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August 04, 2014


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Sad and unfortunate but PHX is not alone. Other cities (eg. St Louis MO) destroyed attractive/valuable buildings to construct highways, malls and larger parking lots.

Above and beyond buildings, even cultural uniqueness can be sacrificed: http://www.gaslightsquare.org/page3.php

Side note: a cozy, fireside chat about wkg in bham's concept of "total war" (Achtung!), and a review of Israel's military successes 10,000 Palestinian casualties later (hint: it didn't achieve any), can be found as a new comment, here:


In the 40 and 50's downtown was a bustling hive of activity day and night. It even went nocturnal in the summer. I recall most of all the places posted here.
Now during the day downtown outwardly not much seems to be happening. Guess everyone is inside with the A/C. The buildings cast long shadows making the streets seem like canyons. At night only a few stragglers occupy the empty canyons. It's like a modern ghost town just waiting to die.
Do I hear Ed Abbey whispering, the desert cometh?

@Emil: my repsonse to paragraphs 1 and 2 of your post back at "No Peace".

The inclusion of the Superstitions reminded me of the time, years ago, when-I can't remember the details-some moviemaker actually wanted to blow up Weaver's Needle.

Union Station is such a no brainer its making my eye bleed.
That pyramid church up on Shea And Tatum is something I can see a developer salivating over.
The Theater/Current B&B Appliances in sunnyslope is uninspired, but still around. Could use less several storied storage units & Walmarts and more breweries, growth of adaptive reuse independents in that area (like the old cleaners on central just west of John C. Lincoln)

Great column, Jon! I couldn't agree more with the points you make. (I doubt that any "kooky desire to forget about FDR" had much to do with the almost-loss of the State Fair building, though).

Missing from your list are Trinity Cathedral and several other churches that have been saved.

The original Phoenix Public Library was a charming building in its original coral with white trim. Now it's incorporated into the Art Museum. An art museum, of all places, ought to be a neat looking building--ours is a monstrosity that looks as if it was sprayed with gunite and painted "men's room green"! Meanwhile, the new library looks like a giant air conditioning condenser tower. Nice inside, but Ugly with a Capital "U"!

Thanks to light rail and ASU, downtown has come a long way back from where it was. But it needs more shade and to be more walkable.

The Arcadia citrus groves were natural coolers and helped to counteract the urban heat island effect--especially at night. We need to plant more trees--develop more "Arcadia-like" neighborhoods throughout the Valley

OT, I threw new red meat into the "No Justice. No Peace" comments.

This is a wonderful piece of history, Jon. Thanks.

Here is an interview with Michael Levine from the Downtown Phoenix Journal about the Warehouse District, if anyone wants to see what's left of the W.D. and what they are all about . Apparently, ASU has purchased some properties there and plan on using them for their Fine Arts School.


@Emil: more comments on your post back at "No Peace"

I'm curious, do you read comments when they appear at reddit?

I appreciate this post, I was just yammering about walkable cities at reddit in terms of Sunnyslope.

I would be happy to see Amtrak and a Commuter Train use Union Station.

I also think it could make a great

farmer's market
coffee house
Pike's Market
SF Ferry Building

I don't have time to read Reddit comments. This is the place to come where I do read them.

OK, this is off-topic but it's too fascinating not to share. Consider it a place-holder for the next open thread...

Capitalism is, among other things, a massive process of ego formation, the creation of modern selves, the illusion of individual autonomy, the cultivation of distinction and preference, the idea that individuals had their own moral conscience, based on individual reason and virtue. The wealth created by slavery generalized these ideals, allowing more and more people, mostly men, to imagine themselves as autonomous and integral beings, with inherent rights and self-interests not subject to the jurisdiction of others. Slavery was central to this process not just for the wealth the system created but because slaves were physical and emotional examples of what free men were not.

Capitalism and Slavery: An Interview with Greg Grandin

Petro, As I read your above post do I detect your reading of Sartre?

"Sartre’s position was that ‘freedom’ was an irreducible fact of individual existence, but the institutions of bourgeois capitalism seek effectively to eliminate that freedom by the reduction of individuals to atomised and alienated units of an objectified mass."

Another view from,

I have a copy of Genet for U. Maybe we can talk AZREBEL out of his Robin Hood hideout for coffee. We could converge in a meadow somewhere in between.

Emil, WKG and others interested.
I dropped a new post and video for U all on
No Justice No Peace

I think you will find Phoenix’s architectural butchery is typical of fast growing cities in the US. I am only intimately familiar with Atlanta and Birmingham. Atlanta lost many treasures and Birmingham a few (being back-water has its advantages).

As a rule, the statement: “nothing of any particular merit was built between 1935 and 1995” holds. For this period the “international style” ruled. This style was developed in Europe (where most really bad ideas originate) by Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Les Corbusier. It was adapted by the most prestigious Americans architects such as Phillip Johnson, I. M. Pei and Gordon Bundershaft. The big glass/concrete box resulted. I think the utter awfulness of these buildings needs no elaboration here

Renovation of a pre-1935 building is ruinously expensive. Mostly this is to do with building codes and hysteria. For example: suppose you want to a little updating to the elevator controls – well that means you have to bring the entire elevator up to current codes. On the hysteria front the two main issues are asbestos and lead paint. There are very simple abatement methods for dealing with these; but the legal environment causes there total removal to be undertaken – at huge expense.

A realistic option is to very carefully remove the façade of an old building, build a new building and reapply the façade.

Another option would be a separate code for renovation of pre-1935 buildings.

Wkg, I have a new army of Monkey Wrenches poised to blade Phoenix and plant Sajuaros.

For an excellent savaging of the “international style” see Tom Wolfe’s “From Bauhaus to Our House”. It’s a quick read – it’s only 143 pages. I like Mr. Wolfe’s writing style – or at least his pre stroke style. His most recent stuff really isn’t all that good.

A rerun idea but: Most Phoenix streets are too wide. Take away one lane and add large concrete planters. Fill with dwarf orange trees (assuming dwarfs exist – I know they do for apples and cherries).

@Cal: maybe you could talk the Israeli army to help you do a little urban srenewal.

Actually, cal, give it a closer read. It's quite opposite to the Sartrean assertion that you quoted.

However, I will aver that his heart was in the same place. Grandin states the case more radically than Jean-Paul did, however. Sartre is using the language of a man living amongst capitalism (and this is why he was Marxist. I've often said that Marxism is a reactionary philosophy, that depends on its "enemy," Capitalism, to give it meaning.)

Grandin is thinking bigger here - he is harking back to what would be a pre-civilized Man. One who knows that he has no identity, no morality, no meaning whatsoever without the gaze of Others - and, in this, we circle around to Sartre's "Hell is other people" (the look of the Other is terrible and fearsome to Sartre's existentialism, as it simultaneously strips one of one's freedom even as it gives one meaning.) In this, Sartre and Grandin are standing together, as the latter is insisting that our illusion of autonomous individuality - given to us by the hierarchical capitalist model whereby we define our freedom as "not slavery" (again, here is a reactionary position - this sort of "freedom" is dependent upon someone, somewhere being enslaved, which is a relative term. "I do not make minimum wage, therefore I am more free than he.") Stepping outside of this capitalist model, we are then in our more natural state that recognizes the absolute necessity of the people around us to sustain us in co-operation. The transactional model of capitalism neuters this and creates Economic Man, who walks without a heartbeat and imagines that he can successfully live alone.

Great post Petro. I will work on trying to get a better handle on it. Can U figure Camus into having something similarly in common with Grandin and Sartre?
As in
"One who knows that he has no identity, no morality, no meaning whatsoever without the gaze of Others"

WKG: The only war I have fought for 74 years is to reduce "manunkind" to: "One who knows that he has no identity, no morality, no meaning whatsoever without the gaze of Others"

Sajuaro Cactus are my identity and the desert is my love, a desert void of man made egotistic erections. May the Coyotes feast on the remains of the incredibly ignorant things identified as people. And then Dogs will rule.

Since you are a reader try Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey.

Jon, interesting photos of buildings still standing, restored and occupied since WWII. There does not even seem to be a missing chimney.

The truth antidote to propaganda re the Israeli / Hamas conflict can be found in a new comment to wkg, here:


back on justice no peace
Good post Emil, U have brought Sun Tzu into the conversation. I agree with all that you said in this last couple of posts however I still find "The Rules of War" to be an absurd statement!

Emil good posts: Verbal fencing is the martial arts of Las Palabras.

Attack: A basic fencing technique, also called a thrust, consisting of extending the sword arm(tongue)to declare an attack and attempt to land a touch upon the opponent's valid area (read brain). In sabre, attacks are also made with a cutting action.
Feint: An attack with the purpose of provoking a reaction from the opposing fencer.

WKG: consider some verbal fencing training under the tutelage of S.I Hayakawa.

I suspect Emil is a graduate of a long line of physical and mental fencing conquistadors.


the hierarchical capitalist model whereby we define our freedom as "not slavery"

And then there is this: http://www.salon.com/2014/07/14/arizona_charter_school_history_book_says_whites_envied_freedom_of_slaves/

O, the contortions of rationalization we humans are capable of, Suzanne.

Sometimes I feel like simply weeping.

Sometimes I do.

Not sure this will be seen given how long ago the post was made, but I wanted to chime in given this is of particular interest to me. It's a shame what was destroyed and what our civic leadership allows to continually be abused at the very best, and blown up at the very worst. A win for the city is the latest proposal to rehab the Barrister Building into apartments, with 2 adjoining midrises to the east and south, all with ground level retail. The combo of PB Bella and Davis have made some very smart comments regarding the project, and I have to believe that, if done and done properly, Phoenix will at least have what it's been so desperate to achieve through the mega-block projects it approves every decade or so, and that's multiple blocks of fine-grain retail with the rooftops to support it and the hospitality dollars to let it prosper. This is happening in spite of CityScape's poor design, but because of its perfect blend of retail, housing, hotel and office uses all at the city center within blocks of our biggest money-makers (the sports venues). If completed, a 75% filled Barrister block (different owners own the farthest east and south portions of the lot) with housing and retail, Luhrs with a double-Marriott, office and restaurant/nightlife, CityScape with all of the above and more will be a place I'd like bringing visitors to.

But, I can't help but wonder how much greater this development would be if Sarver left those hotels in place; Levine is fixing up the wasrehouse at Jackson/1st, so those hotels would have made a fantastic transition into the warehouse district, creating a seamless integration of new and old - adding authenticity to the sterility of the new development.

Unfortunately, no matter what Levine does, the Warehouse District just seems to be out of reach in terms of restoration into any of: a dense walkable neighborhood, nightlife attraction, or mixed use hub. Jackson's on 3rd has been converted to a Dental Training site, rendering all of Jackson west of Cooperstown dead past 5pm (if alive at all), the new Sheriff's HQ looms over the western part as ominously as the jails and garages do. And, ASU's involvement gets me no more excited than the Dental School - they've proven at no point that they understand how to integrate their programs into a city's urban fabric, which is so delicate in the Warehouse District to begin with. This action - along with other rehabs by WebPT, a startup that has taken off - is all happening at 7th/Grant, meaning, like everything else, lights out at 5pm as it's far too scary of a place to venture to after dark.

I did receive a response from one of the women responsible for building the Latino Cultural Center; the councilman wants it at Hance Park, and I wrote an essay on why it should go directly across from George Washington Carver Museum. At least then, there could be some hope of building a synergistic, organic culture in the area, with two cultural centers dedicated to the groups who were pushed further and further south beyond the tracks. With this, hopefully would come authentic hispanic restaurants, and I suggested partnering with Phoenix College as they have a Latina Women's exhibition that could serve as a catalyst for bringing classes down to that neighborhood.

However, in spite of these small glimmers of hope remain the facts that can't be denied: APS has destroyed one of the few buildings that could be used for live/work units, 2 jails and a courthouse are at the center of the district before you even reach the Sheriff and the Jackson Garage, and our leaders still don't get it as evidenced by a recent study done by ASU on how to activate the district. It mainly called for streetscaping and low income housing, as well as a farmers market and community garden - who will frequent these markets/gardens when there's no plan for residential reuse and density? Low income is needed, but so is market rate units... that's not gentrification, it's smart planning for a diverse neighborhood that can support retail beyond bail bond stores.

I hope somehow to see Union Station in the center of a glorious park one day, with a giant ferris wheel behind it, ampitheather and outdoor dining in its front, with a restaurant/bar, museum, and transit center inside connecting to Amtrak, Commuter Rail, and a Streetcar that would run along 7th to Grand and 15th. I hope to see the Telecom business kicked out of the Chambers warehouse, and lofts to be carved out of the upper floors, with live, big band/swing music and dancing on the ground level. I hope for APS to move out of the Gas Works buildings and townhomes to be created out of them, for Levine's 1st/Jackson warehouse to be converted into 2-3 gateway restaurants with lofts above and in new construction 3-4 floors above the existing structure. I hope to see the Ballpark Apts fail, so that the Murphy Produce building can become artist lofts, using the old garage doors as spaces for exhibits and galleries, and the large lot between it and the El Fresno/Gerardo's to be used as a farmer's market/crafts market, with the latter two buildings serving as a food co-op for the neighborhood and cafe/restaurant. I hope to see ASU truly invest in the neighborhood, rehabbing structures within the Grant-Lincoln, 7th-5th area, and adapting homes for student living/building additional units where needed. Lastly, I hope to see the neighborhoods to the south feel a sense of place and pride by centers such as the George Washington Carver Museum and Latino Cultural Center, with educational opportunities, and room to move upward in home-ownership through prefab, modular housing to fill the swaths of empty land where great structures once stood.

In other words, I'll likely always be disappointed.

I C it JS

JS, U know a person that used to blog here using the handle "PhoenixSunFan"

The question was raised about whether to continue the comment section of these notes. Look through this thread. All the comments about other posts (not about preservation) are distractions.

Back to the OP. Developers (always after the quick buck) see the older buildings as costly to update, often too small to be viable as business rentals (for maximizing potential profits) and filled with structural challenges. What incentives can a city offer developers that would change that thinking?

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