far outlier on Central Avenue "in the middle of nowhere", built in the 1920s.

At the height of the last boom, there was some hope that Central might get another high-rise. And while there were several proposals for condo towers, nothing really happened except the retrofit of a tired office building into condos (One Lex). This shows how Central, once the happy future of Phoenix, had become its forlorn past. Yet, in pockets there remains evidence of life. Lux Coffee took over a pathetic little building dating to the '50s and made something wonderful. Next door is Pane Bianco, a winner in a humble pizza box. There's Hula's and Maizie's closer to Camelback (and Postino's and Windsor just north of it). There's Fez and Switch down the street. And the "punchcard building" has two pavilions that would be stunning club or restaurant spaces.

Sifting through the wreckage, you can spot the hubris of a small town on the make: everything getting better and better! Buildings getter taller and taller! A growing city getter bigger and bigger! We didn't start seeing the downside of our parochial millenianlism until the late '70s and by then it was too late. Phoenix had become a stage-four cancer and obeying something other than the cautionary dictates of our earnest curators and custodians.

By the '80s, Camelback Rd had supplanted Central as Phoenix's street of dreams. That's where the money was and where the rich played. For the most part, it still rules except for all those "available" signs in front of the office buildings. Despite the prosperity, you can sense the leakage as Scottsdale claims an ever-greater share of Phoenix's wealth. Our happy future seems to have crash-landed against the McDowell Mountains.

Arizona zoomed into the future like an adolescent driving a Mustang 429. We didn't know where we were going or how it would end. We still don't. Politically, it's all reaction now. Guard your advantages and lock the gates! We're stranded in a new millenium without a game plan or any ideas beyond the real-estate hustles that brought to this point. Central Avenue is flickering but it's the embers that remind us why we loved this place.

Thanks for the retrospective Jon!
As a merchant for the late/great Diamonds, I enjoyed the whole Park Central environment from the first day I saw it in January 1969 til they threw me out only to land in the supermarket business nearly 10 years later. I still mourn for the Phoenix that was and PC seemed to be the business hub at the nerve center then. Often, I stopped by to check the store on my way home up Central to our little house at 20th and Bethany Home. Those were sweet days!

Running the cruisers off Central probably doomed the whole corridor. Not only were there plenty of cars, but plenty of pedestrians too. At least downtown didn't completely empty out on the weekends.

If I could drive a Boss429 into the future I wouldn't care where I was going, only that I got there first!

"Yes, L.A. sucks!"

Is "L.A." the new moniker for Phoenix?

L.A., AZ. I like it. Especially when lazy misdirection is all Phoenix has remaining.

As usual, I enjoy your descriptions.

"Is "L.A." the new moniker for Phoenix?"

No, but since your comment could describe any city, I just inserted a place. I could have chosen any big city really. Nice try, now move on.

I came across a "vintage postcard" site where you can find a picture from the past, have it printed and sent. Central and Washington in the 60's. Almost unrecognizable to someone my age:


What do you guys make of the changes for that corner now? Obviously, it is modern bland, but it is bringing back the pedestrians and stores.

"No, but since your comment could describe any city, I just inserted a place. I could have chosen any big city really. Nice try, now move on."

Title above: "Phoenix 101: Central Avenue I". Not, "L.A.", or "any big city".

Phoenix is not a "big city", it is a unparalleled, sprawling, toxic travesty.

PSF, I would judge that picture to come from the early '50s. Of course, that's the functional downtown Phoenix once had. Notice the real-world retail as opposed to simply sports' bars and pricey chain boutiques. What makes a downtown real is precisely what you see here. It's actual residents during ordinary things. They're not tourists. They're not going to a game. They were either working or shopping. Great concept, eh?

Tonite, American Graffiti for the fourteenth time.
thanks Jon and Soleri for the trip.

Le charme de l’ancien Phoenix me remplit avec une nostalgie profonde. Les fantômes sont vraiment ceux de la lumière claire du ciel. Même les voitures ont l’air sublime. Certes, on était toujours aux anges dans le temps.

PSF, even with restaurants, the Renaissance Center, Cityscape, etc. and the high-rise with MCSO offices on the very same blocks -- all built with the goal of "revitalizing" downtown, there are more people on the street in that postcard than on a gameday downtown today. Sad.

Since Jesus was born in May, I am unable to wish you a Merry Christmas. However, I do wish all you contrarians a happy winter solstice and a happy new year, from all of us:

Warren Peace
Helen Highwater

( I had always worried that participation on this blog would cause a split personality, and it finally happened)

Has St. Janet reditioned AzRebel to a black site in North Korea where he is being interrogated by the late Kim Jong Il's Swedish girlfriends?

Only in my dreams Rogue, only in my dreams.

As David Letterman said the other night, now we're left with Kim Jung Il's idiot son, Kim "W." Jung Un.

Hey helen you get them pages all sticky on the Ed Abbey poster book I gave you?

From the Damp Kingdom comes,
'Seeing Further,' edited by Bill Bryson
In honor of the Royal Society's 350th anniversary, Bill Bryson surveys a collection of science writers for their current thoughts on what we know today and what we're still looking for.

"...there are more people on the street in that postcard than on a gameday downtown today. Sad." -eclecticdog

Do you guys even go to CityScape in the evenings, for lunch, or to pick up essentials? I do, it is usually busy. Here is a recent pic of the place doing just ordinary things during the holidays. Residents of Phoenix, enjoying a new amenity in their city:


"They're not tourists. They're not going to a game. They were either working or shopping. Great concept, eh?" -Soleri

Isn't that all part of the bigger equation of bringing back the core? There are things there for residents as well as the tourists...local eateries, a pharmacy, AND entertainment. With the hotel finishing up it should become an even more utilized space.

It may not seem like much, and I'm sure many of you can verify, but a few years ago outside of a game you wouldn't get families with kids downtown. That has changed and the few chain restaurants/stores downtown do have their uses; they are a guarantee draw for those that are familiar with them. The City has to (re)build what once was taken for granted.


Thanks again. Another great historical piece.

Central and downtown are gaining a little momentum. From the the railroad tracks to Camelback on Central things look so much better than they did in 2004 when I got here.


A clarification on the St. Francis Xavier/Brophy Prep relationship...

Brophy was founded by Ellen M. Brophy as a memorial to her late husband, William H. Brophy, one of the founders of the Bank of Douglas, which became the Arizona Bank. Mrs. Brophy called upon the priests of the California Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to operate the school, envisioned as a four-year college for men. It opened as Brophy College with both high school and college students in 1928. The next year it was repositioned as a college-preparatory school -- i.e., high school -- only.

The Depression made it difficult to attract tuition-paying students, and Brophy closed in 1935. Its green-and-white football uniforms were donated to St. Mary's High School.

At the time of closure a need for a second Catholic parish in Phoenix was identified, due to population growth along the north Central Avenue corridor. The Brophy buildings became the new St. Francis Xavier Parish, also operated by the Jesuit fathers, and the Brophy Chapel served as the parish church.

The parish founded Xavier High School (now Xavier College Preparatory), a school for girls, in the buildings in 1943. Brophy Prep itself was reopened in 1952 with the postwar boom in Phoenix. For a time in the 1950s all three institutions -- St. Francis Xavier Parish, Xavier High School for girls, and Brophy Prep for boys, shared the buildings until a separate campus was opened in 1956 for Xavier High School and the parish moved across Highland Avenue to a new church building in 1959.

PSF, "the bigger equation" has less to do with getting people downtown and more to do with getting people out of their cars and either walking or bicycling to nearby retail. Phoenix's disadvantages derive from it's post-war autocentric development. More so than any other large American city (although Houston and Atlanta come close), Phoenix is trapped by its dependence on cars. What this ultimately means is that we have precious little here that approaches "urban cool". And it means a lonely, desolate city hamstrung by a paradigm favoring chain retail over local retail, and bland over interesting.

I don't mean to rag on your downtown boosterism but it misses the point. Downtown is dull because it's mostly suburban dreck - office parks and chain retail - with a lot of government buildings and convention hotels thrown in the mix. What's needed isn't more of this. What's needed are people who either live close by or work downtown actually making downtown THEIR neighborhood. But as we see over and over, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership is more interested in sanitizing downtown of any life forms not consistent with its android value system. What's ironic about this effort is that the very tourists they want to attract are not fooled for a second by this strategy. Virtually every American city shows these traits. Downtown Phoenix is Exhibit A in the most profound American tragedy of the modern era. When our cities were drawn and quartered for the sake of freeways, social housing, and government buildings, we gave up our civic soul for the fake visual pleasure of vertical monuments without context and relationship.

Good luck trying to get Phoenix to seed real-world retail in the salted soil of downtown. Good luck trying to get politicians and officials to speak honestly about this situation. We'll continue to squint our eyes and imagine the throngs of pedestrians on game night as evidence of vitality. We're condemned to keep doing this because we have no other choice. We euthanized our downtowns because we hated the life it contained. Now that they're embalmed, we keep complimenting them on how lifelike they look.

Another blazing response by the should be famous Soleri. Just who R U really?

"Central and downtown are gaining a little momentum. From the the railroad tracks to Camelback on Central things look so much better than they did in 2004 when I got here." -leftcoastdood

I agree, it has changed much since I got here in 2008. With the addition of light rail it has completely changed the feel of the corridor for the better. Despite other pessimistic views, some relevant, the area has changed a lot in spite of the recession.

I remember Seattle in the 90's when I was a kid and how it started changing much more rapidly in the early 2000's. Before, it wasn't a cool place to hang out unless you were into the underground grunge scene.I was a little too young to have made that cut. My parents are much more familiar with Seattle of the 70's and 80's when downtown was in a huge funk and "no one went there" unless they worked in one of the towers.

It took nearly 25 years for Seattle's downtown to start attracting back retail that had left for the burbs. Granted Seattle kept more of its historical buildings but it really did have to nearly start over. I remember Westlake being one of the few spots to eat fast food downtown. In the late 90's, that started to change.It doesn't happen overnight; not even for a city with more "bones" to begin with. The 2010's could be Phoenix's time of transition, much like the late 90's boom for Seattle.

Of course it strangely start with politics here; that will be one hurdle for both Phoenix and Tucson (which is also trying to improve its downtown as well). The cities will need to continue down their slightly more liberal bent to attract younger residents and the new mayors seem right for that job. We need the rest of the county's help with ousting Arpaio however; I'm confident that will be the case.

This article is a great resource for those interested in seeing where Phoenix came from and how it got where it is today.

Just a note: a couple of comments added to the previous thread. Mr. Talton was kind enough to post the reply to eclecticdog on Teddy Roosevelt (the system wouldn't accept it from me) but the line spacing was corrupted thereby. Also debunked is the Arizona Republic's latest piece of "good news" about how the state is Number 7 in population growth for 2011.

"What's needed are people who either live close by or work downtown actually making downtown THEIR neighborhood." -Soleri

Couldn't agree more! And I am just one example of someone living downtown and I am not alone. But I disagree that downtown only offers chains stores or restaurants. If anything, downtown is mostly locally owned shops and unique restauranteurs; especially away from CityScape.

Emil, thank you for your great analysis and continued scrutiny of "facts and figures". I'm not sure today's article about population growth had a positive or misleading spin. It obviously stated that growth is nearly nonexistent compared to boom times.

As for the Roosevelt quotes, wouldn't it be great if we could email them to every Tea Bagger or Neo-Con!? His words are just as relevant today than when they were first written or spoken. It is the first time I have set eyes on them. Again thank you for putting in the time.

One issue I have with the article about population growth is the restating that growth itself was necessary for economic stability. The old model of growth is likely never to return; that the Republic doesn't state the obvious IS misleading.

Phxsunfan, missed u at the Downtown Phoenix market Wednesday? Went to Portland later for a baked Portobella with JD, Dylan and Michelle.

For history on downtown Phoenix architecture google Don Ryden of Ryden architects Phoenix and Tempe AZ.
Per my buddy Wayne Smith, Landscape Architect and owner of the Farm at south Mountain.

I am still waiting for a 26 word or less mission statement for Phoenix

Keep in mind the folks that control the state are mostly rural folks that hate Phoenix and Tucson

Here you go cal. 26 words or less.
ban cars - northern, 48th st., southern, 51st ave.

police - bike- foot patrol

buses - every 15 minutes- everywhere

car parks at parimeter of no car zone
merry solstice,

reb, warren & helen

perimeter. would it kill a wealthy blog-meister to have spell check? not all of us are soleri and emil.

For a little kid in the 1950's, downtown was a magical place,with big theaters, a Woolworth's with a big wood lunch counter, and the smell of bus exhaust and cigar smoke hanging in the air. Tiny pawn shops, pool halls, bars, alleys that smelled of urine, and guys with half bodies squeaking along on on wheeled boards. For a teenager in the 1960's, it was forgotten, a place to go only for traffic court or a social security card. Central Avenue became McDowell to Camelback, back and forth, back and forth, hanging out at the Big Boy, the McDonalds, or later, Taco Bell. Even then,it wasn't all the time. Spring nights, with the orange blossoms perfuming the air, was best. By the late sixties, teen clubs began to lure most of us away, from Stage 7/VIP, to far flung places across the valley where you could see valley kids trying to look like British mods or California surfers. We sorta had an indentity crisis, I guess. But that old, funky downtown, with all of its implied mystery, and its bustle (granted, a laid back bustle)still finds its way into my memories and even my dreams. Oh, well. Gone,and never coming back.

"Gone and never coming back"
U got that right pbm.

I just picked up a couple of American Graffiti posters in a antique store in old Cottonwood. In one the photos of the cast and cars are from the movie with the text in Japanese.

On early Sunday mornings riding my recumbent in downtown Phoenix i ride where there is no sunlight, in a canyon of ugly steel This man made crevasse has managed to kill the screams of the past. gone are the arroyos of the Sonoran desert.

Went to Botanical gardens xmas show last night and listened to a native tell the story of the wily coyote, the almighty and the beginning of the great Sajuaro's.

May the new year bring a mighty horn that blows down the man made walls
not "build them dam walls."

"I am still waiting for a 26 word or less mission statement for Phoenix"


Good SC

The Ballad Phoenicians Past

The people with soul, who came a generation ago, quickly understood the score.

You must be right, and preferably white, to have a say on this sight.

The mirage seduced, but ultimately reduced, the quality of life for those who remained.

So if you're not right, and culturally white, quickly take flight before you're frozen in sight.

Excellent, Supreme Commander.

is that like

No snow on top of South Mountain this AM.
So tonite it's George Carlin and the Weatherman or was it weathermen?

Jon catch the time of my previous post

Cal, are you code 4 on that?

Naw just 918
i know a 101 918

I've known many 918 101s

Helen Highwater: thank you for letting me know that Jesus was born (like moi) in May. It'll be something like the merchants' "Christmas in July" maybe?
Anyway, Christmas at Park Central, as I remember it fondly, was a real slice of Phoenix before the Midwest transplants changed the culture. It was my last stop on Christmas eve before heading home, putting on my Stewart plaid pants and cracking open the single malt to put me in the proper mood for church.

I've been reading Jon's columns on Rogue since the Website was predominantly red-colored. The list of readers who comment regularly has grown quite a bit over the years, and with it, so has the quality of the responses. Used to be, Soleri and Emil were the top commenters. Now, I can count on them, plus Cal, AZReb, PSF, MoreCleanAir and others.
Jon's columns are always a pleasure to read, but now I enjoy reading the responses nearly as much. Thanks everyone! Happy new year.

Remember the Go-Go bar right on Central with dancers in the window? Approximately at Indian School.

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