February 1 marked the 16th annual DREAMR (Downtown Revitalization Effort Awards of Merit and Recognition) awards program at the Phoenix Convention Center. Sure, it’s great to get a bunch of Downtown visionaries under one roof to recognize the important efforts each have made for Downtown to be what is it today. But, it’s truly best to honor a few of the individuals that have been around the longest, seen the most and fought the hardest. That’s where the DREAMRs come in.
The DREAMRs “honor the individuals, projects and organizations that dare to dream and work to make those dreams come true.” That may sound a bit vague, but the basic premise of the awards luncheon, presented by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, is to recognize those that have “cleaned up” Downtown — wiped away the blight and replaced it with shiny new buildings, commerce and business-minded tenants and retail space.
Downtown’s skyline is changing (now, to focus on mid-rise affordable living!), and that deserves to be recognized. Keynote speakers Kimber Lanning of Local First Arizona and Matt Lehrman of ShowUp.com both urged the attendees to support locally owned businesses and explore all the hidden gems that Downtown Phoenix has to offer. After hopefully inspiring the room, the awards presentations got underway. Here is a recap of the day’s winners.
Private Sector Individual: Mike Ratner. Ratner owns Tom’s Tavern, which has sat inauspiciously on Washington Street for 80 years. It has survived countless recessions, building booms and busts and many plans for the zero/zero block at Central and Washington, and it has survived because it gives combines elements so few places can — friendly service, comfortable atmosphere, quality food and good bargains. Ratner is hoping to see a spike in customers (and hours of operation) once CityScape‘s phases are up and rolling.
Public Sector/Non-Profit Individual: Don Keuth. Keuth is the President of the Phoenix Community Alliance, which is responsible for a number of private sector advances in Central Phoenix. In short, PCA has helped our skyline grow, our infill projects sprout up and our streets get clean. With Keuth at the helm, the advancement will surely continue.
Organization: Phoenix Mercury. You can’t argue that the Mercury is our most consistent franchise. Don’t forget that they’re the ones hoisting the championship banners, not the Suns, D’Backs, Cardinals or Coyotes. The Mercury has experienced steady growth over its 13 seasons in the WNBA, and the success is apparent. There are few other markets that can draw the kind of WNBA crowds the Mercury consistently does.
Program/Project: Freeport McMoRan Center. It was once called Central Park East, but with Freeport McMoRan moving a bit north to occupy the new build project on Central and Van Buren, the glassy tower has established a true identity. Coupled with a forthcoming Westin business-class hotel, the building will further advance Downtown Phoenix’s business reputation.
“Unsung Hero”: Frank Fairbanks. Fairbanks saw more than his fair share of blight during his two-decade tenure as city manager. He accomplished so much, most notably helping to revitalize Downtown Phoenix with ASU’s Downtown campus, the Convention Center expansion and light rail implementation. It’s safe to say the city core is a better place thanks to all of Fairbanks’ efforts.
Visionary: R. Neil Irwin. Irwin, an attorney by day, is the only chairman in the Downtown Phoenix Partnership’s 20-year run, so his announcement to leave his post earlier this year is certainly a big deal. Irwin oversaw countless advancements in the organization and Downtown’s revitalization, earning the DREAMR’s highest honor.
CenPhoCamp’s inaugural run showcased some great discussion and important opinions about Phoenix, media, communication, the Web and so much more. DPJ is encouraging those that attended to tweet their thoughts on the event (respond to @dtphxjournal or use #cenphocamp). We’ll post the responses here, in hopes that the discussions continue and connections are furthered.
@andrewkfromaz: it was a good resource for businesses to learn about social media and how to access their customers who use it.
@Chris_Coffel: best part about #cenphocamp was everyone drunk after at the Turf! Well except for me, I had my Sprite.
@kbump: That was some good networking y’all!
@SusanBaier: Nice to see so many folks from outside central Phoenix come to help, support, guide, build community at #CenPhoCamp.
@tdhurst: BEST EVENT OF ALL TIME.
@MoLo_: It was nice hearing local business owners give their opinions on what is important to them and how they are using “new media”.
@ModernRoots: Mixing social media with downtown Phx culture was a great idea. We loved the un-conference concept. Lack of corp BS appeal.
@KnitFrogger: Panel discussions needed more intro, and to stay on topic, though I got good struff from biz strategy at day’s end.
@cartelcoffeelab: [Great things:] Drinking copious amount of toddy, mingling w/ others, & the format of the un-conference which fostered great discussions.
@conrey: #cenphocamp was well organized, run, and had more than the usual twitter crowd show up – all successes in my eyes
@MissAnnieJ: I really enjoyed #cenphocamp – Helped me rethink how I use social media.
@FamilyPlanning: It was a great experience, as one of the few Non profits in attendance, it opened up the doors of possibility
@TheBrettWalker: #cenphocamp was really cool. I learned alot about how local businesses are adapting to social media to reach more people!
@matthewpetro: It was great to have a diverse collection of CenPho and non-CenPho residents get together and communicate at #cenphocamp.
@wconeybeer: @coneybeer convinced me to go to #cenphocamp, and I’m happy he did. Met some great new people and got some good biz insight!
@JoeManna: Great mixture of social media and non-social-media types. Enjoyed the small business owners’ input.
@srumery: #CenPhoCamp was a well organized event bringing together local business owners with technology innovators. A perfect match.
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!
The Phoenix metro area is still in a recession. There are too many empty office buildings, too many unfinished projects and too many tax increases and service cuts being discussed by state and local government.
If small and local organizations want to make it through, they’re going to need to help themselves. We can’t wait for Phoenix to construct a better Downtown and we can’t sit on our laurels for local politicians or corporate leaders to make good on urban promises they have been dodging for years.
Enter CenPhoCamp. Organized by local activist Yuri Artibise and Tyler Hurst, CenPhoCamp is designed to allow small businesses to help small businesses. The afternoon-long camp will have three presentations per hour, with an accompanying roundtable session. The agenda will be written on a white board outside room 252. It will be set up along these tracks:
- Beginner: teaching those new to marketing about basic approaches
- Technology: offering instructions on the latest Web apps
- Community: businesses enable their customers to be their best advertisers
- Roundtable: discussions led by industry experts
The event, free of charge and staffed by volunteers, isn’t your typical conference. The camp designation signifies an “unconference” that encourages audience participation, leaving one session for another and break-out conversations based on material learned. The presenters should be thought of as conversation moderators, as they usually get as much out of the interaction as attendees do.
Please register at cenphocamp.com/registration.
Location: Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
555 N. Central Ave. — light rail station at Central/1st Ave and Van Buren
Phoenix, AZ 85004
For over five years, Downtown Voices Coalition has been meeting and growing, and helping to change the face of Downtown Phoenix. Now, to honor the group’s accomplishments, they’ll take a look back on a half-decade’s worth of progress as well as glimpse into the future of our neighborhoods.
Comprised of Downtown Phoenix residents, business owners, property owners and organizations, Downtown Voices Coalition first met in the spring of 2004 at the Icehouse to discuss the revitalization of Downtown from a number of relevant, unique viewpoints. Today, the coalition’s monthly Saturday morning meetings at Roosevelt Commons are a must-attend for anyone interested in improving the Downtown core.
On January 15 and 16, Downtown Voices Coalition will host a five-year retrospective and visioning conference, and the public is welcome to attend (RSVP for Saturday required). The “open, facilitated and collegial” discussion will examine what has been accomplished in the past five years (Friday) and what remains to be done (Saturday).
Friday, January 15, 5-7 p.m.: “A Look Back”
Matador Mexican Restaurant, 125 E. Adams St. in Copper Square, 602.254.7563 — light rail station at Central and Washington/1st Ave. and Jefferson
This opening night affair will feature free appetizers, no host cocktails, an introduction to the visioning conference and a few special presentations on the coalition’s accomplishments thus far.
Saturday, January 16, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. (registration at 9:30 a.m.): “Looking Forward”
A.E. England Building, 424 N. Central Ave. at Civic Space Park, 602.262.7490 — light rail station at Central/1st Ave. and Van Buren
Saturday features discussions led by Kimber Lanning, Dale Erquiaga and a special guest, plus break-out sessions and lunch.