I first met downtown Phoenix in the summer of 2006. A proposal for a project called CityScape was being heavily debated and I wanted to know what the fuss was about. The flashy renderings of tall well-lit glassy towers and retail-lined streets pulled my mind and heart into the core of this sprawling Valley. Words like “new tallest” and “residential towers” were used. In those days, I was a big supporter. I sent emails, made phone calls and showed up to all the meetings in City Hall to show my support for this new project that was supposed to be a catalyst for downtown redevelopment.
The process, the debate, the vision of what could be was electrifying. The ideas, the people, the rancor and excitement lit me on fire. I wanted to understand the city and I wanted be a part of shaping it.
I found websites where images of historic downtown Phoenix were posted. I saw buildings like the ornate Doris Opera House with its turrets and Queen Anne-style details, I saw the curved four-story, stone Fleming Building (the first building in Arizona to have a passenger elevator) I saw photos of the Luhrs Hotel, the original City Hall, and the stunning art deco Fox Theater. I saw photos of a streetcar system that I learned ran for miles and miles and I longed to live in this urban, architecturally marvelous city in the desert.
When I came downtown and walked around I learned to my dismay that every building in every photograph I had seen of our downtown core had been demolished, paved over with ugly, heat absorbing surface parking lots, or worse left vacant with nothing but dirt, leaving our city to resemble a bombed out, abandoned and hostile place for pedestrians.The superblock and megablock projects like the Arizona Center and Chase Field had done little to create a dynamic, urban core. Because if it wasn’t a game day, downtown was Arizona’s largest ghost town.
But like many Phoenicians I see things not as they are but as they could be (this is both a blessing and a curse) and I began to sense something else: there actually was cool stuff percolating downtown. There were artists working, musicians recording and performing, and phenomenal restaurants like Rum Bar opening and creating within Phoenix a sense of self and place. The community development and connectivity weren’t as obvious as in other cities I’ve lived in, but something was happening and I felt it all around me. The potential was there along. I figured out that anyone who took the time to roll up their sleeves and get to work could make a difference.
I threw myself into this new, exciting world. I began showing up at city council meetings, I started learning about historic phoenix then blogged about my discoveries, I went to Downtown Voices Coalition meetings, then to social meet-ups like Radiate Phoenix, Get your PHX and Rogue Green where I met downtown advocates, artists, writers, business owners, neighborhood activists and politicians. Downtown was buzzing but only a handful of people in this sprawling metro area recognized it.
I started speaking up at meetings and online as well as advocating for the downtown Phoenix I wanted to see, for the downtown we deserve, for the downtown that once was and for the downtown core that will rise again. It’s happening now because we the people of downtown fight hard to be heard, work together and demand greatness.
My geeky personal blog helped me find my voice, led to new writing opportunities including a book about Downtown Phoenix, and a staff writing position at DPJ where I was given freedom to explore the city and where talented editors who helped me grow as a writer challenged my ideas.
At the root of all I wrote, said and did was that Phoenix was in fact an awesome place to live and I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me differently. I grew weary of the tortured Phoenix attitude that Phoenix is only a place for those who are passing through to “somewhere better.” This idea is elitist and grotesque and I reject it. I opposed the idea that Phoenix is boring by saying only boring people are bored, my weekly schedules were so full there wasn’t time enough to do all that downtown had to offer. I rejected publicly and noisily the idea that Phoenix sucks and that there is nothing good in Phoenix – this false idea permeates so much of our dialogue and it’s time for it to stop.
Does progress come at the speed I’d like? Absolutely not. Are there many disappointments and setbacks? You betcha. I’ve cried into my drinks at Hanny’s more times than I can count.
Let me be clear: I’m not a mindless cheerleader. Downtown Phoenix has some major problems that must be resolved if we are ever to see the progress we want so stop bitching about the things that are wrong and do something. Get on a city board or commission. Run for office. Be the change you want to see. Or at least hang out downtown, make the effort to explore your core, go to places like Hanny’s, Cibo, the Duce, Crescent Ballroom, get to know local people and you’ll see a side of downtown that is hiding in plain sight.
I thought I’d be in Phoenix for many, many years to come. But last December things changed, I met someone and decided to go back to grad school and this move is taking me to Salt Lake City. (Love makes us do crazy things, I guess.) I’ve been saying goodbye to downtown, to my friends, and to my city all month. I love the desert, I love downtown Phoenix. To those who love to hate it, I can only say how sad. They don’t deserve to understand it.
Now, I look around and feel a sense of awe at the things that are being built. I went to First Friday earlier this month for my last time and even I was pleasantly surprised by all the new additions. The Nash, a downtown space for live jazz was open and full of people, the pop up park next to Carly’s was full of people and music, Concord Eastridge was rising above the once ugly dead zone that characterized a large part of Roosevelt Street, the Bodega, Songbird Coffee, the new signage in front of FilmBar, the soon to open Angels Trumpet Ale House, the redevelopment of First Street where the downtown dog park should be built, all this within walking distance of my apartment. I’m going to miss being a part of such an exciting renaissance.
Is it really happening? Is downtown finally at the tipping point? Can it once again become an urban neighborhood with all the amenities you want and need within walking distance? Of course it can, and I know it will.
Goodbye, Downtown Phoenix. You believed in me and I believe in you.
Ed note: We say farewell, and thank you, to Seth, but DPJ readers will be able to enjoy a few more of his writing contributions in the weeks to come.
Roman Acevedo runs his company by his “3 P’s Rule” – to be for the people, for the planet and for profit. He knows that it takes more than a profit to run a successful company. It also takes contributions to the community around it.
“I come from San Diego, and I remember when you didn’t go downtown there. Then they worked to revive it and now it is huge. Phoenix is going in that direction and we wanted to be a part of it,” Acevedo said.
With that community-based philosophy in mind, Acevedo ventured into the world of fashion design and merchandising under the label RA Apparel, the clothing collection under the RA umbrella, which houses eight unique product lines, including RA Yoga
“Ra in Egyptian mythology means a new beginning, and that is what we are trying to do here,” Acevedo said. To create the various collections under the RA Apparel label the company partnered with the Arizona Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) to offer a learning and job opportunity to people who are not able to find work.
Acevedo and his team have created a six-week training program where participants are taught a variety of skills to prepare them for a job in the fashion industry.
“They [the students] get evaluated every two weeks, so if we see something isn’t working we can try something new before the six weeks are up,” Acevedo said. “We always want to try to find the right fit.”
Although there are many skills that the students are able to work on, the first skill that everyone who goes through the program must work on is the production of children’s clothing. The pieces made are donated to children in need through UMOM New Day Centers. Each child then receives an entire week’s worth of clothing, at little cost to the company.
Acevedo said, “It’s a great feeling when you impact someone like that.”
After the students succeed in making the children’s items they are then able to work towards making other specialty items for the brand. Skills learned include silk-screening, sewing, fabric-dying, rubber-cutting and many more – all of which are used to create the items in the Ra Apparel collection.
The collection includes a swimwear line (Sun Kissed), a yoga apparel line (Shock-ra), belts made from recycled bike tires, T-shirts, children’s wear, leggings, hoodies, grocery/summer bags made from recycled banner signs from the Phoenix area (from the Downtown Phoenix Partnership banner program), shoes made from recycled materials and their upcoming organic skin & hair care line (Serene).
“We really try to use organic materials when possible,” Acevedo said. The products used to create the belts and soles of the shoes come from recycled bicycle and car tires, donated from various shops around the valley, including PHX Bike. The fabrics used in the clothing items are all from the U.S., and the students hand dye those fabrics to create custom colors.
Along with the custom dyed fabrics, the swimwear line is also a custom process where a customer can come in and get measured, then they are able to pick out the fabrics and beads for their own one-of-a-kind swimsuit.
The RA Apparel brand is rapidly growing and is currently available in their studio (11 W. Washington St., Suite 120) and will soon be available online and through local shops and boutiques.
After opening in December 2011, Nostra Style House has brought a new edge to the shopping options on 6th St. in Roosevelt Row. The modern shop is unlike any others on the street, as they do not carry vintage goods, though a few designer pieces are vintage-inspired.
They are hosting a fashion show, Rare Bird, this week at the Monarch Theatre. It will be based on colors and vibrant prints and will be composed of clothing from the store as well as funky accessories made from craft store finds, like feathers. The avant-garde looks will be reminiscent of exotic birds from the wild, but with refined style of course.
“It’s all very fashion-forward. Not too upscale because it is still chic and it has a fresh, urban style,” Liliana Gomez said. Gomez is a sales associate at the Nostra Style House who can be found there most days creating unique outfits for customers.
Although this is not the first show that the boutique is hosting, they are thrilled to be working on it and can’t wait to show everyone the unique items they carry.
“It’s time to get the people over here [6th St.] to know that this isn’t just another vintage shop,” Gomez said. She hopes that the show will not only bring more customers into Nostra Style House, but also into the other stores on their street and in the area.
The night will be filled with music, dancing and of course, fashion. Dancers from the Dulce Dance Company will be performing pre-show to get the party started and then a total of 12 models will walk the runway wearing 20 looks.
Make sure to show up in your best attire as fashion designer Tiffe Fermaint will be photographing her favorite looks from the evening. Those photos will then be uploaded onto the Nostra Style House Facebook page and the photo with the most likes will win a free dress. Winner will be announced on Friday, August 10.
Each look seen throughout the show will not be available for purchase the night of, but will all be available in the boutique.
IF YOU GO
Where: The show is at the Monarch Theatre at 122 E Washington St. Nostra Style House is located on 6th and Roosevelt Streets.
When: The show is on August 3 (First Friday) at 10 p.m.
Cost: Free for ladies all night
Who are the 2012 Arizona Diamondbacks? Expectations couldn’t have been higher for this team coming into the season. Through the first 96 games, the team has struggled to reach those lofty hopes. At times things seemed to be clicking and all signs indicated that a run wasn’t far off.
Unfortunately, something has always popped up to derail any prolonged success and disappointing stretches have outweighed the positives. Just when the D-backs had positioned themselves to creep back into things, they were swept at home against the Padres. Then after an inexcusable sweep in Chicago, the D-backs had a chance to salvage the road trip by winning the series in Cincinnati, just to blow a 6-run lead in the most disappointing loss of the season.
Despite the inconsistencies, underachievement, trade rumors and disappointment, the D-backs have managed to battle back to .500 and are still within striking distance of the Giants in the NL West and remain in contention for a wild card spot. The D-backs are finally taking care of business at home and beating teams they’re supposed to beat. If that trend can continue, the D-backs can keep things tight and play some meaningful baseball into August and September.
Put your hands together for Jason Kubel
If you’ve got a fever and the only prescription in more Kubel, then you’ve had plenty of medication to remedy even the most persistent headache. In a season characterized by the underachievement of key players, Jason Kubel has been an unquestioned bright spot. Kubel has made plays defensively throughout the season that answered questions about his rumored defensive deficiencies. Now he has been letting his bat do the talking. Kubel leads the team with 21 home runs and leads the National League with 71 RBI. He has picked up Justin Upton time after time and has established himself as the most feared bat in the lineup.
Upton trade talks say a lot
At this point it sounds more and more like Justin Upton isn’t going anywhere. At least not right now. Regardless, the trade talks have been surprising, distracting and speak volumes to how disappointed management has been thus far regarding individuals and the team as a whole. Upton has always been one of the few players on the untouchable list – the short list of players that the team would never consider moving.
Upton was an MVP candidate last year and is supposed to be the cornerstone and future of the franchise. Hard to imagine things changing so quickly. There is no question that Upton has fallen well short of projected numbers, but trading him would verify a lack of confidence that he’ll ever reach his full potential.
Mark your calendars for upcoming promos at Chase Field
July 28 – Justin Upton Silver Slugger bobble head giveaway to first 20,000 fans courtesy of Pepsi
July 29 – Back-to-School Backpack giveaway to first 5,000 kids courtesy of Cox Communications
Pedal Craft PHX rolls into the Atrium at Phoenix City Hall for an exhibition of bicycle posters and bicycle racks. The display features artwork created for the April 20 Pedal Craft event and will be remain on display until this Friday, July 27. The exhibition is free of charge and is open during regular business hours.
Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilman Bill Gates are also scheduled to speak on Friday at 11 a.m. at the display about the City’s commitment to bicycling and how Pedal Craft exemplifies community building.
Prints of the posters can be purchased online through the Pedal Craft shop.
Photography by Jack London.