As an independent chronicler of all things downtown, DPJ takes a comprehensive approach to covering the urban living movement in Phoenix and, with this Conversation series, spotlighting the people who make it move.
“What we need next is focus and execution.”
We sat down for coffee recently with Ed Zito, President of Alliance Bank, a locally-owned, Arizona-based bank headquartered in CityScape. A long-time downtown advocate, Zito has been involved in many of the economic development changes over the last thirty years in Phoenix and is a member of the board of Downtown Phoenix, Inc.
He’s been in Phoenix since 1981, when he started his involvement in downtown through his position on the Corporate Contributions Committee of First Interstate Bank. “Sitting on that committee opened my eyes to the array of development challenges we had at the time, and the alignment we needed to meet those challenges,” said Zito.
“The alignment began when the business community took hold and took leadership on the importance of revitalizing downtown,” he continued. “But the business leadership couldn’t do it alone. They needed to align with the public sector, the philanthropic sector and the academic sector to create not just a vision, but a collaborative environment to take Phoenix to the next level, or two or three.”
“…the business leadership couldn’t do it alone. They needed to align with the public sector, the philanthropic sector and the academic sector to create not just a vision, but a collaborative environment to take Phoenix to the next level, or two or three.”
From Zito’s perspective, a specific development that has had tremendous impact on downtown was the coalescing around bioscience and life science that led to the creation of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (better known as TGen). Zito served on Governor Napolitano’s Committee for Innovation and Technology, which grew an ecosystem around TGen and the life and biosciences, and he sees this development as a key step in revitalizing downtown. Coincidentally, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce just selected TGen to receive a 2014 Economic Driver Impact Award.
He also points to the creation of the sports venues; the collaboration to overhaul the Phoenix Convention Center (“a beacon of the public and private sectors working together”); and CityScape (which represents “downtown coming into its own and flourishing”). These key developments build off the synergy of others. “The light rail, the growth of Local First, the impact of the arts community and thriving daily growth in downtown…it’s all part of the central nervous system.”
Alliance Bank was a key player in making CityScape a reality. “Alliance is only 11 years old,” said Zito, “but we made the $40 million loan for this entire block in the middle of the Great Recession. We closed that loan for RED Development on December 28, 2009…really the trough of the recession.”
For Zito, the key to long term vitality in downtown is the ongoing nurturing of the public/private partnerships that have brought us this far. Alliance is the largest, locally-owned bank in Arizona and he believes that “it’s in our DNA to be part and parcel of economic development. We understand that growing the pie is in everyone’s interest.”
He’s very proud of the fact that Alliance Bank is locally owned. “We believe in putting our money where our mouth is,” added Zito. “It resonates from our CEO, Robert Sarver, all the way down. We have an ‘investing forward’ mentality in our organization that is very powerful. One of the things we’re focused on is passing on that DNA deeper into the organization and the next generation of leaders.”
“We have a great mix of talent on the (DPI) board. What we need next is focus and execution.”
When asked what he believes are the most significant lessons we’ve learned in downtown over the last 20 years, he said, “Lesson one is think big, leadership counts, and the alignment that comes from that can be really powerful.”
The last twenty years or so have seen tremendous progress in the development of this alignment among all of the key stakeholders, but, for Zito the biggest challenge ahead is capital needs. “We continue to be blessed with great leadership in all of the sectors (public, private, philanthropic, academic). It’s very encouraging, because these are the four pillars that support continued growth and development, but it is critical that we meet the capital requirements to do the next generation of bold and audacious things.”
Zito sees the creation of Downtown Phoenix, Inc. as inspirational. “DPI gives us the ability to really take it to the next level. We have a great mix of talent on the board. What we need next is focus and execution. We need to agree on our needs in downtown. For example, if we agree that it’s more residential development, then let’s focus on that and execute it really, really well. Make the process diverse, accessible, inclusive and user-friendly. If we do it well, the leverage you get out of it is phenomenal.”
“We’ve spent too long as a real estate-centric economic story, and now we’re much more multi-faceted and diverse.”
What Zito brings to the DPI board is history and perspective, business acumen, and financial reality. “I’m a collaborator,” he said. “I can convene, but I’d rather coalesce with other leadership. The vision, time and talent of other board members, such as Mike Ebert and Don Brandt is unquestioned, but you mix that with a Kimber Lanning of Local First, add in the arts community, and the public sector piece with the Mayor and Ed Zuercher, the City Manager, and it becomes electric.”
Zito sees DPI as the next phase of the alignment and collaboration that downtown needs. “From the get go,” he says, “DPI has made a clear statement of inclusion and has been very effective at getting everyone to the table to take the city to the next level. There’s a stronger pulse and heart beat. We’ve spent too long as a real estate-centric economic story, and now we’re much more multi-faceted and diverse.”
In his free time, Zito enjoys visiting the Phoenix Art Museum and he follows a particular sports team (hint, hint…the Suns). He feels that there is a certain energy and spirit of hope that is created with the public when their sports teams are doing well. As he puts it, “a lot of hope and inspiration is part of what creates a successful urban environment. Our best days lie ahead.”
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
ASU Art Museum receives $2.5 million challenge grant from Windgate to support international artist residency
For each dollar donated in the next three years to the ASU Art Museum and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the Windgate Charitable Foundation will provide a dollar-for-dollar match, with the matched portion going to support the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program at Combine Studios.
The impact of each gift will in effect be doubled by this grant and will assist the ASU Art Museum in its mission to be a center for the exchange of new ideas, perspectives and experiences among artists, students and the public, as well as fulfill the mission of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts to educate the designers, artists, architects, performers and creative scholars who are essential to developing solutions to current and future issues facing society.
The ASU Art Museum’s relationship with the Windgate Charitable Foundation has been strong for well over 15 years prior to this current gift, with the foundation providing financial support for several museum exhibitions, ranging from Turned Wood Now: Redefining the Lathe-Turned Object IV (1997) to the recent Wayne Higby: Infinite Place (2013) and Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft (2013). Also in 2013, support from the Windgate made possible the museum’s symposium FlashBackForward: Rethinking Craft, which explored critical issues facing the field of contemporary craft locally, nationally and internationally.
Windgate has also supported the museum in providing two paid curatorial internships each year since January 2005. Art and art history graduate and undergraduate students in the ASU Herberger Institute School of Art are eligible for the annual internships. These interns are integrated into departments across the museum, working hands-on alongside the museum’s staff. After their graduation, many have continued on to become staff members at the ASU Art Museum and at other museums across the country.
“Due in great part to the generous support from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, the ASU Art Museum has become an international force in contemporary craft and a recognized supporter of artists accomplishing their artistic vision through residencies, exhibitions, commissions and acquisitions,” says Gordon Knox, the ASU Art Museum’s director.
Established Feb. 14, 2011, the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program brings accomplished professional artists from around the world to develop new work in partnership with the intellectual resources of Arizona State University and the diverse communities within Arizona. Through the program, artists develop work in collaboration with scientists, technologists, social agencies and community organizations that investigate the pressing issues of our time.
Thanks to the efforts of Jill Johnson (Program Manager) and Doctor Diane Facinelli, students who participate in the course are steeped like tea bags in everything “downtown Phoenix” through a combination of tours and presentations by local historians, business people, city officials, arts community representatives, local community development wizards and urban sustainability advocates.
The goal is to break down any myths and misapprehensions young people who are new to downtown may have about their surroundings, and to give them access to the people on the ground who are transforming our urban core.
The course is divided into six areas, including Downtown Phoenix History; Entrepreneurship & Local Business; Governance, Politics and Activism; Places, Spaces and Adaptive Re-Use; Promoting Arts & Culture; and Sustainable and Vital Living.
Local experts in each area are brought in to meet with students and share their insights about how and why they do what they do and to show the impact they’re having. Students are not only encouraged to get involved, they are introduced to the very people and organizations that can get them started bringing their own passions and skills to bear on making the urban core vibrant.
“Incoming freshmen are sometimes disappointed to find themselves in downtown Phoenix versus the ASU campus in Tempe,” says Jill Johnson, the “connector” who makes the class viable and relevant. “We use ‘Community Encounters’ to dispel their fears, to show them what is happening right outside their student bubble, and to educate them about the wealth of opportunities they have available to them in downtown.”
The value of growing this connection between young ASU students and the downtown community is in reaching a potential new generation of residents who will want to live, work and play in downtown and create sustained vibrancy on our streets.
Jim McPherson, co-author with J. Seth Anderson and Suad Mahmuljin of Downtown Phoenix History, opens the course by sharing the historic context of the city’s evolution. “Students read our book before class,” said McPherson, “and then we take them on a combination bus and walking tour that enables them to see some of the areas featured in the book. We show them how historic places are contributing to the contemporary landscape of the city.”
“The purpose of the class is to provide students with variety of entry points for them to become active, engaged urban citizens,” said Johnson. “The students benefit from being exposed to the rich variety of experiences available to them in downtown, and the community benefits from the talent and energy the students can bring to making the best downtown possible. It’s as they say, a ‘win-win’ situation.”
Find out what this years’ students learned and how the class has impacted their perceptions of downtown at ENCOUNTER THIS! Community Encounters Showcase. At this free public event, groups of students who have worked together will show the community what they’ve learned and share how it has changed their perspective.
If You Go
When: Thursday, December 5, 7:00 pm
Where: A.E. England Building, Civic Space Park
Cost: FREE to public, but reservations are appreciated. Reserve your space now.
Contact: Jill.Johnson@asu.edu; 602-496-0557.
Every year a new crop of ASU students stream into downtown Phoenix and begin to “explore the core” as they navigate their way to class and their new home.
At DPJ, we encourage these urban adventures and are launching a fun social media hashtag campaign to encourage this discovery of the the people, places, and events that bring our urban core to life: #My1stTime.
Students, as you explore downtown, we want you to tweet us at @dtphxjournal, or post on Facebook or Instagram, a photo of yourself enjoying your very first time visiting downtown restaurants, parks, stores, art galleries, and events.
Be sure to include the hashtag #My1stTime. We’ll share our favorites.
What can fellow community members do? Help activate this campaign!
Those of us who have been here for a while can look for these hashtagged updates, welcome these new residents and encourage them to continue their urban adventures.
#My1stTime @dtphxjournal. It’s fun. It’s easy. And your mother will approve!
A bustling downtown filled with pedestrians is a classic image for any vibrant city. Increased pedestrian traffic from the rise of ASU downtown, the growth of First and Third Fridays, and the impact of light rail have all invigorated our downtown neighborhoods, however walking in Phoenix can still be daunting. And many of us would agree that the single most important element to making Phoenix a truly great place for pedestrians is shade.
Shade wasn’t always so scarce in the Valley. From the late 19th century into the early 20th people tried growing every kind of tree in Phoenix and many took hold, either as crops (citrus, nuts) or providing shade in yards, along canals and lining streets.
Shade was everywhere, according to Edward Lebow’s book, Following the Water. “There is shade and plenty of it,” observed a visitor in 1905. “The entire valley, from Mesa into Phoenix, is one solid mass of green, and every road is a perfect avenue…the entire distance from Mesa to Phoenix can be driven under an almost unbroken arch of shade.”
WOW. Can you imagine? Clearly times have changed.
Increasingly, everyone recognizes the importance of shade in helping to create a vibrant downtown. Over the last five years various groups, including city departments, community residents, and business owners have met to develop a cohesive vision for a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly and shaded “continuous oasis” for the downtown core.
In 2008, the Downtown Phoenix Urban Form Project created a policy document that evolved into Chapter 12 of the Zoning Ordinance and was adopted by the city council in 2010. Chapter 12 details shade standards for all new development over 5000 square feet in downtown.
David Urbinato, the Public Information Officer for the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department notes, “The code ordinance makes it easier for downtown developers to do the right thing.”
Simultaneously, a broader plan for the city as a whole was created in the form of the Tree and Shade Master Plan, also adopted in 2010, which envisions developing the urban shade canopy throughout the city to achieve an average 25% coverage in Phoenix by 2030 (we’re currently at 11-12%). “With the Tree and Shade Master Plan, the initial phase is focused on raising awareness and creating partnerships,” said Urbinato. o get to 25% canopy cover,” said Urbinato, “of lot of the shade development will have to happen on private property.”
What Does It All Mean for Downtown Denizens?
Each of us has a part to play in bringing the vision of a Continuous Oasis to life in downtown and there are a whole variety of ways that we can all participate.
Plant Trees in Your Yard.
If you own a home you can plant shade trees on the east, west and south sides of your home to help block the sun and you can apply to your local utility to get a tree for free. Both APS and SRP have free shade tree programs, along with tree care workshops to help you learn how to properly care for your trees. Learn more about how you can take advantage of these free programs to increase the shade in your own yard.
Become a Citizen Forester
The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department maintains 220 parks and 718 linear miles of street landscape. There are thousands of trees that need to be both planted and maintained and the City needs our help.
Citizen Foresters serve the community by helping City staff properly plant and care for urban trees. They help lead tree plantings, teach volunteers how to plant and maintain trees, and spread the word about the value of the urban forest. You don’t need to be a tree expert; the city provides training sessions and volunteer opportunities for anyone interested in becoming a Citizen Forester. Check the Citizen Forester site to learn more.
Create a Community Garden in Your Neighborhood
While not strictly about trees, community gardens are another way to increase the green in downtown. The City provides a comprehensive policy guide for community groups who want to get started.
Join Your Local Neighborhood Association
Perhaps the most important thing you can do, is to work with fellow community members on ways to increase the shade canopy along your neighborhood streets and in your local parks.
Roosevelt Action Association (Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood)
As downtown development efforts go forward, planting trees and creating architectural shade elements will provide a key ingredient for creating and maintaining a vibrant, pedestrian heartbeat to downtown. We can all do our part. As our “continuous oasis” evolves, DPJ will keep a spotlight on downtown shade.