Urban Revolution

September 6th, 2012

As the pent-up raw energy and imagination of Phoenix’s new urban dwellers is being embodied in “pop-up” everything we have to ask, what’s next? Why are we waiting so long to fill our desert of empty lots? And as we start the first residential building cycle since 2003, what’s different in 2012?

In short. Everything is different. People ARE living downtown. It’s driving everything. For the first time in any development cycle in living memory we are passing “go” with a living, breathing and, more importantly, active and vocal population in the heart of the city.

A see-through view of the Phoenix skyline, courtesy of Concord Eastridge’s residential development on Roosevelt St. Photo by David Newcombe.

Nothing builds buyers and renter confidence more than friends that already live and love the experience of downtown. Radiating Phoenix has never been easier.

Developing where the new city dwellers live is a bigger problem. We have to build apartments, town homes and condos. We have to have walkable streets to add to the home run of the brilliant light rail.

Like all great cities in this world we need to develop an urban core that is just that. The one thing we must avoid is taking the tract home into the city (yes Scottsdale, we’re talking about The Waterfront Residences). Another is alienating the youthful and energetic heart that is leading this revolution. Tempe made that little misstep when it went after the corporate dollar and ignored its heart (pun intended) in the last cycle.

So what do we do? How do we help our new mayor change the lumbering processes, old agreements, and lingering fiefdoms that are the major obstacles in our path to success? The ball and chain that stops this potentially great capitol city becoming what it should be.

We must learn from our past, and most importantly use our amazing local talent to create gold standard development examples instead of importing them from completely irrelevant places.

In the next few weeks and months we will look at the developments that work by interviewing residents that live in them, and who knows, you may end up wanting to live in one yourself. We’ll talk to developers, politicians, architects, and we’d love to talk to you. If there isn’t somewhere you want to live right now, I bet we can create it together.

It’s time to move Phoenix to the future as the poster child of American Urbanization 2012 style, and it’s time for us all to play our part as we move from pop-up to stay up.

  • Brett Steinkamp

    I’m really looking forward to your upcoming series about the urban renaissance in Downtown Phoenix. One thing I hope someone will address is the important tool of Tax Imcrement Financing that is lacking here. It’s my understanding that Arizona is one of only two states that hasn’t passed legislation to allow it. I heard an official not long ago say that we will have to use Tax Increment Financing to encourage downtown development at some point. From what I can tell, it would help some of the smaller infill projects get going, which is what we really need to develop those empty lots that there are all too many of. If it’s that important, why has no one taken up the cause to get this done? In a pro-growth state like Arizona, it seems odd that this hasn’t happened already.

    • David Newcombe

      Great idea Brett. TIF is very important. I’ll try and get some developer responses as we move forward.

    • Will Novak

      Unfortunately the reason AZ doesn’t have TIF is because its believed to fall under a no gift clause in the AZ Constitution. The AZ constitution is very much a Progressive Era constitution, so there was a lot of thought at the time about limiting corruption and Tamney Hall sorts of shenanigans.

      So while I agree that TIFs are important and we need them for Central PHX redevelopment, its going to be an uphill battle to get them. It’ll likely take a constitutional amendment at the State level. And as Im sure you’ve noticed, our Government at the State level is beyond broken, so I can’t imagine them getting their poop in a group for TIFs.

      • Brett Steinkamp

        Sounds like the “no gift clause” is written way too broadly. I’ve been told that Tucson’s Rio Nuevo project is using TIF’s. How was it that they were able to do it there? I found an article from less that a year ago talking about how the Washington state legislature enacted a constitutional amendment enabling the use of TIF’s there. It’s time for Arizona to catch up.

  • http://www.phoenixcommunityalliance.com Don Keuth

    David,
    I applaud your comments and look forward to the upcoming installments. You are absolutely on target. We have this window of opportunity to create a vibrant core taking full advantage of al that has been built to date. We have all the big things, now we need the fine grain infill. I believe that Roosevelt Point begins to create the vision. we wil be able to point to that and identify were else can a project of that scale be paced in the downtown area. We also need to be looking north along the light rail to see where the multitude of surface parking lots can enjoy a new purpose. I look forward to working with you on this very important mission.
    Don Keuth