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December 06, 2013


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A map would help to understand this. I have a vague idea of the geography but am having trouble visualizing where this would actually go.

Hmm. A law school expansion during these times? $438/sq ft! It's not going forward, is it?

Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Class of 2012, total number of graduates: 212. Number of graduates employed long-term full-time, in firms with more than 10 attorneys: 36. 17% which means 83% are in the doldrums.
Tuition rise 2005-2011: Resident: 45% over inflation to $21,598.00. Non-Resident: 61% over inflation to $35,147.00.


Now they want to keep class size more or less constant, contrary to earlier plans to increase 'production' by 50%. The cratering of the legal market and the beginning of the decline of the law school scam has also affected ASU. Law schools used to be the cash cows of universities. Now the large majority (80-85%) of them are bringing in deficits.


So how can they hope to refinance a $130 million move to be closer to the "action"? Get more students on the low end of the spectrum. But that means less prestige in the rankings, whereas spending lots of money on facilities perversely means a higher score. Also, as said in the article, offer more boutique products, post-graduate degrees in environmental space sports law for the suckers that want them.

In short, please spend the 130 million on something better. I welcome reurbanization as much as anyone but:

If the choice is what’s there now — a parking lot — and a proposed big new ASU law school complex, root for the parking lot.
Steven Harper - http://thelawyerbubble.com/2012/10/10/law-school-dysfunction-arizona-style/

Jon, I love your hellish pen put please take time to understand the details about the Evans-Churchill project before condemning it as maybe not "good enough."

The whole purpose of the project is to save the L.G. Knipe House. As I'm sure you have been following, the house had a fire a couple of years ago, and the insurance settlement enabled the City to not only get it weatherized but also reverse many of the past alterations. (I happen to be the City's architect.) There is still no funding to do a full restoration and make it usable. So the strategy is to package the house with the bare dirt around it as one development project, in order to make rehabilitation feasible.

An open and formal RFP process was started back in March to find the most qualified and financially sound developer willing to put this together. The winning team was selected by consensus of a panel that included neighborhood representatives. Their proposal is NOT for warehousing low-income seniors. The senior aspect, as I understand it, is only a financing device - the (private) investors prefer it because of the tax credits. Many of the units are unrestricted for either age or income. For those that are restricted, there is an annual income limit but no wealth limit and non-seniors can live with the primary leaseholder. There are set-asides for artist live-work and gallery spaces. The developer has two other award winning developments along the light rail - you would never know by looking at them that seniors are the target demographic. They are actually built for, and targeting, people of whatever age who want to live in active urban areas.

What the selected developers have demonstrated is a knack for successful urban projects that integrate with their communities. I think that's what we need downtown.

Unfortunately there is a lot of disinformation being thrown around by one of the unsuccessful proposers, which you repeat in your piece. In fact, there is strong support for this project to go forward when you get outside of that circle of individuals who have drunk the Kool-Aid being served up. As examples, the Evans-Churchill neighborhood group and the RAA both submitted letters of support to the Council. Will Bruder is also on board as a supporter.

This project is better than "good enough." It is going to be a positive development in a depressed area, high-quality and well-integrated into the community - and the Knipe House will live on.

I don't see the senior community as warehousing of the poor but providing housing in a desirable community that they otherwise could not afford in or close to the arts district that they otherwise could not afford. Given how many housing opportunities there are for students and young professionals in that area, I hardly think a development that is targeting lower income seniors and people with disabilities is warehousing but creating an intergenerational community and allowing for a mix of incomes. Better that seniors have housing opportunities close to the light rail that in far flung regions of the Valley that require them to own a car when, often due to reduced retirement income they can no longer afford to own a car and/or age related disability they can no longer drive. At that location they can walk or bike (yes, old people ride bikes) to the farmers market, the library, a coffee shop or the drug store, all things aging baby boomers like to do. Lots of middle income people suddenly become low-income upon retirement and but that doesn't mean they don't retain their interest in culture and learning. I really like downtown area and hope to live close by when I finish school but I don't see downtown as in danger of becoming a warehouse for the poor but as being gentrified to the point the low and middle income people of any age will be priced out of both the rental and the ownership market.

Thanks for your perspective, Bob. I don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Or the good enough, especially if it represents a start.

I live in one of Portland's oldest neighborhoods, Goose Hollow near downtown. There's a lot of charm here but it's not hard to see how "burned over" it is. Where old salt-box houses once stood are many apartment buildings of varying vintage. Some are more attractive than others, of course, and some are really not attractive at all. There are fast-food joints, bars and pubs, and a fairly big sports stadium that is a marvel of its period: no parking lots. It's messy as Jane Jacobs once observed real cities necessarily are. But its functionality never suffered because nearby downtown was always Portland's major employer.

The neighborhoods near downtown Phoenix reflected this kind of patchwork character through the 1960s. The buildings interwove various periods and styles. Downtown was still the primary employment hub and there was a need for housing that newer midcentury apartment houses provided. There were smaller office buildings, too, and sadly, the scourge of all downtowns like this: surface parking lots. When downtown Phoenix lost its economic preeminence, the surrounding neighborhoods suffered as well. It was only in the 1980s that the first significant wave of gentrification rescued the historic neighborhoods like heavily-damaged Roosevelt. Others like Willo were more intact and recovered quickly and others like Palmcroft were never significantly harmed.

Evans-Churchill turned ratty during the 1970s and never benefited from the historic preservation movement. By the time of Terry Goddard's mayoralty, there was a revived focus on downtown. Developers were competing with each other to assemble parcels with the promise of some big payday if the government gave them the right incentives. This is how Arizona Center was born, a marriage of corporate power and government largesse. The lawyer Richard Mallery engineered the deal, St Mary's High School was torn down, and nearby Evans Churchill was now in the line of fire. Land banking was hot and lots of structures were torn down in the process.

The tragedy of downtown Phoenix is of a too-small core trying to leapfrog to the big time with hardly any thought of how old buildings lend character and texture to a city. Even during the the tenures of Skip Rimza and Phil Gordon, wonderful artifacts like St Mary's Elementary School and the Industrial Arts building on the PUHS site were torn down. Given everything we know how crucial old buildings are to a downtown, Phoenix couldn't help itself. It's almost as if the city has a death wish. Not every old building can or should be saved, but when the result is a permanently empty lot, the city-loving soul screams.

Phoenix passed the tipping point decades ago and there's no recovery for a city this careless about its own heritage. Does anyone really want to walk the streets of a downtown as devoid of character as Phoenix's? Worse, it's still happening, as the recent tear-downs near the Leonard Knipe house demonstrate. We're still doing this to ourselves, mutilating our city's soul for the sake of some imaginary pot of gold. Phoenix is fundamentally hopeless.

I don't worry about age-restricted housing on Roosevelt Row because it simply no longer matters what they build. It might be nice, in fact. But it won't change the chemistry that makes a real downtown happen. If you could return the Westward Ho to its former glory, that would change the chemistry. If the Hotel Monroe project revives, that would go a long way. But we shouldn't kid ourselves about the ASU downtown campus and its adjoining neighborhoods: we'll put stuff in there but it won't make downtown sing. We don't know how do do that. Planners, architects, bureaucrats: a little humility please.

Geez, guys, I'm kinda countin' on some subsidized senior housing action downtown because I plan on calcifying within staggering distance from the WBIYB.

Unless something bad happens.

(BTW - Another great thread. I've been moved to listen, more than speak, lately.)

I vote for making the area Botanical Gardens II.
Who needs another building.
Particularly a building taller than one story

And besides as a old time republican I have no respect for Sandra Day O'Connor or Colin Powell. They both compromised themselves.

Phoenix future with plans to be a mega city?


The Good News, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/06/james-clapper-prosecution_n_4399623.html

Cal, I understand what you're getting at with O'Connor and Powell. They were good soldiers (one quite literally) in the Republican political machine. They placed loyalty to that machine over loyalty to the nation itself. And yet I don't think their compromises are themselves shameful. Life is complicated and you often make decisions you later reqret, sometimes out of pride and sometimes from a need to maintain your own political effectiveness. That's life. My complaint about Republicans (and you know I have several...) is when they intentionally abuse the public discourse for the sake of power itself, either by demonizing minorities or intentionally disguising class warfare as economic opportunity. I'll say this for O'Connor and Powell: they didn't play that toxic game that defines almost every other Republican pol and public figure I can think of.

Soleri, So, they demonstrated their loyalty? Now they must live the rest of their lives knowing their actions led to thousands of lives wasted in Iraq at the hands of men that should be tried for murder, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.
Kinda like the current Pope making amends for his past "loyalties" in Argentina.

I vote NO on a Sandra Day Memorial building. I would prefer a Geronimo or Pancho Villa edifice (A southwestern design and of course one story of with an open middle place for a large campfire setting.

Unfortunately, that law school building is designed to interact with its interior, not the streets. Just another fortress designed inwardly as a block instead of giving a damn about creating active, two-sided streets.

It's Arizona Center, Jr.

Sean, that is pretty much the whole curse of a downtown where dead-zone development has crushed whatever liveliness once existed downtown. After the Arizona Center debacle, you might think CityScape would get it right. But it's pretty much more of the same. The Convention Center takes out six city blocks and renders them utterly inert. They're nice looking buildings but what's the point? I think on some level somebody in city planning understands this. But either their rulebook doesn't allow genuine mixed-use development or, more likely, they're so desperate for anything to fill the spaces where buildings go that they settle for single-use fortresses.

Bob Graham, are you aware of any internal debates at City Hall about this?

The issue that Sean raises is a profound one for downtown and the core.

Read the First Street post (URL is above) where I lay out all the businesses in just two blocks (!) of the street in 1956. Now, dead blocks all over downtown.

CityScape was a mistake, but I hope it works. The law college, on the other hand, might not be able to satisfy these needs, or be expected to.

It is very hard to go back after all the teardowns, combined with the lack of business intensity in central Phoenix. For example, the former WilloWalk condos on Central have the mandated retail space in front. This has been virtually empty for seven years.

City Hall can make mandates. But another challenge is seeding entrepreneurship, making the core the cheapest and easiest place to do business, and finding new models of small business that can survive -- not just restaurants and coffee shops.

Activating a street doesn't necessarily even need retail/storefronts. Those things are needed, sure, but not on every street. Even non-retail streets can be active if the building has multiple ingress/egress on the street (not inside the block) and it has a fine-grained architecture that makes it pleasing to walk by. Unfortunately, too many architects here (including those of this proposed law school) are afraid to face the street -- retail or not.

Aside from the dubious purpose of this building and the extravagant cost, it suffers the same problem faced by pedestrians everywhere: architects trying to do 'architecture' rehashed from the seventies, building cool sculptures to themselves instead of buildings that do something for their human surroundings. Flat hermetically sealed surfaces, rectangles and right angles only, arrow slits. The fashionable 'transparency' of the glass growhouse architecture. But then again an aquarium is also 'transparent' and impenetrable. The message sent to the people on the streets is clear: "Piss of you ants! Nobody gets in here unless they belong here."
One would hope for a better value model, some nicer architecture so that the building may be fruitfully repurposed when the edifice of ASU law comes crashing down.

Could Phoenix be an Arrival City? (I think not but then I am just asking)


Doug Saunders introduces us to the migrants themselves, and with the aid of their stories elucidates their essential part in the economic fabric. He makes clear that the cities and nations that provide citizenship and opportunity to migrants stand to benefit as the migrant class evolves into a middle class, and he explains why those that ignore these people will see increased social unrest, poverty, and religious fundamentalism.

The City of Phoenix and the people of Phoenix should plant citrus trees, fig trees, date palms, and cottonwood trees in every open space available.

That would transform the city into a destination point whether the architecture was crappy or not.

High speed monorails would also be great for public transportation and would not take up a lot of ground space. In addition, the monorails would look all space-agey.

I think that this would be a grand vision for the future of Phoenix.

Solari's post sums up my feelings. This latest wave of destruction and disappointment has sucked out all hope that downtown will ever work. The one area that has clung to life - Roosevelt - will now have its gateway sealed with a 3rd gas station, even as the community and its mayor tried all that it could to fight it. Where even the smallest, street-facing, community establishment could've served as a symbol of hope that one day this positive action could spread east into Garfield will now stand massive pumps and a bright Circle K sign (and an abandoned, toxic waste-filled lot where the current station sits currently).

Where a hotel, as unremarkable as anyone wants to make it, stood that housed visitors year-round to the city who could go out, explore and spend time/money will now be a 6-story fortress, complete with its own underground parking to take law students home as fast as they come in for limited hours of the day on limited days of the year, with no plans in sight to try and house them in the core. The few residential projects not aimed at undergrads, seniors, the poor, or Native Americans are likely out of their price range. 3 of its 4 sides are as unwelcoming as the worst of our downtown failures - Chase, AZ Center...

At this point, we might as well require a SunCard to travel anywhere in the city south of Roosevelt and north of CityScape. Not a single project aside from Civic Space has even attempted to integrate the school into the community, the community into the school. Yes, there are always small lights that keep me coming back - the tease of Hotel Monroe happening, the thought of the city following through on the Adams St activation project, a Portland Place II overlooking a rejuvenated Hance. But, watching those in the community accepting this mediocrity (at best) is depressing, and I can't imagine how it must feel for those of you who experienced what this place once was before it was torn apart.

I will say that the developer selected for "The Row" on 2nd st has created very nice, urban projects (see Encore in Farmer in Tempe), but that doesn't make senior housing right for the area, and while I'm not terribly opposed to the development as a whole so long as some market rate component is incorporated, it still smells of desperation and I don't find the criticism unwarranted.

How does splitting one of the major educational departments from the ASU main campus effect the university as a whole? Badly.

Large, public universities with superior national reputations use interdisciplinary programs to strengthen the entire institution's academic reputation. Law schools and other graduate programs in fields such as economics, sociology or business create joint graduate degrees to enhance the entire institution.

Splitting the law school from the main campus is one more declaration that ASU is a commuter school and not a serious setting for a university experience. It also denies undergraduates easy access to research resources that a good law school must possess and a campus experience should provide.

The focus here has been the law school's effect on central Phoenix, but one step back and it looks like another manifestation of the sprawl mentality that is the guiding force in Arizona's development.

Arizona is truly Kansas with mountains.

Portland State University is located on downtown's south side. It's a large campus with a substantial student population in residence. You might think that it was one reason why downtown Portland works so well but I have my doubts. While it never hurts to have young people on the sidewalks, this is not where downtown swings. Indeed, the sidewalks are fairly quiet at night. On a purely urban level, Saturday's Farmer's Market probably works best given the inflow of outside foot traffic.

What stands out here is that the campus was never meant to integrate with downtown on a granular level. The buildings are handsome but they're single-use for the most part. Here and there is a Starbuck's or a Subway on the ground level, but certainly nothing too lively or too naughty. This is probably how it should be since students shouldn't be overwhelmed by diversions.

ASU will eventually fill in many of downtown Phoenix's gaping holes physically. It won't revive downtown, however, because univesities can't do that. What some can do - that is, older campuses - is support great retail streets like Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue. There are no great retail streets in downtown Phoenix, needless to say.

A city that functions well will not have to be created by planners and architects. That's an impossible task. There's no way decorative streetlights and park benches will make downtown Phoenix happen. The best bet any city has for success is making sure its downtown is receptive for real-world uses. Say, a hardware store, a grocery store, or a clothier. There's no mystery here about how it happens. Hint: organically and gradually over time with government supporting this ecoystem rather than trying to destroy it like the City of Phoenix did. The technocrats playing Sim City are the last people who can make it happen.

Talton “Someone told me it requires "seven variances" in the city code.”
Jon, The Rosenzweig’s would understand this!

“Laws change; people die; the land remains” Abraham Lincoln.

Jon, “Second, some of the finest members of the Resistance have spent nearly two decades trying to rescue pieces that are left.” Well Jon, three of the finest members moved to the west coast and the rest are leaving or dying.

Soleri “After the Arizona Center debacle, you might think CityScape would get it right. But it's pretty much more of the same. The Convention Center takes out six city blocks and renders them utterly inert. They're nice looking buildings but what's the point?”
City Scape in my opinion is as ugly as Chase Field and University of Phoenix Stadium combined. It turned the area into a dark canyon of horrors. Riding my recumbent through this Canyon at 6 AM on a Summer Sunday morning darkens my mind and causes images of Earth First.
Jon come on you know the answer to your question, “I can't figure out why Phoenix, perhaps soon to again be the nation's fifth largest city, can't assemble the capital, imagination and leadership to make this happen?”

The Legislature dominated outliers blow their trumpets every day trying to bring down the walls of evil Phoenix.

Per Doug Sanders, in The Arrival City, “Yesterday’s alien villagers and immigrants become today’s urban merchants and tomorrows professionals and political leaders. Without this metamorphosis, cities stagnate and die.”

“The land always makes promises of aching beauty and the people always fail the land” Charles Bowden in Blue Desert.

It’s all for naught I hear Frank Herbert’s Sand Worms coming.

Trees. 'nuff said.

If 50 years in the future, the residents of a treeless Amazon Basin were discussing what kind of buildings they needed to revive their Paradise Lost, they'd sound a lot like some Phoenicians sound today.

Lasting monuments to life often come from seemingly evanescent roots. After all, Lady Bird Johnson's crusade to beautify Texas highways with wildflowers is to this day a more lasting contribution to this country than all of the politicians of the last 40+ years have been able to muster.

About a dozen posts up, Soleri wrote:

I think on some level somebody in city planning understands this. But either their rulebook doesn't allow genuine mixed-use development or, more likely, they're so desperate for anything to fill the spaces where buildings go that they settle for single-use fortresses. Bob Graham, are you aware of any internal debates at City Hall about this?

In my experience, there is a very wide diversity of opinion at City Hall and we have quite a few public servants who really do “get it,” even if they might be in the minority. What matters is who’s in charge, because while some Planner II’s might display some Current Thinking, if the Planning Director came of age in the 1970s then what we get is the Same Old Crap because in a bureaucracy, nobody is going to buck them.

The good news is that the recession has cleared out a lot of the old deadwood in the City hierarchy, and that more people have been moving up who understand how cities really work (as opposed to suburbs).

The bad news is that most of the zoning ordinance (the rulebook you refer to) was written in the 1960s with suburban development in mind – indeed, as the goal. We have made some strides with the form-based DownTown Code, however the results of the DTC have been very mixed and it appears to be rife with unintended consequences.

As an example, if a project needs 7 zoning variances under the DTC, you can only conclude that either the project is unsuitable, or the DTC is flawed. (I personally think it’s a bit of both.)

More to your point, the problem remains there is nothing that city planners can do to require “genuine mixed-use development” at a given location. The Zoning Ordinance is unfortunately a blunt instrument that is set up to place limitations on what would otherwise be laissez-faire results of the free market. We have no Robert Moses with the clout and authority to dictate what goes where.

For sites that the City has control over, like two of those addressed in this article, obviously there is more that can be done. But the “City” is a many headed monster with various departments having differing views. The big-picture policy is still set by the City Council and staff has to follow. The Law School project is no different than dozens of preceding City projects that have a powerful steamroller behind them. The public might be able to have some say in the outcome, but if so they need to get involved early and often, because nothing's gonna sideline progress of a big economic generator like ASU.

Thanks for your response, Bob Graham. My short takeaway is that government is complicated by the necessity of rules and bureaucracies. I've been personally acquainted with COP planners and I knew them to be alert and sensitive people struggling to balance the interests of different stakeholders. What I couldn't understand is how little debate there was in the city at large about the woebegone condition of downtown. People were happy to see things happen, of course, and probably made a mental before-and-after comparison about the improvements they saw. What I saw was different, however. I recall as a child a vibrant downtown that was organic and unplanned. Downtown certainly has more eye candy today than before. All it lacks is a heartbeat.

One other thing: living in Portland has made me aware how a politician like Tom McCall didn't simply move a recalcitrant state against its will. There was a civic culture in place that grappled with the concerns he made his issues. He was a key figure but not a superman. What those of us in Phoenix couldn't do was create the political context that made urbanism vital as an issue. Terry Goddard deserved much credit back in the 1980s for thinking out loud about Phoenix as a city. His Futures Forum excited many citizens back then and engaged them in a process that should have extended beyond his mayoral term. But he left Phoenix to run for governor and his greatest gift was never realized: getting the city to act more like a city instead of an amorphous super suburb. Goddard was probably frustrated after seeing how intransigent so many fiefdoms in and outside City Hall were. He accomplished great things but really couldn't dislodge his city from its chronic inertia.

I'm little more than a crank and easy to dismiss. But I doted on Phoenix in my own obsessive way, first as a champion and later as jilted lover. It has occurred to me that Phoenix is doing reasonably well given its modest core and serious urban obstacles. I suppose what I want here is for others to feel my passion about this subject. I left Phoenix because it was making me tetchy and depressed. I told some friends that I would never leave Phoenix if it had 10% of what Portland has. But it doesn't even have 1%. That's the tragedy of a city without enough to love.

Please note two things that have been left out of this discussion.

The ASU Law School is making a large and supposedly visible piece of their new building a quasi-private law firm, i.e., can't get a job,work for us here. The talking heads say this will be a great source for cheap and pro-bono work from capable starting out but can't get a job former ASU law students turned grads. They also believe the fact that because this "law firm" will have windows, the actual visual activity of the lawyers will vitalize the street. Really. They said this. Don't lawyers mostly look at books or computer screens? We'd get more visual activation with a work-out gym.

Second-You always need to go through the whole list when you mention AZ Center and CityScape. Never forget Collier Center, maybe the best fortress of solitude ever built downtown.

Look over the new law building renderings, then watch the trailer for the brilliant film, MALLS R US. The law school will even have a food court and a water feature. But not an all-night coffeehouse. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6m0KwBzOpU

will I be able to get a green corn tamale?

In Tucson, maybe.

NoGo for sure

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