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May 17, 2018


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Yup - went to Mesa once. That was enough.

I have a good friend who just moved from Scottsdale's upscale McCormick Ranch to midtown Phoenix's Villa del Coronado. After years of worrying there wasn't any "there" there, he decided central Phoenix was now worth the risk. Of course, this area was created in a time when there was an organic city with great design and legacy greatness. You don't find wonderful museums, a nearby symphony orchestra and opera, along with historic districts in master-planned developments on the fringe. The good life is available now but if it's something deeper than great rooms with giant TV screens, you necessarily look for it in an older city.

Phoenix may be a shaky lattice to grow roses on but the fact it is coveted now is great news for the urban warriors who curated hope in our long dismal night of mindless sprawl. If Arizona has a better future ahead, it's going to come from the historic city because that's where a real civic conscience resides. You don't realize how interdependent we are until you live in real communities with real histories and values. Consumers might get more bang for their buck in Surprise and Gilbert but you won't find much if any soul there. Maybe someday in the future, people will build and preserve their neighborhoods from love rather than carnal pleasure. Until then, places like central Phoenix remain the best bet.

During my recent trip to Phoenix the biggest surprise for me was the actual construction of the long-awaited grocery store in downtown proper. Block 23 is being built on the former Penny's Department Store site. It will include a Fry's Grocery store, street level retail, over 200,000 sq ft of office space and more than 330 apartment units. 2 large cranes stand over the site. You can see a time-lapse of the construction site and current view here: https://app.oxblue.com/open/WhitingTurner/Block23

Aint that just wonderful?

Cal, in lieu of destroying the Sonoran desert with more schlocky faux-Tuscan villas, yes it is wonderful.

I have been a fan of Jon Talton since his days at the AZ Republic back in the '90's and have been reading his Rogue Columnist's blogs since he moved on. I appreciate the Arizona history and perspective Jon provides in his articles. Jon's constant messages about urban sprawl and the benefits of moving back to the city is the main reason I moved out of Anthem after 18 years north of the valley and back to Phoenix. I really like living in Muse and I enjoy the area (museums, restaurants, bars, light rail, etc). Just wanted to drop a note to Jon and let him know he is the reason I moved!

Thanks, Mark. Much appreciated.

Soleri, with all due respect, I disagree. You can build all the Trump high rise buildings you want in “downtown” Phoenix and it will not stop sprawl. It may even accelerate such.

Next time you leave that Isle of tranquility and are in the hood of Slope rent a vehicle and drive any direction to a border. Try 202 or 60 east and note that up against the mighty Superstition and her wonderful blossoming Sajuaros are hundreds of apartments, condos and houses under construction. Drive east on 10 into the ever expanding Marana and all the communities of the Tucson area and see the expansive building and paving into the Tucson Mountains and Mount Lemmon. Drive on towards Benson where the “Developers” have planned a community of thousands of houses. Believing High-rise enterprise and housing will stop sprawl is a fantasy on the scale of the myth of gods.

I have read many nerdy techno statisticians and philosophers that keep trying to dispel the words of Thomas Malthus. They too, as others here, live in that same Utopian Idealistic overly optimistic world. Human Sprawl will continue until the planet brings it to a screeching halt.

And giving the current drill baby drill greed monsters running the country it will come even sooner.

But then maybe Donald who thinks he is Genghis Kahn and his Macho cop like mustached Attila the Hun will end it very soon with a brilliant scorched earth plan

Jon, I am not a fan of high density downtowns, but I'm really glad that you pointed out that Phoenix needs more native shade trees, and that gravel (gravelscaping) looks terrible.

Sun City Mesquite (NV) and Sun City Anthem (AZ), use native plants in abundance. They are car dependent, but certainly provide examples of native vegetation that could be used in downtown Phoenix and downtown Scottsdale. Search Tom Lane Facebook Scottsdale and I'll put up some photos of Sun City Mesquite native plants.

Cal, I was in Arizona in January and I saw the horror show up close. Good cities, however, mitigate the damage humans do to the planet. The per capita carbon expenditure in New York City is significantly less than that of the average American. Cities perform a critical civic function, too. If you live in dense cities you understand the importance of other people. Their well-being is no longer an abstract concern. It's why the consciousness-level of city dwellers is higher than that of don't-tread-on-me exurbanites. This translates politically to a respect for complexity, science, and empiricism.

Imagine if Phoenix were a truly vibrant city. This would mean Arizona would likely be a blue state (a function Portland performs in Oregon, Seattle in Washington, Denver in Colorado, e.g.). This would mean better land use planning along with fewer land swaps benefiting real-estate hustlers. A progressive Arizona would not allow developers to offload the costs of their environmental vandalism on the rest of us.

There are seven and a half billion people crowding this blue dot in a vast cosmic void. The trick is to get them to understand how finite the planet's resources are. Good cities are absolutely critical for this reason. There simply isn't enough space for everyone to live as if other people and future generations don't matter. Keep connecting with others and explain to them why this matters. Chances are you'll find more willing listeners in central Phoenix and Tempe than Sun City and Mesa. There's a good reason for that.

Soleri, I agree,
"no one's listening"!
well not many!

Cal, you are a unique blend of message and messenger. It's not many retired cops who revere the Sonoran Desert to the point that you are now politically "woke". Most lefties are not authentic in this way - we overintellectualize and tend to be impatient and dismissive of "real Americans". I urge you to exercise your gifts for the desert you love and a planet that needs all the help it can get. You've got an interesting story to tell. Please tell it.

Thanks for your eloquent words, Soleri. I agree.

Cal, lots of people are listening. The "back to the city" movement nationally is one of the most profound changes in the past 70 years. Young talent, empty-nest boomers, and companies are moving into great cities. This is happening despite cheap gasoline and continued subsidies for suburbanization.

It's even happening in Phoenix.

Thanks Soleri, I have “liked” the desert since 1950. In the Gobi desert I would be short 17 months of being 80. I hope to spend my remaining days in a desert. All morning I have watched the many southwestern birds that eat and wash in the food and water and mist that I provide outside my motorhome. I listen to the coyotes on the hunt at night. And cruising the blacktop I watch the hawks that sit atop APS light poles looking for a kill.
The following quote from Mezcal by, “Chuck, Charles C Bowden, sums it up for me.
“ The desert, the big empty where humans do not dominate, is necessary to slow down my velocity, to rid the clutter from my brain. But it is too late for me, I am too long out of the Stone Age and I can only visit the past.”

Jon, I have read such that you speak of. Maybe Dune is the answer. I really admired Fran Herbert’s series but like Abbeys book the Monkey Wrench Gang, no seems to be able to bring it Strongly to film. I hope you are right but I fear the plan may eventually require Soylent Green and then there is….. https://www.economist.com/briefing/2015/05/09/rise-of-the-machines
and https://www.nationalreview.com/2013/12/minimum-wage-and-rise-machines-jonah-goldberg/

For followers here if your interested there are new posts on Phoenix Confidential OCB.


The Texas Medical Center in Houston was mentioned as a positive example. Since I work there, I can tell you first hand it is an impressive place. Six large hospitals, a few more smaller ones, two medical schools/research centers, and a nursing school all in a few square miles. It appears larger and taller than many cities' downtowns.

And it does have a light rail running north to downtown and beyond, and south. It seems to be well used, which is good because limited parking in an issue.


This article in The Times explains why the Back to the City movement is so strong now in America and, on the flip side, why it might be driving so much of our political dysfunction. In fact, this dysfunction is a global phenomenon because of falling population rates.

I'm not able to read that site.
I do know that the worlds population is still growing. Ruben and i likely will not be around to see it shrinking(depending on The US and Korea actions). What little i know about populism seems to id Bernie and Donald?

Side note: i see Trump finally sorta won a war on NFL protestors, particularly black players. However since i consider American Football and Hockey felonious activities i will not witness this on and off field continuing stupid soap opera between a moron and overpaid thugs.

For you optimists
I suggest a new book by Gary Krist, The Mirage Factory.

LA “used less water in 2015 than in 1970 despite gaining one million additional residents. The mirage in the desert has become indelibly real. It’s up to a new generation of urban image makers to ensure it continues to flourish.”

Dorothy Parker once described LA as “seventy-two suburbs in search of a city.”

Today's LA is quite misunderstood, especially by Zonies:


I agree with you on the ridiculous metal shade! People throw in gravel and then expect trees to live without water. Fascinating!

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