Occupation: Director of Membership Development, Downtown Phoenix, Inc.
What’s your favorite thing about Downtown Phoenix? I love the culture and diversity between the arts and the professional aspect. The juxtaposition of the sports venues, business towers, open spaces and public art.
What are your favorite places downtown? They’re based on neighborhoods. I love Roosevelt Row, all the way from Pita Jungle to Welcome Diner and everything along the way. Hance Park and What Should Go Here Pop-up Park. The restaurants on 1st and 2nd Streets like FilmBar and Angels Trumpet.
What’s would you consider your style? It’s a hybrid between professional and trendy and sometimes chic. My best friend is a fashionista so whatever she tells me. More specifically, it’s blazers mixed with skinny jeans, stilettos and a statement necklace. It has to work to go to board meetings with lawyers and finance people, while also hanging out with arts people and able to wear to evening events.
Biking fashion tips? I like to mix it up and sometimes wear skirts or dresses and bike in heels, but I always have backup flats or flip flops with me. It’s all about the step through bike.
Biking Essentials: A basket, bell, lights, my briefcase is always with me with a backup mini purse that can hang from my wrist, and sunglasses!
What she’s wearing: Black patent flats, black skinny jeans, a blouse from Target, and a vintage houndstooth-print jacket purchased in Los Angeles.
How do you think Grid Bikes will change/improve bike culture in downtown Phoenix? It’s for people like me who carpool. It’s a great opportunity to leave the car and not drive from garage to garage and have to remember where you parked. It’s great to have options.
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.
“I picture myself with my hands on the butt of an elephant.”
Kimber Lanning wears several hats. She is owner of Stinkweeds, an independently owned and operated music store and website, physically located at Central Ave. and Camelback. She is also the executive director and driving force behind Local First Arizona, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and celebrating locally owned businesses throughout Arizona. A former board member of Roosevelt Row, she most recently was named to the board of Downtown Phoenix, Inc. by Mayor Greg Stanton.
The first challenge to interviewing Kimber is finding a sliver of time when she’s not busy doing at least three things at once. We managed to pin her down for an hour at Stinkweeds, and she gave us a peek inside her thoughtful and highly practical perspective on how to stimulate and sustain a vibrant downtown. We sat with her on the floor while she sorted a huge collection of used records she’d just received from a single collector. As she sorted and priced the vinyl, we listened.
Kimber’s dad was transferred from Okinawa, Japan, where she was born to Luke AFB when she was just nine months old. She and her brothers grew up on Min Takaguchi’s farm at 59th Avenue and Northern. Her earliest memories of downtown Phoenix are of going to concerts at Veterans Memorial Museum and to Suns games; a field trip to Shamrock Farms, where she got to eat ice cream in a little cup with a wooden spoon; and her “best of memory of all,” a 2nd grade trip to the Phoenix Art Museum to see the Alexander Calder exhibit. For years after she made mobiles (with the help of her dad) for everyone she knew.
“Suddenly then-mayor Skip Rimza threw open the door and pointed at me. ‘You!’ he said, ‘I’m giving you 10 minutes to get this organized.”
Her earliest involvement with downtown came as a musician, playing drums at Metropophobia and Peter Petrisko’s Gallery X. In 1999, she opened Modified Arts in the old Metropophobia space on Roosevelt and it was at this point, she says, “my whole life changed.” Soon after, she heard rumblings about the potential of a new arena being built in that area and she decided to go to a City Council meeting to listen and learn.
“I showed up to the City Council meeting, not really knowing what to expect.” When she got there, the arts community was outside artfully protesting. “Suddenly then-mayor Skip Rimza threw open the door and pointed at me. ‘You!’ he said, ‘I’m giving you 10 minutes to get this organized.’”
That was the beginning of her downtown activism.
She believes that the most significant changes in the last decade have been adaptive reuse policy changes. Mayor Gordon put her on the Development Advisory Board, and it was at that table that she began to learn the details of building codes and to understand what policies were making it difficult for small businesses to succeed. It was there she began to formulate strategies for how to make the changes that needed to be made.
“It was hard to see from the outside, but one of the biggest problems was that the Development Services Department back then was all cost recovery, which meant they had to balance their budget with fees and whatnot. That created an entire culture at the city. Because of the need to balance their budget, they loved big huge developments – it’s easier at the counter because it’s new construction and brings in more fees.” (Since that time, Development Services has been blended into the Planning Department. There are still some cost recovery elements.)
But that need to balance their budget made it nearly impossible for the small business owner to succeed.
We need to create more touch points for visitors and get more creative about connecting people to everything going on downtown.”
“In comes the guy with the wine bar in an old house,” she went on. “What are the staff thinking? ‘He’s not bringing in fees, he’s taking all our time, and we can’t balance our budget. If we can’t balance our budget it will mean layoffs.’ So, wine bar guy means layoffs. You can’t see it from the outside, but once you understand it, you can apply pressure to make changes, draw attention to the flaws in the system, and develop strategies.”
It takes time to get under the surface and understand how a policy might have unintended consequences that can squelch growth. It takes patience to find the root, and to make the necessary changes. As Kimber puts it, “I picture myself with my hands on the butt of an elephant.” She has persevered indeed, and last fall, in recognition of what she’s accomplished, she was awarded the Distinguished Citizen Planner award from the Arizona Chapter of the American Planning Association.
For Kimber, Downtown Phoenix, Inc., is significant because it represents the first time that large and small institutions are being incorporated together to plan the future of the city. She sees her role on the DPI board as an opportunity to “underscore the not-so-obvious connections between the fine-grain, place-making stuff, and economic development.”
“To continue to grow the vibrancy of downtown,” she said, “it is critical to find ways to connect downtown to the people who work there but do not live there. We need to create more touch points for visitors and get more creative about connecting people to everything going on downtown.”
When asked what she thinks people do not know about downtown Phoenix that they should, she answered, “Twenty years from now people will look back on this as the era of the entrepreneur. Right now, we’re in it.”
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
PITCH YOUR BOOK AT PHOENIX PUBLIC LIBRARY FEB. 1
Pitchapalooza is a free event, giving randomly selected writers one minute (and one minute only) to present their best “elevator pitch” to a panel of book experts. One lucky author will win an introduction to a literary agent in their genre.
The panel of judges includes author David Henry Sterry, literary agent Arielle Eckstut, Poisoned Pen Press acquisitions editor Annette Rogers, and Changing Hands Bookstore co-founder Gayle Shanks.
Pitchapalooza follows an Indie Author Publishing Conference, offered by Changing Hands Bookstore, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at Burton Barr Central Library. While Pitchapalooza is free and open to the public, there is a registration fee for the conference. For more information about the conference, call 480-730-0205 or visit changinghands.com.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
11th Annual Non-Profit Music Festival Features Diverse Lineup Including Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Disco Biscuits, Dwight Yoakam, Dispatch, STS9, Slightly Stoopid, Lettuce, Allen Stone and More
The 11th Annual McDowell Mountain Music Festival presented by Deschutes Brewery will include a stellar lineup of music superstars including Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Disco Biscuits, STS9, Dispatch, Slightly Stoopid, Dwight Yokam, Gramatik, G Love, Lettuce, Allen Stone, Donna the Buffalo, Nicki Blum & The Gramblers, West Water Outlaws and more. The three-day festival will be held at Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix, March 28-30, 2014.
VIP, three-day and camping tickets are now on sale at www.mmmf.com for $150-$180 per person. Single day general admission tickets affordably priced between $50 and $70 will be available at a later date. After hours event passes will also be on sale at a later date. For more information about concert details and ticket prices, visit www.mmmf.com.
John Largay, President of Wespac Construction, which has produced the festival since 2004 says, “This festival is a party for the people. It’s a community effort, engaging music enthusiasts to come out to enjoy an eclectic mix of talents and also to support notable charities in the Valley.”
As Arizona’s only 100 percent non-profit music festival, McDowell Mountain Music Festival McDowell Mountain Music Festival is proud to continue its alliance with two local, family-based, non-profits beneficiaries: Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation and UMOM New Day Center, which provides homeless families and individuals with safe shelter, housing and supportive services. Over the years, the festival has raised more than one-million-dollars in funds for charity.
McDowell Mountain Music Festival attracts visitors from around the country for great weather, music and an opportunity to experience true culture. The McDowell Mountain Music Festival seeks to provide the opportunity to experience the spirit cultivated when people join together to enjoy themselves and help the community. In addition, the music festival offers a marketplace for shopping, a Kid’s Zone, a silent auction/raffle and more.
Image courtesy of Artigue Agency
DPJ sat down with Dave Krietor, the CEO of the nascent Downtown Phoenix, Inc., “a community development group created to organize and galvanize Downtown Phoenix,” to talk about development issues specific to our evolving downtown.
Krietor’s perspective on how Phoenix has evolved is informed by his more than 20 years of service to the City. As Community and Economic Development Director, Aviation Director, Deputy City Manager and Chief of Staff for Mayor Phil Gordon, Mr. Krietor played an integral role in many of the major projects that have changed the face of the downtown core, including construction of Light Rail and Sky Train, Phoenix Convention Center’s state-of-the-art facelift, addition of the Phoenix Sheraton Downtown hotel, restoration of the historic Orpheum Theatre, and revitalization of the Roosevelt historic district. And he’s proud of the groundwork that was laid in the 80s and 90s.
“We bring 7 million visitors to downtown each year between the Suns, the Diamondbacks, the symphony, the opera and more, but now it’s about the entrepreneurs and artists that have come in and embraced downtown as their community. We need to support them.”
Krietor is of a generation of planners who were taught that downtowns were dead, that once people settled in the suburbs, it would be multi-generational. He admits that the power structure in Phoenix were late to realize how downtowns are evolving. “No one anticipated that millenials and empty nesters would start flooding into downtowns all over and begin emerging as entrepreneurial communities. Now we’re all scrambling to develop community.”
He noted that the city made a really important decision when they decided to bury the I-10 freeway through downtown. “It was more expensive to do that, but it created an environment in the city where you could stabilize historic neighborhoods.” Anyone who’s spent any time in downtown Phoenix understands how dynamic and essential the historic districts are to the vitality of the city.
Multi-use and Diverse Needs
As the powers that be play catch up with the evolving nature of downtown, Krietor noted that city planners need to come up with new models. “Anyone involved in city building knows that one of the most devastating things you can do is single use zoning. You don’t want to segregate residential and commercial and make it so that you have to drive everywhere, so you have to develop property with different kinds of uses proximate. You can’t take a suburban site plan for something and plop it down in an urban environment.”
And yet, what is the probable outcome of mixed-use development? Mixed-use naturally leads to mixed opinions, and at the end of the day not embracing the cookie cutter predictability of single-use zoning means learning how to take stakeholders’ input into consideration, while working to create a city that thrives and serves a diverse population, with diverse needs.
An example of colliding visions can be seen in recent push back from the community and business leaders to the new Circle K proposal for the corner of 7th St. and Roosevelt. This situation shows just how difficult it is to consider everything that needs to be considered when developing the gateways into downtown.
Not only do people come flooding off of the freeway and pour into downtown from this area, but there is also a well-organized, but fragile residential area immediately adjacent to the proposed site that will be negatively impacted by the proposal. In addition, to feed the connectivity with the rest of downtown, the “impassability” of 7th Street, particularly during rush hour, begs to be ameliorated. All of these factors come together to create a knotty development challenge that takes patience and vision to overcome. It’s all part of the process of playing catch up to redefine the downtown as a community. And Krietor acknowledges, “we don’t have the solutions yet.”
Intersection of Interests
Krietor sees the emergence of Downtown Phoenix, Inc. as a big step in the right direction. “DPI is ultimately a place where established business interests, neighborhood interests, and the city all intersect.” It’s still in an embryonic stage, but it brings all the stakeholders together at the same table. There will be different perspectives and different agendas represented, but, “the key,” said Krietor, “is to work toward compromise and common ground. And when you can’t do that, don’t carry the disagreement forward into the next issue.”
Krietor is developing DPI to be a place where “groups with emerging agendas get the public profile they need with City Hall and established business interests. It’s a place where emerging businesses can come together.” Krietor sees how important it is for the city to be more engaged at community meetings.
DPI is already having success at building the kinds of bridges that are giving neighborhoods a stronger voice in how our downtown grows. Krietor noted a recent success built on the relationship that DPI has built with the Evans Churchill Community Association. The city was planning to build a new cancer center in the Phoenix Biomedical Campus on Fillmore Ave. and 7th St. and was planning the parking. Because of DPI, the Evans Churchill group was able to point out the glaring walkability problems with the surrounding sidewalks. The City was able to divert funds to help improve the streetscape and improve relations with the neighborhood. It was, as they say, a “win-win.”
Downtown Phoenix, Inc. is helping to expand the base of people that will collectively create the best downtown possible. It’s early days yet, but the foundation is being laid to truly create “the Phoenix we want.”
Photography by Steve Dreiseszun/Viewpoint Photographers