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July 17, 2014


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I generally consider the I-10 (instead of Fillmore or Roosevelt) as the northern boundary of Downtown Phoenix.

Thank you for your comment, so don't take my disputatiousness the wrong way, but...

Your comment makes my point. It doesn't matter what history, tradition and urban geography say about the boundaries of downtown. It's what you "generally consider."

In what self-respecting city would that happen?

To use the Papago Freeway is further problematic because it was rammed through existing neighborhoods, splitting them in half. But they were never part of downtown.

I concur with Jon on Boundaries.
And I-10 what an outrageous obscenity starting at 2700 west and cutting thru to about 2000 east.
An now we have 303 and probably Sal Diciccio's payday, the I-10 across the Gila Indian community.

A day will come when the boundaries described by Jon will return and the rest will be an archaeological dig.
And the future may be a Valley of the Sun that exists only along the Salt River.

This comment isn't about downtown Phoenix, but I've been wanting to ask you for a while why do local TV news stations in Phoenix spend most of their broadcast segment showing what is essentially the daily police plotter, traffic accidents, fires, drownings, residents coping with heat, etc and hardly any time on business or political issues such as those brought up on this blog? What little "investigative journalism" they conduct, is helping people get their money back from unscrupulous businesses and giving tips how to avoid being ripped off. Of course, that's commendable, but it would serve the public more if they exposed politicians, government corruption, cover-ups, and shady high level real estate deals. Does it cost too much money to do so, or is there too much conflict of interest? Are local tv news stations in Seattle on a higher plain topic wise vs those in Phoenix?

Well as you say, City Hall considers Downtown Phoenix as far north as McDowell Rd.

There really is no agreed upon northern boundary (natural or developed) that unambiguously defines Downtown Phoenix.

I-10 (in my opinion) seems to now be the (developed) northern boundary of Downtown Phoenix.

Happs, the politicians blew up Don Bolles and The Arizona Republic ran off investigative reporters like AL Sitter and since has avoided for the most part taking on the corrupt in Arizona. Even the New Times since they took on Sheriff Joe has backed off from investigations like The Baptist Foundation. The bright star at the Republic is reporter Robert Ortega. Will be Interesting to see how much freedom and support they give him before the Pols start forcing his bosses to rein him in.

When downtown lost its retail sector to Christown and then other enclosed, climate controlled malls, it lost its viability as a downtown, but historically, Mr. Talton's boundaries are correct. Off topic, but I've decided to finally stop reading the comments section in New Times. The sheer stupidity, cognitive dissonance, and pure, ugly hatred displayed in response to articles about, oh, say, the children from Central America has become too much to contemplate. Sure glad now that I left Arizona when I did, though I used to get homesick for what is no longer even there.

An essay: what downtown Phoenix means to me.

Men in three piece suits on a 115 degree day?

Their brains must be fried.

I hope they aren't the ones running this city, county and state.

Oh,oh. They are.

That explains a lot.

The end.

P.S. Disputatious ness??

Watch the Journalists Roundtable on Channel 8's Horizon Friday nights (or online) and Sunday Squareoff on Channel 12 on Sunday mornings at 8am for local political stuff.

Funny you mention Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine, because there's a very different perception between city dwellers and suburbanites about just what constitutes downtown. I suspect it's similar in Phoenix and many places.

City dwellers will be first to reiterate Central Parkway as being the north edge of downtown, and rightly so, but suburbanites tend to lump anything in the basin (Downtown, OTR, the West End, Queensgate, and sometimes even the Uptown neighborhoods around the University of Cincinnati and UC Hospital as Downtown).

In fact, I asked a kid not long ago where he goes to high school, and he said "near downtown" so I asked "The School for Creative & Performing Arts?" which is right on Central Parkway, but he said "no, St. Xavier." It's not even in the city at all! *sigh*

with the facelifted hance park on the horizon, I feel the argument over the demilitarized zone of downtown/mid town will have a monument to settle the "new downtown boundary"

The problem, Gordon, is that the Deck Park* is in **non-downtown** neighborhoods. What do we gain by vandalizing Phoenix history to create a new lazy definition of downtown? It will still be inaccurate and ahistorical.

Better to spend the time and energy attracting major private capital and jobs to the real downtown, as well as Midtown. Planting shade trees. Preserving historic buildings all over.

This is not complicated.

* I hesitate to use Marge Hance's name because she did so much to wreck downtown.

IQs in Cincinnati must have dropped since I lived there. But suburbia does that, especially John Boehner's district.


This is the model for television "journalism" nationwide, sad to say. "If it bleeds, it ledes."

That's why people should read newspapers.

Rouge, its less than a half mile from Fillmore to Deck Park...when the city puts that cloud or whatever above Central there is sure to be a welcome to Downtown marker of some sort.
I am fine with the demilitarized zone between McDowell and Fillmore not being Downtown Phoenix, but the way the city has evolved and flows traffic, its culturally and economically more downtown than MidTown feeling.

BUT FACTS ARE FACTS, Its not Downtown.

Try standing face to face with hinterland extreme west valley residents that call the "scary area around 7th St and Bethany Home" downtown.

You can't cure stupid.

Men in three piece suits on a 115 degree day?

Their brains must be fried.

Rubin, aware as I am of Señor Talton's contempt for "casual" dress, I hesitate to share this (not really,) but the software company I worked for made it a point of pride to not require suits, or neckties for that matter (hey, the Valley of the Sun is different. OK, that was a cheap shot, Jon.) I took this to extremes, dressing like Hawkeye Pierce with hand-sewn Hawaiian-style shirts. Where it became amusing was when I traveled as a consultant. Particularly at a Solomon Brothers site in NYC - me strolling through the offices with long hair and this garb, access to the computer room, etc. The goo-goo eyes I got... ah, so sweet.

Similar experience in London...


P.S. Disputatiousness: I thought that was just a clever neologism from Jon, but I looked it up. What a great word.

"Contempt" would be an overstatement. "Casual" is the new uniform, however much most men also like it.

Me, I love to wear suits and ties. Part of this, no doubt, is that I grew up poor and also wearing them makes me feel good. But I love the style and design and options. Obviously I can't dress that way most of the time in Phoenix and my body is not what it once was.

My ideal era would be a fashion mashup of the '40s and '90s, where the men wear suits and fedoras, and the women wear suits with short skirts (or Little Black Dresses) and pumps. And everybody lives in art deco cities and rides trains but also has modern medicine and dental care.

It is curious today how often I am interrogated when I wear a suit and tie.

"Why are you all dressed up?"

I usually say, "Because today the rebels wear suits."

I don't say, "Why are you dressed like a fourteen-year-old and look like everybody else?" Because that would be judgmental and RC is never that.

Phoenix is definitely not the only city to have suffered for the freeway wrecking old historical neighborhoods. Philadelphia comes straight to mind, with the expressways literally destroying history. There used to be a ton of historical properties along and behind the waterfront that were bulldozed for I75 and I95- see this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeway_and_expressway_revolts#Philadelphia

I would note that Phoenix is mentioned in that article too, about the freeway revolts as a result of crappy urban freeway planning in the 1960s and 70s.

But as someone who has lived in Arizona since 1987 and worked downtown since 96, I still find it small and too much government oriented to ever break out much for traditional employers. Hence that mess up to Camelback and then to Snotsdale road and north to "Parks", including the air park. Bleh to all that. Might as well work in a glass box of anonymous.

Now homeless folks panhandling, that lends character, let me tell ya, and working by the murder church, or the wrecked church shell-that shows real fortitude.

I guess if I had a real hometown I would be nostalgic, but I moved too much as a kid, and all of it was just the same, a bunch of folks doing life, and living as best they could with the infrastructure they grew up with provided by the old folks.

PS> I told Greg Stanton what it would take to really start redevelopment in downtown, but I don't think he really believed me when I told him to penalize vacant lots- and that anything that did commercial or residential beat vacant dirt- he wants "good development only".

If they had to build, something would contribute to greater mass of people and growth, rather than waiting with empty lots for the skyscrapers that never seem to come.

Dressing up: For you that want to style I have a copy of the book Zoot Suit that you may borrow. Additionally I will loan you a green Fedora complete with a red feather.

Maricopa County attorney agrees to JUSTICE as opposed to vengeance.


How many cops does it take to drive a Mayor?

Jon said:"* I hesitate to use Marge Hance's name because she did so much to wreck downtown."

The current mayor has a squad of cops to make sure he gets to and from without a WRECK.
Mayor Hance was the first to have a MS. Daisy driver, I know because I was the first mayor driver at the direction of Police Chief Larry Wetzel to insure Hance got home without a wreck.

Lets just say once upon a time Phoenix downtown was as Jon says. And move to not having any town names. We will just call it all the Valley of the Sun. U all know how I feel about drawing lines in the shifting sands of the Great Sonoran Desert, whats left of it!
Cal Lash and his dog spot from atop a rolling stone near the Superstitions

Interesting my name in the comments section came up twice as Wreck and I did not change my sign in. U messing with me Jon?

Cal, I went in and changed them. Have no idea why "Wreck" showed up as your handle.

Cal, didn't Wetzel know your reputation with women?

"Get home without a wreck?" Hell, how about her getting home without her dress !!!!!!!!

"Because today the rebels wear suits."

Good answer, I have to admit. And your '40s & '90s mashup is whimsical enough to appeal to my aesthetics as well.

Short Skirt, Long Jacket

Side-note: there is a new reply to Concern Troll regarding Arizona land use laws vis a vis water use rights, here:


Emil and Ruben I posted a bit more over on


Pardon me for being really "ugly" but I prefer no clothes any time I can.
Adam looking for Eve
Spare me a rib bro?

Concern Troll, I responded to your latest comment to Emil on the water question blog.

My hero, non violent detective detective, Rockford was found dead in his trailer.


from my motor home somewhere in the Great Sonoran Desert, whats left of it

Well I was watching the making of the movie Mad Max and the making of Mel Gibson's career and it made me sad that Phoenix Sun Fan is not posting here, anymore.
So since we seem to have a water issue I am going to watch China Town again, tonite.
The water is coming the water is coming.

Off topic , but worthy of posting.

"I'll accept the Supreme court's ruling that corporations are persons as soon as Texas executes one of them."

On the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, here's a column from the archives:



This is another insightful and intelligent contribution. I am not alone in being thankful for your soldiering on from Seattle. It is a misfortune of near calamitous scale that seemingly no one in Greater Phoenix understands this stuff, nor appropriately values it.

I recently saw a story in The Republic on the travel costs to 200 major world cities. At the end of the story, the Republic writer said, as an aside, "Phoenix was not included in the report." That fact didn't seem to hit the writer as anomalous or even slightly significant. Perhaps this business journalist is unaware that Phoenix is one of the top 100 metro areas on earth on every available list and is ranked as high as top 70 on some. Maybe this writer is just generally clueless. Or maybe he has just bought into the Phoenix-as-an-insignificant-place syndrome (aka, "Valley" Disorder) and is content to ply his trade just reporting on rising or falling median home prices "in the Valley."

Anyway, it is all part and parcel of Phoenix's simultaneous rise in population (pushing 5 million now) while rapidly declining as a serious, prominent urban center.

It almost seems that the powers-that-be consciously want Greater Phoenix to become the World's Largest Palm Springs. One example: GPEC chants the economic development chant, but names Mike Bidwill of the Arizona-freaking Cardinals their chairman! Mike's dad famously dealt the "Phoenix" brand one of its most egregious injuries when he mocked the metro area by yanking it out of the NFL, effectively telling the world that the urban brand "Phoenix" has absolutely no value whatsoever to the Bidwills. As the old saw goes, with friends like the Bidwills, who needs enemies?

Anyway, Jon, keep speaking the truth.



P.S. "Mr. Joe's Hospital" is great. (I wonder if that is what it is called on the Bishop's speed dial.) If they can get a liquor license (and who can't?), maybe they can dub it "Joe's Bar & Hospital."

Ruben had u read your latest copy of Adbusters u would know there is a move to execute a corporation.


You brought up a very interesting point. As it pertains to EVERYTHING in the world around it, Phoenix is insignificant. It impacts nothing. It is nothing, in the middle of nowhere. When you leave it, there is nothing, no feeling. Only the thankfulness that you left the heat.

I don't miss anything about it. Nothing.

Wow. that's a weird feeling.

cal, yes, I saw the article.

Old Phil did a number on me. Four decades in the valley of the sun and it registers zero on my emotion scale.

damn. Did I just sleep walk through 40 years of my life?

I left Phoenix for good this past March 23rd after living there for 7 years - an ASU adventure extended through various job offers and sense of comfort. I spent my last day in the passenger seat of my roomate's car: "pull over here- they're finally renovating Arizona Center." "OK, I need you to get down 3rd Street and turn right as soon as you pass USAC... NOW! Park." I walked around the wreckage that is our Warehouse District, catching the excitement growing in my voice every now and then as I explained the history of each building to my roommate, having to remind myself that these gems won't be dusted off into the lofts, bars, theaters and clubs I designed on Photoshop in my spare time; that, in fact, if I were to return in 1 or 2 years, the majority of the buildings would likely be gone. But, I couldn't help it - when that excited tone snuck through, my roommate caught on: "Wait - what are THOSE? Can I rent there?!" I wasn't - and am still not - sure if that made things better or worse... living proof of a generation, or at the least a niche of a population in a city so without identity that the vandalized remnants of urban planning disasters make our hearts flutter. That we enjoyed our conversation on how we would restore the old Tommyknockers brewery because on that last day, in an area in which we didn't encounter a single soul, I felt home. His disgust that we had Amtrak until 1996 as we clawed the gates of the abandoned Union Station was nothing, if not confirmation that it isn't me. Or you. Or my roommate. It isn't many of Phoenicians who have made it the anonymous brown box it has become. It's the idiots like Greg Stanton who praise a Bioscience District at Desert Ridge when the one they bulldozed Evans Churchill for is little more than the size of a high school campus. It's the Michael Crows who bully and bulldozed their way into downtown with their anti-urban fortresses that have destroyed the northern end of downtown and created an exclusive zone that can't be accessed without an active SunCard. I can't walk into the AE Building without security escorting me out; I can't enter the renovated Post Office without swiping a SunCard; acres of MY downtown are filled with inaccessible buildings from which the praises of sustainability and equality in urban cores are chanted, and the next 3-story, inward-facing, back-of-house-in-my-face building designed. Somehow, somewhere this comment had a point... between nostalgia, anger, and a few too many daydreams, I seem to have gone off into quite the tangent. I apologize, but suppose what I want to say is there are so many more like you and like me in Phoenix. And, even more that would gladly call their Cardinals home to Phoenix if they had the leaders to look up to and public stewards leading the way. To the GPECs, ACA's, DPP's, PURL's (I sent them an email the other day: "aren't you a bit embarrassed that the Phoenix Urban Research Lab has sat in a historic building for 7+ years and has yet to lease a single retail space on the ground level?") and every other bureaucratic circlejerk: shame on you. You've lost more talent than you'll ever know, and you'll lose more today and more tomorrow. My last note is that a recent article mentioned that ASU is moving into the ground level of the Westward Ho. If I ever return and see that to have come true... I really do hope I don't see that the space was simply made classrooms without any public space; I've stared and admired that building since 2006. That building is mine - it belongs to Phoenix, not to the SunCard and all that it stands for. Sorry for the rant, and god speed.

Excellent James.

liberals SURE are idiots tell me WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? NONE? Oh my.

I enjoy your writing, even when I disagree with your take on things. The key ingredient is passion. Caring, deeply, about the city and the details of its history. Writing, at length and with detail, while maintaining a journalistic style that is easy to follow or pick up and leave off on a computer screen, in between tasks.

I have not found another website quite like this one relating to Phoenix/the metro area. But if anyone has other suggestions please advise. As we all know there is a dearth of media covering the place we live with any sort of depth. In particular I am interested in weather history and haven't found any great enthusiast websites about Phoenix area weather history.

I am guilty of saying 'I work downtown' when I work in what you'd define as Mid-town and the City would define as on the border. So this article will make me more mindful, maybe I'll start saying Mid-town.

Best regards and keep up the good work.

The semantics will follow the development. There are no clear distinct labels for areas of CenPho because there are no distinct barriers. Downtown is essentially piecemeal and as infill continues and walkability increases residents will begin to see the distinct separation between downtown/midtown/ and uptown. We can shove it down people's throats but I would rather have the labels follow the development. Phoenix is changing and that means the traditional neighborhood labels we used in the 1960s don't necessarily equate to how the city is designed today. Traditional Downtown nightlife and culture now leans heavily on Roosevelt Row through ASU Downtown's steady supply of youngsters willing to explore. I would argue that now downtown extends to central & mcdowell or we'll create a new name for the region between Fillmore and McDowell. The fluidity of Phoenix's population and the subsequent changes in design to the city are what make Phoenix different than all those cities you mentioned (Chicago, Minneapolis etc). Their identity is set in stone and has been set for decades. Phoenix is still trying to figure itself out, and new labels will follow.

So what is Central Phoenix? Does it include Downtown? I lived in Chicago and the Loop is the Loop, River North is River North...I don't think Phoenix has such strong boundaries. If you live in Chandler or Buckeye it's all Downtown.

Well done, Jon.
And, for the record, I generally consider Brooklyn to be part of Manhattan.

The fact that many, if not most, Phoenicians can’t tell Downtown Phoenix from Midtown Phoenix has less to do with their relative newcomer status than the general fuzziness with which the entire Phoenix metropolitan Area’s identity has been managed (or grossly mismanaged). After all, you can move to Chicago and very quickly learn the difference between the Loop and the Near North.

Phoenicians (and everyone in the metro area is a “Phoenician”) have no idea of the size and relative importance of Phoenix in the US and the world at large. Do they know Phoenix is one of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the world? It is bigger than the Seattle or Detroit metro areas and is closing in on Boston. But are Phoenicians aware it is more populous than Rome or Athens? More on the scale of Berlin and Sydney?

Around the country or the world, Atlanta is Atlanta. Los Angeles is Los Angeles. Seattle is Seattle. But Phoenix is more identified as merely “Arizona” or, worse yet, “the Valley.” What is more colorless and doughier an identity than “the Valley?” How much less differentiation can you give a supposedly great, world-class city than “the Valley?” And, Arizona is a region of 116,000 square miles. Think bigger than the UK or Italy. There are other places that like to think of themselves as part of Arizona which are nowhere near metro Phoenix.

Jon, I think a lot of Phoenix’s identity problems stem from its status as having the largest suburbs in America. Phoenix is the fifth biggest city in America. Think of another big US city with larger suburbs than this – just the 7 biggest around Phoenix:

-Mesa, 35th largest city in the US, 510,000+ people, bigger than Atlanta or KC
-Chandler, #82, 260,000, bigger than Buffalo
-Scottsdale, #85, 255,000, the size of Buffalo
-Glendale, #87, 250,000, bigger than Boise
-Gilbert, #88, 250,000, ditto
-Peoria, #152, 175,000, bigger than both the Springfields (MO and MA)
-Surprise, #198, 148,000, bigger than Syracuse

Surprise would be the biggest city in ten states. Mesa, the biggest in 29.

Oddly, many of these suburbs are seemingly resentful of Phoenix and its identity as a major city. Someone tell Glendale that it is not remotely the reason the Cardinals are in that city. Arizona had nothing to do with it, either. The franchise was granted to a place called Phoenix.

All this Arizona-izing of Phoenix does nothing but make even more fuzzy its identity and significance. It hurts economic development by minimizing its standing amongst its peers by rarely referencing it. And, it diminishes urban esprit de corps. Chicagoans acknowledge they’re part of Illinois, but they certainly don’t identify primarily as Illinoisans. People who live in Aurora, Chicago’s biggest suburb by far (population 200,000) think of themselves as Chicagoans, not Illinoisans. Phoenix has lost that attraction.

It is unfortunate because it has cost the people of Metropolitan Phoenix a lot. Hard costs like lower median incomes than places like Denver and Seattle. Less philanthropic investment. And the soft cost of low community morale, lack of perspective and too much internecine squabbling by the various suburban potentates.

People in farming areas like El Centro think of themselves parochially as living in the “Valley.” After all, their relevant context is Brawley and Calexico. But, in Metro Phoenix, where the context should be LA, Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta, they call the place the “Valley,” also. Non-descriptive and colorless, especially when the real identity is something as inspiring as “Phoenix.”

No wonder they don’t know where Downtown ends and Midtown begins.

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