Good evening and welcome to the pre-event for tomorrow’s Downtown Voices Coalition Visioning Conference.
You know, Downtown Voices was formed in a place just like this. As a matter of fact, if the Matador bar wanted to, they could create a new drink called the DVC. All you need is a shot of good tequila and a signature on an article of incorporation!
What some may not realize is that Downtown Voices Coalition was the culmination of a chain of events that began with a move to bring a pro football stadium to downtown. As the art folks and small business owners got wind of the plan, they felt their work to make a new and interesting arts district was going to suffer with a giant stadium plunked in its center. Though the protests didn’t stop the demolition and razing of the Evans Churchill neighborhood by speculators and the City, it did manage to shine a light on the project, and successfully persuade the city officials to put the idea aside.
For the first time, artists and small business folks started talking to each other. Then, the Jerde Project, a big box mall development, was floated as another direction for downtown. Ideas were being discussed for another ASU campus, and suddenly the University began as a player in the fate of the downtown community. The fledgling organization known as D-PAC, the Downtown Phoenix Arts Coalition, felt now was the time to get the other voices heard, ones that didn’t have political power or an outstretched hand looking for tax incentives and variances.
The result was an event singular in the City’s history: A one-day facilitated discussion at the Icehouse of over 80 downtown stakeholders, to determine what WE as a group wanted for the future of downtown Phoenix. The resulting report created from the discussion was titled “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown”. It was not only presented to the City of Phoenix, but also found its way into many of the aspects of the newly created Downtown Strategic Plan.
On that day, when we all met and talked, new relationships were formed.
Artists, business owners, developers and, yes, even city officials began to realize that the ultimate goal of the downtown stakeholders were actually very similar.
However, as the dust began to settle from the good work done, development projects in once untouched and unwanted areas began to rise. We as stakeholders learned how zoning by variance and self-imposed hardships could dramatically change the development rulebook.
A key group of stakeholders, coming from different backgrounds yet tied together with similar concerns, realized it would be beneficial to speak with one voice, the voice of what became the Downtown Voices Coalition. We met with a lawyer at the old Ramada Inn downtown bar, and with a toast, began our first mission and organization.
Negotiating a better project for the Summit at Copper Square became our first test, and as we created our organization’s by-laws and elected officers, we found direction from that initial Downtown Voices document.
It was a boom time, and it seemed many times we were playing Whack-A-Mole, that great carnival game where hitting one pop-up mole only made another rise. We found ourselves as a group both welcomed and disparaged. The tactics of “Agitate, Negotiate and, when all else fails, Litigate” brought us through a series of events with many successes and some sad losses.
A Tibetan Buddhist Lama, whom when asked at a conference the definition Buddhism, replied “Divine Common Sense”.
It is regular old commonsense that drives our group, and something else just as tangible. Dr. Howard Cutler has worked with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to write three books, The Art of Happiness, The Art of Happiness at Work, and The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World.
In each book, the over-arching view expressed that people as a common goal ultimately desire happiness above all else.
As I’ve worked with this group of fellow DVC members, I’ve come to realize that each member seeks the same thing: Happiness in their lives and in their community. There isn’t one member of DVC who wouldn’t want happiness above all other things. The desire is a better place to live, a better place to create sustainable businesses and a genuine dedication to staying here and making it a great city for all of us.
An example of how different this sentiment can be expressed was in one particular issue, when a proposed out of scale development’s lawyer declared in front of City Council that he’d “never dealt with people who didn’t want to raise their property values.”
The truth is, we represent people who aren’t moving toward the next buck or the next city, to which it’s more important to raise living values than financial values.
Since 2004, new blood with new ideas have entered the downtown picture. Individuals are drawn to the small-town feel of the 5th Largest City in the Nation, great small businesses have enhanced neighborhoods, partners have been found in thoughtful development and the ASU Downtown campus is showing signs of like-minded goals for that sustainable, cool and enhanced downtown where we all will happily live, work and recreate.
In these circumstances of a down-turned economy, it seems appropriate to take a breath, reflect a bit on the past, but, most important, look Forward.
What is the City that we hope for?
What have we achieved and what can we improve?
How can we get more voices to speak as Downtown Voices so that together we can create that happiness we all desire?
These are tomorrow’s questions, and the facilitated discussion we begin at 10 am tomorrow at the A.E. England building at OUR Downtown Civic Space will help to provide some answers.
Tonight we reflect, remember old battles, good friends, vocal and silent partners. Tomorrow we begin anew and renewed, with new ideas and voices, to create a better Phoenix.
I toast the future. To the City of Phoenix!
To say that I was excited for this restaurant opening would be an understatement. I have been anxiously hearing through the grapevine that this place was about to open. And, Monday night arrived, in all of its splendor, to deliver unto the world (dun dun dunnnn) The Main Ingredient Ale House.
Compared to Lisa G’s place (where The Main Ingredient now resides), it seems like there have been just a few tweaks to the interior. My experience leads me to notice the at-home feeling I had once I crossed their threshold. It’s cozy, but not too small. This is the perfect place to chill with a brew in hand (convenient, since that is what I will be doing most nights now).
My ol’ reliable stomach was hankering for some exquisite cuisine. Apparently, if I was following my stomach, it was leading me to glory. At the jest of Courtney Diamond, one of the new co-owners, I ordered Mindy’s Mac ‘n Cheese. I realize it sounds odd to order a seemingly childish dish, but after eating this melty, cheesy bowl of amazingness, it should be at the top of your list every time you go. Blended and melted perfectly, Mindy’s Mac ‘n Cheese rocks the palate and takes a classic dish to new places. Flavored with just the right amount of green chillies, this might be the Main Ingredient’s dish to beat.
No trip to an “ale house” is ever complete or real without scouring its beer menu and judging accordingly. The Main Ingredient has several draft brews made close by at Four Peaks, along with one that seems to have been crafted just for the place — The Main Ale. This brew is a golden Sunbru-esque beer. It is refreshing and seems to combine the characteristics of my favorite types of beer, hefeweisen and blondes.
Being a self-described beer elitist, this brew making my top list is a big win. If I hadn’t been attempting to try everything that they had on tap, I would have just ordered seven of these. So, welcome to the neighborhood, TMI. I could not be happier to have you here and will probably make you feel welcome by occupying space at your finely crafted bar at the end of most days.
The Main Ingredient Ale House is located at 2337 N. 7th St. in Coronado — 602.THE.MAIN
I’ve always been a fan of the other guy. When all of my friends wanted to go to Disney on vacation, I wanted to go to Universal Studios. I used Linux, yes Linux, as my home computer operating system way before it was cool. I played soccer when everyone else played football. And now, I realized, I have fallen in love with another “other.” I am officially in love with the other Downtown.
I solemnly swear that I won’t let this turn into one of those “First Fridays aren’t cool anymore” posts, but I do feel obligated to give a little bit of that as background. There were really two signals for me that First Friday wasn’t what it was five years ago. The first was when “the city” took over. I don’t mean the city of Phoenix literally, but when they turned what was a casual collage of artists and quirky creators into a sea of industrial tents, hemmed in by traffic barricades and crowded with police, a big part of what made First Friday special died. The second signal that First Friday was in decline was when people started referring to it as the “artwalk.” These weren’t Downtowners, mind you, but people from the suburbs who would ask me, during the first week of the month, if I was attending the artwalk. Yuck. The artwalk, an activity during which a collection of bourgeois pseudo-art-admirers stroll from one Gilbert Ortega location to another, was nothing like the grungy, dingy First Friday that I loved.
It has been saved, though. The salvation of First Friday is Grand Avenue. My renewed love affair with Grand started on December First Friday, when I attended the opening party at Fractal, which is an awesome collaborative space located in Bragg’s Pie Factory. They say that getting there is half the fun, and that was certainly true this evening. I drove from my home in Biltcadia to my personal park and ride (a.k.a. the parking garage at a friend’s condo) and took the train down to the art museum to catch the trolley to Grand. Well, I will spare the gory details, but it was 57 minutes later when I arrived, after missing a train by 30 seconds, waiting for the next one, standing outside waiting for the trolley at the art museum for 15 minutes, and so on.
When I finally got off the trolley in front of Sapna Café, I was instantly reminded of what a First Friday experience was supposed to be like. It was a lot of different people walking down the street: crazy dudes on souped-up scooters, chicks on kick-ass bikes and lots of piercings. There was no one walking around who looked like the only reason they ended up on this street was because a hotel concierge handed them a map. It was a sense of random, unintentional, but amazing community. No one had a tent full of clocks made out of computer hard drives that they were selling under the watchful eye of a security team; instead, people were being themselves with other people who were being themselves.
The galleries on Grand have some amazing art. There are some kick-ass installation pieces, found items and even crafty stuff, in case you’re into that. But, the thing I loved best was witnessing the transformation of a neighborhood. The rows of warehouses are coming to life as a new community of artists, idea people, drunks and a few crazies — all of the things that it takes for a real neighborhood to work. And, I hope there will always be some warehouses, some seedy hookers and some homeless people walking around, because that is part of what keeps a place grounded.
This wasn’t my first time on Grand. I have hung out at the Paisley a time or two, and even had a crazy night at Chez Nous before it shut down. But, on this night, I saw the grungy, amazing soul of what a Downtown arts community is supposed to look like. It is in the double-digit avenues, and it is awesome.
Previous week’s games
01/08/10 Heat 109, SUNS 105
01/11/10 SUNS 105, Bucks 101
01/13/10 Pacers 122, SUNS 114
This week’s games
01/15/10 SUNS @ Hawks, 6 p.m., ESPN
01/16/10 SUNS @ Bobcats, 5 p.m., My45
01/18/10 SUNS @ Grizzlies, 3:30 p.m., TNT
01/20/10 SUNS vs Nets, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
With the Suns out on the road for a few games, we here at Suns Spot decided to take a look at some of the places around Downtown Phoenix where Suns fans can still enjoy the games that are played away from US Airways Center. (And, after last night’s performance, there’s no way I could write about the Suns’ current play without shooting myself.)
First we’ll start with a place that’s both close to USAC and to the team: Majerle’s Sports Bar. The bar and grill owned by and named after the former Suns great and current assistant coach, Dan Majerle, is located at 24 N. 2nd St., right in the heart of Copper Square in one of the older buildings in the Downtown area. Majerle’s offers great food at great prices to go along with the great vibes, as Suns memorabilia adorns the walls inside the sports bar. Every Suns game is shown on many of the flat-screen TVs throughout the restaurant. As an added bonus for Suns fans, when the game begins, the music goes off and the sound of the games echoes throughout the bar. This is a nice touch, as most places I’ve gone to watch the game never turn the sound on. Majerle’s constantly runs specials such as Martini Mondays, which allows patrons to get a martini for $5 throughout the month of January. All in all, Majerle’s is definitely a place any Suns fan can enjoy.
Perhaps you’re not into restaurants named after an ex-athlete, and maybe you’d prefer one named after a rock star, such as Alice Cooperstown over on 1st and Jackson streets. Cooperstown has been around since 1998 and is known as the place “Where Jocks and Rock Meet,” as the nearly 6,000-square-foot, two-story dining room contains a rock n’ roll atmosphere while playing all sports and only sports on all 16 of its big-screen TVs. Cooperstown shows every Suns game, paired with its made-from-scratch homestyle and barbecue dishes, along with daily drink specials. Cooperstown is definitely a place every Suns fans should consider going to take in a Suns road game.
For those looking to enjoy a Suns road game without heading all the way into Downtown, Half Moon Sports Grill on 20th Street and Highland Avenue is always an excellent choice. Half Moon may not be owned by a celebrity like our first two selections (though there is an interesting story behind its name, which can be found on its website), but it does offer up a great atmosphere for fans to take in games while enjoying a wide menu, including the New Times Best of Phoenix award-winning wings. The best part about the wings? They’re half-off during all Suns games. With today’s economy the way it is, you can’t afford not to head over to Half Moon and take advantage of the great deal on these delectable wings during a Suns road game.
For the last recommendation from Suns Spot, I had to go with none other than the New Times 2009 Best Downtown Sports Bar winner, Coach & Willie’s. Coach and Willie’s, on the corner of 3rd and Jackson streets, has over 20 HD flat screens that broadcast every Suns game. If the TVs aren’t enough to win you over, Coach and Willie’s offers a happy hour Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. that is great for when the Suns are on East Coast trips with early tip-off times. The happy hour includes $3 appetizers, domestic bottles, well drinks and house wine. If you can’t make it over in time to enjoy happy hour or the Suns happen to be playing a late game, Coach and Willie’s still has you covered with its reverse happy hour, running Monday-Friday 8-10 p.m., and consisting of half-priced drafts, margaritas and house wine along with $5 appetizers. If you haven’t yet, I highly suggest stopping by Coach and Willie’s sometime for a game. There’s a reason it was voted the best.
Hopefully, after reading what I suggested, Suns fans will have a better idea of the places in Phoenix that offer great deals to those wanting to watch the road game while getting a bite to eat (or knocking back a few). Be sure to check out the “eats & drinks” section of DPJ for even more restaurants and bars in the Downtown area.
From the Arizona Room is a weekly column examining the historic, reuse and infill structures in Downtown Phoenix. The inspiration for this column stems from the ever-expanding resources in Burton Barr Central Library’s Arizona Room (located on the fourth floor). For further information on this and other historic structures in the area, visit the Arizona Room during normal library hours.
407 E. Roosevelt St. in Evans Churchill
For years, the stretch of Roosevelt Street that is the present-day Roosevelt Row was blighted to the point of total disregard — a far cry from the nexus of the artwalk that it is today. But, there is a lot of history in the tiny gallery space at 407 E. Roosevelt St. that is now Modified Arts. In fact, the structure is celebrating its 90th birthday in 2010.
According to property records, the building at 407 E. Roosevelt once shared a double lot with 409 E. Roosevelt (presumably the the dirt lot directly to the west of the building that is currently for sale). Though it’s been an arts space for the better part of the past two decades, it certainly wasn’t always so.
Once a single-family home, 407′s original structure was built in 1920. Renovations to the building, including a new roof and a small expansion, were completed on its 50th anniversary in 1970. It was somewhere around this time that the building took a commercial purpose.
Walking through the previous incarnation of Modified Arts, which closed in December 2009, you could see the expansion lines by looking at the ceiling. It remains to be seen how the structure has been reconfigured for its new use as it reopens later this month.
In a 1988 property survey, the structure (and the neighborhood, in the peak of its blighted past) looked quite different. Shrouded in ivy and sans the metal façade it has today, it housed a small antiques store for several years before being rearranged as an arts space in the 1990s. Modified opened in the space in 1998, and has been there ever since.
Source: Arizona State Historic Property Inventory
Is there a historic property in Downtown Phoenix you’d like to see in From the Arizona Room? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the address and a brief description.