City of Phoenix Downtown Revitalization

Subject: Economics
Pages: 31
Words: 8988
Reading time:
31 min
Study level: Master

Current research represents a comprehensive analysis of Phoenix, Arizona’s downtown infrastructure including existing elements and future projects of its modernization and revitalization. There is no denying the importance of the fact that public administration both in theory and in practice is characterized by the perception of City as a complex system that encompasses economy, infrastructure, social fabric, municipal and various mechanism which support city’s daily life. The complexity of this system stipulates profound and comprehensive planning of municipal policies and strategies and organizing available resources in the view of meeting the needs of municipal development and stability. The massive blackouts that had taken place in major American cities such as New York and Los Angeles show that the lack of cooperation and coordination between different branches of municipal authorities and systems, the neglecting stance towards existing infrastructural problems, and various budget, organizational and control imbalances are among the primary factors affecting tragic consequence both of people and city as an organic system.

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Hence, the city’s downtown revitalization is amongst the most important factors not only in maintaining the existing municipal services functioning at the high level but as well the priorities for social and economic development, meeting the needs of the citizenry, and attracting new capital investments in city infrastructure. Therefore, the public administration of the revitalization process should be aware of existing problems, provide the analysis of available resources and the modes of their utilization, and, what is even more important, should be able to pool them together and effectively use them to the benefit of all stakeholders.

Naturally, downtown is the main place where administrative, economic, cultural lives function not only in the major cities but elsewhere. The maintenance of downtown development is crucial for the city’s effective operational capabilities. If municipal authorities are not able to provide basic services it is responsible for (it is the minimum) or lags behind rising trends and challenges, it is a high probability that the municipal management wouldn’t prove to be perfectly effective (Winling, 2005). This is particularly true of the cities and towns which do not possess enough financial and organizational resources to stimulate effective development of infrastructure – that is creating new architecture, regulating daily city activities, and realizing other major functions. As it was noted above not only financial resources are necessary but organizational as well. This means that various municipal agencies should adopt effective patterns of communication both at the local level and with federal agencies (Robertson, 1995).

Problem Statement

The Phoenix’s municipality decided to invest 3 billion dollars into Phoenix’s downtown infrastructure which is a significant step forward. In the case of Phoenix, the city needs to develop policies and management procedures that support specific operations related to its downtown revitalization (City of Phoenix, Downtown Phoenix, 2004). As the downtown revitalization strategic plan moves forward some management issues are raised: What role does housing, light rail, entertainment, and a downtown campus have in Phoenix’s revitalization plan? How can each of these elements assist in maintaining the city’s economic development infrastructure and downtown sustainability? These issues are addressed by careful examination of the existing situation in this sphere, the city’s policies, and projects. The comparison with other major American cities is made to prove the relevance of our claims.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to examine the significance of 4 major operational units of the city of Phoenix’s downtown revitalization plan. This study considers those units to be light rail operations, downtown housing (residential as well as commercial), entertainment, and a downtown university campus. Each will have an impact on business owners, daytime residents of downtown Phoenix as well as the metropolitan area. Furthermore, the examination will show each operation has significance individually and on a grander scale, collectively. The other aspect of the study is information regarding the attitudes and perception of potential and current downtown dwellers regarding these 4 specific areas. The researcher also plans to draw a comparison between the city of Phoenix’s efforts for downtown revitalization with that of the city of Houston and Tucson. These comparisons will show success and failure rates surrounding the 4 operational units identified. With this information, management will be able to adopt sustainability policies, procedures and influence the revitalization, process beyond the planned 10 years. The 4 operational areas will prove to be necessary staples of downtown Phoenix and will thwart a revisiting of the downtown economic spiral experienced during the past 3 decades. The study will have added value to city management as well as public administration educators.

Structure of research

Current research is subdivided into several sections. Firstly, the overview of Phoenix infrastructure and available elements necessary for maintaining its downtown viability are analyzed. Secondly, the analysis of planned projects, strategies, existing problems, and innovations necessary for revitalizing Phoenix downtown is provided. It is extremely important in terms of achieving the purpose of current research. There is no denying the importance of the fact that to understand the scope of downtown revitalization in Phoenix it is necessary to conduct a comparative analysis of the similar policies and organizational capabilities in other major American cities equal by the size and capacities of Phoenix. We hope that it would shed the light on Phoenix’s situation allowing us to outline the contours of the chosen subject clearly. Finally, the conclusion summarizing the basic findings of our research is made. We hope that current research will prove to be helpful both for public administration workers and anybody interested in the downtown revitalization plans.

Phoenix overview

Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the United States with a population amounting to 1,512,986 people as of the 2006 census. It is regarded as sufficiently large not only in terms of population but is which amounts to 515 square miles making Phoenix the tenth-largest city in the United States in this variable (Population estimates, US Census Bureau 2007). However, the statistical data seems to be misleading since such cities as Dallas, Boston, Washington, and Detroit expanded over the limits of their juridical area and developed historically into a large metropolis. In comparing metropolitan areas these cities have larger city sizes than Phoenix and larger populations as metro areas (Edwards, 2003).

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Phoenix downtown today is the main center of the regional economy which becomes increasingly vibrant. The pessimistic predictions of downtown decline due to the rise of the regional economy were not justified by historical development as Phoenix downtown is still regarded as an important factor in regional economic development. Phoenix downtown is a regional center for entertainment and administration and it will soon become a crucial hub for the new 20-mile light-rail transit systems which will connect Phoenix with Mesa and Tempe (Harner, 2007). New urban residential units and buildings are created in Phoenix downtown. Besides this, there is no denying the importance of the fact that Phoenix downtown quickly becomes the new center for bioscience, high-wage and sophisticated science and technology, and educational collaboration that represents the regional ‘3 Big Bets’. These elements of new infrastructure, as well as projects connected with them, are regarded as the main factors of downtown revitalization and hence would be analyzed at length in current research.

Phoenix is perspective in these strategic goals realization since it is effective in developing building projects such as big sports arenas, office buildings, performing arts and cultural centers, convention centers, and other buildings necessary for maintaining viable administrative, cultural, and business life of the downtown. Phoenix certainly will continue to use these types of infrastructure to revitalize its downtown functioning.

This is especially true of education and biosciences, the best examples of which are TGEN – the first medical school in the Arizona region and the new campus in Arizona State University. These plans involve significant public and private initiatives. This includes the creation of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, Valley Metro Rail transit system, the new 1,000 room Sheraton hotel, the development of the 15,000 student Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus, the establishment of the University of Arizona medical school, and the development of approximately 2,000 student housing units (City of Phoenix, 2004, p. 34). The plan also calls for 10,000 new housing units, more than 600,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, 10,000 new jobs, urban-oriented academic and biomedical campuses, continued focus on the arts and historic preservation, and strong pedestrian environments.

But all these big projects rest on the municipal ability to pursue little but important projects such as neighborhood retail services, various entertainment opportunities, spaces for public gatherings, organization of street life functioning, etc.

There is no denying the importance of the fact that these projects and elements of downtown revitalization are crucial for attracting new investments and inspiring tourism activities.

In the view of achieving the set goals of downtown revitalization, designing a viable strategy is among the primary responsibilities of all stakeholders and mainly municipal agencies. In January 2004 city’s major organizations such as Phoenix Community Alliance, City of Phoenix Council, Downtown Phoenix Partnership, Arizona State University, and some others began collaborative work with the citizenry to produce an effective strategy of downtown revitalization (City of Phoenix, 2004).

The strategy was focused on the specific area covering territory from 7-th Street to 7-th Avenue and Hance and Lincoln Park. The abovementioned city area contains one of the most important elements of infrastructure and various ‘knowledge’ assets: different educational institutions including such important ones as Arizona State University and its campuses for high school students; stadiums, theatres, art studios, and other arts and entertainment facilities; civic spaces and parks; visitor facilities such as convention centers and hotels and many different regional and government buildings.

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Besides this, the area is notable since it lies in the immediate closeness with some of the most famous and unique neighborhoods in Phoenix including such as Evans Churchill area, Historic Roosevelt Area, Central City South, the Garfield neighborhoods, Capital Mall, and other territories which though not belong to downtown are very important for the viability of Phoenix’s infrastructure (Harner, 2007). The strategies designed for downtown revitalization were met with interest by the ordinary populace which visited many events devoted to the discussion of local problems and priorities.

There is little historical housing stock precisely because Phoenix was so small. Only 106,000 residents lived in the city in 1950. In addition, much was largely destroyed in the urban renewal movements of the 1960s and 1970s, for example, no equivalent of San Diego’s Gaslamp District exists anywhere in Phoenix today. For comparison, in 1950, San Diego was more than three times as large as Phoenix. Dallas was more than four times as large, and Houston was almost six times as large. As of 2007, Phoenix has three times the population of Kansas City, however, Phoenix’s skyline has not kept pace (Hagerman, 2005).

Much of Phoenix’s growth during the 1950s and 1960s was low-density suburban sprawl. Zoning at the time largely favored mass subdivisions of inexpensive block homes at the edge of the expanding city. The vitality and the sustainability of downtown continued to take a downward spiral during the 1970s and 1980s. Few major businesses resided downtown. The city struggled with keeping its downtown vital and at the same time recognizing its responsibility in being the lead municipality in economic development. It was at the close of the 1980’s decade city management began to develop a strategy for downtown development.

In 1987 approximately $3 billion of private and public capital was invested in revitalizing downtown Phoenix. This area is the heart of the Phoenix metropolitan area (City of Phoenix, 2004). It is also home to 43,000 workers who temporarily reside there during the daytime hours, and also home to more than 10 million people who visit the area’s many cultural, sports and entertainment venues every year. In December 2004, the Phoenix City Council adopted a strategic plan focused on establishing a roadmap for the next 10 years of downtown development.

The plan involves significant public and private initiatives. This includes the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, Valley Metro Rail transit system, the new 1,000 room Sheraton hotel, the development of the 15,000 student Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus, the establishment of the University of Arizona medical school, and the development of approximately 2,000 student housing units. The plan also calls for 10,000 new housing units, more than 600,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, 10,000 new jobs, urban-oriented academic and biomedical campuses, continued focus on the arts and historic preservation, and strong pedestrian environments.

Downtown housing: current situation and the prospects for development

Downtown initially developed as the privileged place for performing business activities, the place where businessmen and workers commuted. For a long period, the downtown housing development was not very intensive because most people preferred buying and building apartments and homes in urban areas which were considered as the more suitable place to live in if compared to the busy atmosphere of downtown life (Winling, 2005).

But last years have dramatically changed the existing situation as more and more people recognize the importance of building and acquiring homes in the downtown area which revitalizes due to intensive business, cultural and entertainment activities. The clusters of the population which now choose downtown as the place for their living are quite differentiated including creative people who are the main engines of the knowledge economy, hardworking and active young people, and baby boomers who have grown children.

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The result of these changes was a great boom in downtown living and hence housing including lofts, converted warehouses, townhomes, condominiums, and various other types of housing that ensure minimal maintenance and very close proximity to urban facilities such as entertainment and restaurants. There is no denying the importance of the fact that downtown living in many respects is stimulated not by residential possibilities but ever-developing patterns and different lifestyles which allow people to capitalize on their capacities and creativity. ‘Live-work’ opportunities is something that also inspires opportunities since it allows buyers to use comfortable conditions for shopping and running offices (Robertson, 1995, p. 443).

Housing should be regarded as an important element in Phoenix’s downtown renaissance. Without its vibrant development, nothing else works properly. This is especially true of the knowledge economy and opportunities which require housing options for researchers, young creative class, and students. But even before knowledge economy development became the top priority on the agenda which happened after opening Arizona State University’s downtown campus it was still evident that the market for downtown housing was growing.

In downtown and the center, the prices shot up upper than 50 percent after 1997. Those people who are willing to move downtown are paying $200000 and even more to buy new high-rise projects and lofts (City of Phoenix, 2004). A recent study made by The Meyers Group revealed that Phoenix downtown can absorb approximately 3,800 units of housing for sale and more than 3,000 rental units during the next three or four years (Meyers, 2007). But these facts were found out before Arizona State University announced its program to push a vibrant residential environment and before the medical school creation was announced. Taking this into consideration it is predicted that the demand for new housing units will rise to 10000 new units in a decade.

A new focus on downtown housing was made after the adoption of the Downtown Housing Policy by Phoenix’s authorities that set quite ambitious housing goals. After the adoption of the plan housing production considerably increased in comparison to the later standstill. Since 2000 the total number of downtown housing units increased from 4,400 to 6,400. About forty percent of the new housing units are affordable for the middle class and even to those people whose income is 80% of the median income category (City of Phoenix, 2004).

Phoenix has also witnessed incomparable residential development which occurs along North Central Avenue that is located in mid-town. Nearby downtown neighborhoods such as Garfield and Hope 6 areas also can be regarded as a potentially great resource creating affordable housing units which are at the same time consistent with municipal policies, plans, and goals.

The report of the Meyers Group stresses the fact that downtown should provide a diverse spectrum of quality housing options and life-work units for creative types and young professionals. Besides this, it should be noted that Arizona State University residential environment downtown will certainly increase the reasonable need for students’ housing at affordable prices. The existing employment base downtown makes housing development a far-reaching opportunity (ASU insight, 2006)).

Besides this, there is no denying the importance of the fact that retirees represent a quite different but not less powerful market for Phoenix downtown. Downtown perspectives are affected by three quite powerful forces: the traditional preference of retirees to downtown living, changing cultural patterns and lifestyles of retirees which make them more prone to choose downtown as a more convenient and enjoyable place to spend their time, a great number of baby boomers opting for different types of retirement. The abovementioned facts may increase economic opportunities and bring economic benefits.

The regional history saw the flow of retirees who continued their business activities since they enjoy this kind of retirement lifestyle. Affluent retirees may become the main source of know-how provision and booming economic development downtown.

Phoenix has made an effective step in producing the housing units that are required to support the new regional economic and development agenda. The following steps should be followed by municipal authorities to achieve the announced goal of creating new 10000 housing units within a decade:

  1. It should be ensured that downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods are offering all necessary housing options and choices ranging from penthouses to live-work condos, from downtown lofts in innovative industrial and commercial buildings to low-mid-high income residential housing which is crucial in terms of meeting the needs of diverse clusters of population.
  2. There is an urgent need to develop downtown housing in a manner that does not center on isolated projects but inspires the development of urban neighborhoods, various street-level activities and provides for plazas, parks, and connectivity with adjacent properties.
  3. Besides this, it is necessary to implement recommendations of the Infill Task Force which was adopted by the City Council to organize special processing teams for the realization of the housing projects, mixed usage, and other perspective projects ineffective areas including downtown.
  4. There is an urgent need to revise and change those municipal laws and policies that hinder the development of housing programs downtown.
  5. Revising zoning standards in the view of reducing parking ratios and permitting flexible standards is needed to promote a transit-friendly environment.
  6. Phoenix city council plans to create a mixed-use downtown district to encourage the housing development of commercial and office projects. The mixed-use buildings may be comfortable for consultants, businessmen as well as artists, and representatives of other creative professions. Existing office buildings provide Phoenix with significant capabilities to reorient its functions.
  7. The work in cooperation with Arizona State University on the strategy of affordable residential units and high-quality buildings provision will meet both city’s and university’s needs. The strategies encouraging Arizona State University’s students and staff members to live downtown may prove to be extremely helpful in the view of achieving these strategic goals.
  8. Besides this, the city-owned land may be used for affordable housing development and the city’s leverage and influence may be used for purchasing historical buildings, various ware-houses, and other important structures which may be reused or mix-used for important purposes. Within the frames of this goal exploring innovative financial methods and stimulus necessary for meeting city’s and downtown’s needs is relevant. The municipal housing policy characterizes affordable housing as rental housing at a level, not below 60% of the country’s media level of income (City of Phoenix, 2004). Therefore the balanced housing strategy is something that is urgently required for making downtown more economically efficient and comfortable for living.
  9. The development of culture and entertainment is impossible without creating work/live spaces for artists and other representatives of this profession.
  10. Last but not least, municipal authorities recognize the fact that exploring land banking options in the downtown area and various surrounding neighborhoods is necessary for creating necessary preconditions for downtown revitalization and development. Besides this, it is crucial to guarantee conversion to affordable condominiums.

Education as an important element of downtown revitalization

In the modern economy regional prosperity much depends on new knowledge, ideas, and discoveries. Often the abovementioned discoveries and innovations are implemented in other spheres such as agriculture, medicine, services, telecommunication, and the like. But the creativity that gives rise to these important innovations and discoveries rests on the ability to concentrate and create necessary conditions for the development of skilled working forces and specialists in various fields. However, this kind of concentration often happens in suburban areas like Silicon Valley and near Boston, it is urgently needed to ensure the development of downtown infrastructure and facilities. As Edward Glaeser observes, the density of the cities is something that offers perfect conditions for the management of knowledge economy driving forces which are idea fermentation and technological innovation (Glaeser, 2007, Summer).

Intellectual exchanges and interpersonal contacts are also among the most reasonable economic preconditions for locating research institutions and educational establishments in proximity to downtown infrastructure. In the preceding section, we saw that the foundation of Arizona University’s campus downtown fostered housing development which shows that interconnectivity between various elements of downtown infrastructure and facilities is very solid. The most successful high-tech and knowledge businesses tend to be located near scientific centers and developed educational institutions. The ascendance of the biological era makers closeness even stringer requirement. The deciphering of the human genome, for instance, opens progressive possibilities for the development of new industries such as genetic agriculture and hence is one of the main preconditions for stimulating business activities. Taking this trend into consideration we should understand that proximity to educational institutions and research centers becomes more relevant than ever.

Many of the health institutions are located downtown. Under these conditions, universities are playing the role of both economic engines and community development catalysts. As CEOs for the Cities have recently claimed, “the bell towers of academic institutions have replaced smokestacks as the drivers of the American urban economy” (Phoenix, 2004). In their turn universities are interconnected with economic activities in the communities and understand that their health and efficiency considerably depends on the economic competitiveness and vise versa (Phoenix City Government, 2006). An efficient city helps them attract prospective students which are offered not only learning but priorities for a successful career and research activities.

There is hardly any other American downtown that possesses better conditions for benefiting from the knowledge economy as Phoenix downtown in its current state of development. Several strategic and bold initiatives are the main prerequisites for it.

The first among them is Phoenix Biomedical Center located at Copper Square which is designed to serve as the headquarters for the International Genomics Consortium and Translational Genomics Research Institute. IGC is a private non-profit medical research institute that belongs to the framework of the Human Genome Project and is actively engaged in tissue research. Tgen is also a famous non-profit private research institution whose primary goal is translating genetic discoveries and inventions into medical treatment, technologies, and therapies.

The construction of a $46 million building for IGC/Tgen was finished at the end of 2004. Tgen, for instance, has already created alliances and engaged in cooperation with the state’s three main universities, various local hospitals, and companies, private research entities (such as SARC), Mayo clinic, Mexican universities and managed to attract dozens of famous scientists to Arizona state which had significantly raised regional profile in the eyes of venture capitalists and allowed to secure millions of dollars in the federal research grants.

Based on these preconditions Phoenix downtown becomes the site of several important collaborations between Arizona’s three universities. Within the framework of Arizona Biomedical Collaborative (ABC) three brand new bioscience and research buildings based on city-owned property and the reconstruction of three main historic Union High School buildings are envisioned (Harner, 2007). The first full-fledged medical educational institution (medical school), called Phoenix Biomedical Campus belonging to Arizona University System was built downtown. The project of its development was organized cooperatively by the University of Arizona and ASU.

The second big project is a downtown campus of Arizona State University. The project is developed in line with its strategy called ‘One University in Many Places’ within the framework of which four different universities in different four locations will be created under the ASU auspices. One of these four ‘universities’ which is designed potentially larger than Boston College, Syracuse was built in Phoenix downtown.

These plans and accomplishments make it evident that Phoenix directly benefits from the knowledge economy with education fusion. The full manifestation of results will be possible only in 10 years when the results and set goals are achieved.

After being fully developed, however, it will be more than 15000 students, more than 1,800 faculty and staff, and 4000 students beds. The planned economic units will certainly include the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the College of Nursing, the School of Health Management and Policy, and the College of Public Programs (ASU, 2007).

The undergraduate study is planned to pass at University College. The Arizona State University of Phoenix is assessed to create more than 7,700 jobs and generate approximately $500 million a year and more than $7 million a year as revenues to Phoenix city (ASU, 2007).

The growth and development opportunities for Phoenix downtown as we see are very optimistic but we must remember that they won’t happen without concerted actions on the part of regional authorities, leading educational and business institutions.

That is why as in the case of housing development, certain strategic approaches should be taken into consideration to achieve the set goals.

  1. There is an urgent need to ensure that Phoenix Biomedical Centre, medical schools, and ASU-promoted campuses were created in effective and high-quality conditions and environments.
  2. Other educational establishments should be attracted to Phoenix downtown that includes cooperation with Maricopa Community College, for instance, which announced its plans for the development of the downtown campus and the cooperation on the issue of Phoenix Union Science High School in Phoenix downtown.
  3. The synergistic potential of the Biomedical Centre should be used effectively to create benefits for businesses, sciences, and medical care in the community.
  4. Besides this attracting and growing creative business in the Phoenix downtown area also should be regarded as the primary opportunity. This includes identifying and aiming for various ‘creative clusters’, searching and attracting both international and local investors, searching for unique, active entrepreneurs from the Phoenix region, and attracting them to move their business activities downtown. There is no denying the importance of the fact that creating wi-fi zone in down which happened several years ago was very important in terms of inspiring business activity and creativeness in downtown.
  5. The task of creating 10000 working places in traditional businesses of downtown such as banking, law, finance, and creative firms is very important since downtown revitalization is impossible without increasing working and employment capabilities for professional and qualified employees.
  6. Besides this, it is important to increase connections and marketing to residents around and downtown which would match their labor skills.
  7. Furthermore, the connection of secondary and elementary school with Arizona State University facilities and regional business is effective in terms of enhancing students’ achievement.
  8. There is no denying the importance of the fact that linking already existing standard business to a knowledge-based economy is of high priority for the overall regional economic development.
  9. Integrate students into a knowledge-based economy and downtown business and scientific activities correspondingly to their level of education and skills.

After a short introduction to the educational revitalization of downtown, it is necessary to describe an example of Phoenix Medical Campus in detail. As Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said, “This is the largest public historic rehabilitation project to be undertaken within the city of Phoenix and will provide economic benefits not only to Phoenix, but the entire state of Arizona in terms of overall economic impact and added jobs”. Besides this, he mentioned that “The three historic Phoenix Union High School buildings are beautiful beyond words, and so beautifully define the new U of A College of Medicine in downtown Phoenix” (Biotech news, 2006). The Biomedical council was established in 2001 within the framework of several municipal downtown revitalization projects.

Besides TGEN and IGC that were mentioned above the Biomedical campus includes the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Arizona Biomedical Collaborative, and some other institutions. The historic campus was reconstructed and was returned its historic character (Biotech News, 2006).

The key façade and interior features were linked with modern facilities thereby creating a convenient educational building.

The economic perspectives of Phoenix Medical Campus are tremendous as it is expected to generate over 2,1 billion dollars by 2025 which is an important contribution to the regional economic development.

Entertainment and Arts as an important factor in downtown Phoenix revitalization

The rise of arts, culture and entertainment in American cities for the past decades was immense. Entertainment has become one of the major characteristics of the American way of life. Culture and arts have also continued their march through American cities enhancing the level of American citizen’s consciousness. These trends are deeply tied with the growing ‘Experience economy’ sector. Entertainment is regarded by many as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the American economy.

Entertainment activities and services are usually located downtown which is explained by the fact that downtown provides better conditions than suburban areas in which the scope of services and entertainment activities is limited due to natural conditions (Hagerman, 2005). As Ed Glaeser, one of the leading Harvard economists, claims, if the downtowns are to succeed, they should realize necessary preconditions for entertainment development (Glaeser, 2000, summer). Besides this, there is no denying the importance of the fact that culture and arts are one of the most important factors in attracting business to invest in downtown which in its turn attracts ordinary citizens to live in there.

For the past several years Phoenix Downtown vigorously pursued new projects and deals in culture, arts, and entertainment. Recently two new sports arenas were built, Phoenix Museum of History, Arizona Science Center, Dodge Theater, Orpheum Theater, Dodge Theatre, Burton Barr Central Library, and Phoenix Art Museum was expanded. In 2005 Phoenix municipal authorities have initiated the $600 million expansion and reconstruction projects which are designed to increase Civic Plaza’s place for conventions and to update the Symphony Hall. These large projects are the most considerable investments which are made in culture, entertainment, and arts in this region and besides this, they are strong foundations for effective policies in the next generation.

But however big projects are very important it is necessary to develop small entertainment facilities of a less formalistic nature, hence creating a more lively, flexible, and spontaneous atmosphere for all downtown students, visitors, and employees.

Many big projects like Sheraton hotel having high-quality 1,000 rooms are to be realized but it is important not to forget about such things as exhibitions, performance and rehearsal spaces, galleries, music venues, live-work spaces, bookstores, coffeehouses, lofts, and other elements that provide well-established infrastructure for the entertainment activities.

It is important to ensure that entertainment development happens in an organic way involving all streets and city-regions. Such tours as the monthly First Friday art tour which is sponsored by Phoenix group Artlink are very important because they bring thousands of mostly young people together and getting them acquainted with the city’s culture by visiting galleries and studio spaces which are situated along Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue and other important downtown areas.

More than eighty downtown galleries and various artists’ studios participate in the annual Art Detour, which is also sponsored by the abovementioned organization.

Bentley Gallery recently opened its Phoenix branch in Phoenix and expanded its activities to this city. The former warehouse where it is now located, as a reviewer state has, “the airy feeling and concrete floors of a Soho-style gallery, and the bigname artists to go along with it.”

In the course of downtown development, public art begins to play a central role in providing functionality, connectivity, and places. Within the frames of three cities’ downtown art projects, the art displays were created that are designed to display the works of Arizona’s famous artists along main downtown streets. Arizona and national artists were invited to participate in the creating of artworks for decorating the new downtown rail stations and various artists were invited to create artworks for Civic Plaza expansion. Other public opportunities may become identifiable only after the realization of the currently existing projects.

As in the case with previous undertakings of local and regional authorities the comprehensive realization of arts, entertainment, and cultural projects and programs requires concerted actions on the part of all stakeholders. Spontaneous projects are not amenable since they may break the downtown planning fabric and make other important projects unrealizable. That is why the following steps should be taken into consideration while implementing the entertainment development strategy.

  1. It is urgent to increase the presence of various performing and visual arts and artists as well as live music downtown. Multiuse downtown arts spaces should be created which are necessary to provide performance and exhibit conditions for the local artists. Already existing downtown cultural facilities should be permanently renovated, controlled, and developed which is in line with the goals of cultural development downtown.
  2. There is no denying the importance of the fact that to attract prospective and talented artists necessary conditions as housing, spacing, facilities should be taken into consideration and effectively developed. To this ends the project of artist housing should be fully included in the downtown housing strategy. Performance and gallery spaces should be developed as an integral part of ASU ground-floor strategy and as well in other public and private initiatives.
  3. Using small business assistance programs which are designed to assist artists and various artists-related businesses is of primary importance in terms of developing necessary downtown infrastructure. This involves the development of the pilot store program in the first place which will foster art business renovation.
  4. Business relations between local businesses and the art community should be encouraged.
  5. Legal research and best practices should be developed to find out new incentives for the entertainment and arts community.
  6. A new entertainment district should be created in downtown and the way searched to improve and protect already existing arts and entertainments centers.
  7. The growth of outdoor and live music spaces should be fostered by local authorities taking into consideration such things as the sensitivity of nearby districts and neighborhoods.
  8. Public art development should go in line with other municipal efforts directed at the improvement of Phoenix’s downtown image and the city’s visual identity.
  9. Phoenix’s downtown role should be improved in such cultural events as streets festivals, marathons, parades, various collegiate, and professional sports events. New options for using downtown capabilities may prove to be important in preparing and holding these events.
  10. Entertainment venues are difficult to hold at a proper level without having the necessary facilities in place for their organization. To this ends the expansion and improvement of hotel rooms’ supply is of great significance for the cultural development of Phoenix’s downtown. Besides this, the possibility of building new boutique hotels for businesses, conventioneers, and various leisure travelers should be taken into consideration.

Light rail and its role in downtown revitalization

The unfolding of downtown revitalization programs is impossible without developing other elements of the city’s infrastructure. In modern downtowns time is one of the most valuable resources and thus quick connectivity between different places becomes the primary concern of both municipal authorities and all stakeholders. As consultants from Catalytix claimed the city authorities should view “Downtown’s many small parks, plazas, public open spaces, and fountain areas as a series of oases that could be linked to achieve greater synergy and connectivity” (Valley Metro, 2007).

The planners of the downtown revitalization program focused on using cozy bus shuttles and future light rail stations as the primary foundation for better connectivity in downtown and between downtown and various surrounding districts. These designs and various transportation connections are critical in developing the downtown environment and infrastructure which makes an alternative to the rest of the region which is mainly focused on private spaces and automobile travel.

Therefore it is urgently needed to refocus the whole system of Phoenix downtown connections around shuttles, light rail, and pedestrians. This may include partial reinventing of the DASH system of shuttles into the downtown people mover, which means narrowing some streets; as well as creating broader sidewalks and other pedestrian connections in Phoenix downtown. Remote parking may be encouraged in line with this initiative (Valley Metro, 2007).

The light rail system which is expected to open in 2002 centers around the comprehensive program of downtown revitalization. Four stations are now planned for the downtown and will probably make light-rail a critical element in creating convenience, sense of place, and proximity to ‘connected oasis’. It can open new opportunities for transit-oriented developments, reverse commuters, and various pedestrian connections in the downtown. The light rail system is expected to reach 20 miles and after it happens the projects of downtown revitalization may be said to be effective.

The Light Rail project will serve not only Phoenix and its downtown but will also include Tempe and Mesa. The first segment that will be launched and ranging 20 miles is expected to cost approximately 1,3 billion dollars (Valley Metro, 2007). Its construction started in March 2005.

The implementation of the currently existed plan preceded diverse projects. The Valtrans’s elevated rail system initiative which was put forward in 1989 was soon voted down by Phoenix citizens since it was too expensive and infeasible. Several other projects that were developed in the course of the 90-s proved to be ineffective either.

The current project was developed by the Transit 2000 Regional Transportation Plan which stipulated a 0,4% sales tax and was quickly approved by the majority of Phoenix voters in 2000. By introducing the project of light rail the municipal authorities planned to kill two birds with one stone – improving the quality of local bus shuttle service and forming quick transit capabilities downtown, which was regarded as quite an affordable approach. The color designations and route which were used in the project were developed dating back to the 1989 plan.

To guarantee the efficacy, Valley Metro Rail has an aim of 1/3 farebox ratios and it is anticipated to rise to 45% by 2025 (Valley Metro Official Site, 2007). The plan stipulates comprehensive exploration of light rail services but only after the launch of the project. Trains of this light rail are planned to operate in the central streets of the city which is similar to the light rail system operating in Houston and surface sections of the so-called Green Line in Boston city.

Crossing barriers that are mechanized will rise at every intersection with city roads. Some important parts of the track such as Arizona State Route 2002 represent quite long stretches having no connection with the vehicle traffic. The speed of train moving will be higher in these particular areas to cut the time between downtown Phoenix and various other destinations.

Passes and fare tickets will be available at every station platform and a big number of Valley Metro offices. The access to light rail trains will be free and unguarded. Hence, the honor system is being planned. Transit employees will visit trains sometimes and request passengers to show their tickets and pass issuing a citation to those people who do not have valid payments.

Security staff is planned to be present at the station platforms permanently to ensure passengers’ safety. The following is the list of stations that are currently under construction: Northwest Extension, Sky arbor Airport Shuttle/People Mover. 27 stations are designed for the initial twenty miles segment which is due to be opened on 28 December 2008 (Valley Metro Official Site, 2007).

These stations will be developed to complement their surrounding. The platform area is planned to be approximately sixteen feet wide and up to 300 feet in length.

The list of uptown stations in Phoenix is the following: Camelback road at Central Avenue, Central Avenue at Campbell Avenue, Central Avenue at Indian School Road, Central Avenue at Osborn Road, Central Avenue at Thomas Road, Central Avenue at Encanto Boulevard, and Central Avenue at McDowell Road (Valley Metro, 2007).

At the entering to Phoenix Downtown the following stations will be made: Central Avenue at Roosevelt Street, Phoenix Central Station (Central/1st Avenue at Van Buren Street), 1st Avenue at Jefferson Street (southbound), and Central Avenue at Washington Street (northbound), Jefferson Street (eastbound) and Washington Street (westbound) at 3rd Street, Washington Street Corridor, Jefferson Street (eastbound) and Washington Street (westbound) at 12th Street, Jefferson Street (eastbound) and Washington Street (westbound) at 24th Street, Washington Street at 38th Street, Washington Street at 44th Street, Washington Street at Priest Drive.

The following stations are planned to be crossing Tempe Town Lake Bridge and entering it (Tempe): 3rd Street at Mill Avenue, 5th Street at College Avenue, University Drive at Rural Road, Apache Boulevard at Dorsey Lane, Apache Boulevard at McClintock Drive, Apache Boulevard at Smith and Martin Roads, Apache Boulevard at the Price Freeway. And finally, the terminus will be on Main Street at Sycamore which entering Mesa.

The light rail extensions are also planned as part of its development. The Northwest extension is the first planned extension. Engineering works have already begun on this four-mile route from Phoenix Spectrum Mall to Metrocenter Mall. Relocation of utility and the process of construction will be in the period from 2007 to 2011. This project is expected to be finished by the end of 2012. The perspective of integrating these extensions with soon-to-be-made lines is quite optimistic.

Besides the light rail system, which is of crucial importance for downtown revitalization, municipal authorities plan to build a people mover system in Phoenix International Airport. The first stage of the projects included the realization of a shuttle bus which is to run along the proposed length of the International airport line which in its turn will be linked with the light rail. However, it is not anticipated to be finished until the 2010s.

In the 2004 elections, some other extensions were approved such as North to Metrocenter mall, West to Glendale, and some others. The abovementioned projects all have their completion data from 2010 to 2020. The extensions rail will be possible only if passengers approve already existing connections.

Besides these crucial revitalization projects, the leadership in the Valley has initiated the development of suburban commuting rail which is to become the complement to the light rail. The planned rail will stop less frequently and will be more adapted to the needs of this metropolitan area.

The economic impact of downtown revitalization projects

The abovementioned projects have a significant economic impact on regional development. As it was noted their realization is connected with the considerable revitalization of business activities using enhancing business incentives in culture and entertainment domain, integrating knowledge economy with education with the specific role of Arizona State University, realizing new housing projects which will increase mobility and the presence of qualified labor force in downtown Phoenix and finally the critical improvement of connectivity between important areas by constructing light railway and other introducing other technological innovations.

The assessed economic impact of this innovation is about 1,7 billion dollars in construction output costs and about $570 million in annual operations expenditures. Nearly 1,300 construction and related jobs will be maintained annually during ten years of the construction phase and about 7,700 permanent retail, academic, and office jobs will be maintained annually to support ongoing operations.

The economic activities which are related to the construction process and the ongoing operations will also have a significant effect on the City of Phoenix and the whole State of Arizona.

The construction part of the projects will directly generate more than $52 million of tax revenues for the State of Arizona and over $16 million to the City of Phoenix (ASU, 2007). The State will receive more than $18 million annually from the ongoing operations of staff and faculty spending, office and private retail operations, and the spending of more than 15,000 Campus students. The City of Phoenix will also collect a large amount of money ($7,3 million annually)

Economic activities which may be attributed to ASU operation are considerable. As it was noted more than 1,800 staff and faculty will be employed at Capital Center Campus and will generate over $106 million in wages and over 215 million dollars of economic output (which includes induced and indirect impacts).

Total tax collections are evaluated to be rather high ranging from $4 million for the State and about $ 1 million for the City of Phoenix. The abovementioned fiscal revenues are to be generated from sales taxes, utility taxes, income taxes, lease, and property taxes. It is more important though that such several staff and faculty will probably generate great business endeavors in retail and office-related activities and operations.

As we can see the total economic impact of the revitalization programs is rather high which shows that they are profound and immense. Hence, it may be predicted that these revitalization programs will be beneficial for business and economic activities in Phoenix and the State of Arizona.

Downtown revitalization in other major cities: Tucson and Houston

The revitalization efforts downtown is not characteristic only of Phoenix city though as we could see they are profound and effective there. Other major American cities also recently came to understand that the revitalization of their downtowns is one of the primary prerequisites for the successful development of regions and their social and cultural well-being and efficacy.

For instance, Tucson which is located in the State of Arizona and is 130 km from Phoenix is also undergoing profound revitalization. Though this city ranks 32-th place in the list of the biggest American cities the efforts of municipal and regional authorities show that revitalization is quite an affordable task if planned thoroughly and effectively.

The primary project that is realized in Tucson is Rio Nuevo which is a large community and retail center which have been planned for more than a decade. Tucson downtown is usually determined as north of the 12th Street, southwest of Toole Avenues, east of I-10, and the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

Tucson downtown is divided into several districts the development of which are handled correspondingly to the City plan. As in the case of Light rail in Phoenix the creation of the Rio Nuevo revitalization district was approved by the majority of the voters at local elections (City of Tucson, 2007). The district is designated as Tax Increment Finance District which means that the funds for the realization of this project will be taken from the city’s citizenry. More than 600 million dollars will be invested in various public improvements, attractions to stimulate private sector renovation and redevelopment, and infrastructure. The main purpose of this project is to create a vigorous City Downtown building on its competitive advantages as a regional cultural center and the bearer of cultural capital. As we see, though many directions of capital investments in downtown revitalization coincide in Phoenix and Tucson, Tucson’s authorities realize that the City of Tucson does not possess as much money to develop such immense projects as in Phoenix.

Thus, it orients revitalization at cultural development which in its turn may become the main prerequisite for social and economic development in the City and stimulating business incentives (City of Tucson, 2007). Hence, the primary goal of the public and private sectors which are engaged in the revitalization process is to create diverse and multiple destinations.

The distinct areas will give visitors and residents the possibility to capitalize on the rich mixture of entertainment, shopping attraction, and cultural activities. These distinct areas are not to be isolated from the rest of the world: they will be linked with the University of Arizona by the planned up-to-date streetcar systems. From the pedestrian point of view, these areas will be walkable and adjacent.

Tucson authorities following the example of the City of Phoenix initiated a considerable amount of housing investment activities in the downtown area of the City. In the central business district of Tucson downtown there exist several mixed condominium projects which are in the final approval stage. Besides this as in Phoenix, Tucson downtown represents a great opportunity for residential housing development.

The true housing urban market is something that Tucson is trying to achieve and hence as in the case with other major American cities Tucson has a significant interest in urban living with its lifestyle and social benefits for the people. The rising residential market will certainly bring new opportunities for the broad options of housing units’ commercial services and uses.

It should be noted that, unlike Phoenix where the burden of responsibility for downtown revitalization largely lies on the public sector, in Tucson, the efficacy and innovation are mainly guaranteed by the excessive role of the private sector in projects’ realization. The city’s government however is also very active in this respect. In this year alone it will consider funding several important museums, sports arenas, visitor’s centers, a new hotel for conventions, various infrastructure innovations, and some new entertainment facilities.

The city’s districts of historical significance such as Menlo Park which is the site of vernacular architecture will also be reconstructed and improved. Such important historical and cultural sites as Mission San Augustine, Native Americans archaeological districts, Mission Gardens and opens festival places for community needs also will be reconstructed. Moreover under construction now is Mercado District, the multi-use area which will include more than 250 family homes, condos, residential lofts, bungalow courtyards, and so forth. These new projects will follow the architectural spirit of historical Tucson buildings.

Houston downtown revitalization

Houston as being considerably larger than Phoenix and Tucson experiences an immense flow of both private and public investments in downtown infrastructure. The planners have already spent as much as 4 billion dollars during the past ten years to make downtown Houston a vital center with good residential housing, new transportation, and a nightlife scene. Within the frames of the Costwold Project which was a $62 million effort, the city’s streets were rebuilt to transform 90 blocks into a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere while adding trees, greenery, and public arts (Houston Downtown, 2007). The area development is the result of careful urban planning and local supervision following existing trends in American cities’ downtown revitalization.

Houston has many important facilities downtown including its famous skyscrapers, sports arenas, Theater District, etc. The Houston Downtown Management District began revitalization efforts going back to 1995 when several important aims were set to accelerate this process including recruiting tenants, investors, retailers and making downtown safe, comfortable to live in, and attractive. In 2000 the fastest major sports arena build-up in the United States was realized in Houston when Minute Maid Park was created (Houston Downtown, 2007).

The creation of this stadium influences a considerable surge of investment activities in the formerly underdeveloped northeast part of the downtown.

Sports arena Toyota Center which was opened in 2003 is also a multi-optional facility designed not only for sports games but concerts and other special events.

For the improvement of pedestrian leisure time, the first pedestrian plaza was created downtown with a long pool and innovative architecture and design. The adjacent three-block area also features unique shopping, landscaping, and art opportunities.

The housing projects in Houston as in Phoenix are directed at converting historic buildings into residential lofts. Within the frames of the revitalization program in Houston, many single-family housing units and apartment complexes are developed.

As The Brookings Institution Center on Urban Metropolitan Policy has revealed these policies will affect the growth of the downtown residential population which is predicted to quadruple by 2011 (Brookings Institution, 1998). This means that Houston downtown is among the fastest-growing in the United States.


As a result of current research, we have made some important findings concerning downtown revitalization programs in the United States. First of all, we thoroughly analyzed the economic, social, and cultural prerequisites for the downtown surge in the United States after a long period of decline. We revealed that the main causes of this sea-change may be found in developing new cultural, experiential patterns of life which attract people to downtown. Suburban territories are no longer adequate for people’s self-realization. Young active people, representatives of the knowledge economy, active retirees are now moving to downtown to engage in interesting cultural patterns and lifestyles. That is why many cities such as Phoenix realize that downtown revitalization is among the primary responsibilities.

Four elements of downtown revitalization infrastructure such as entertainment, housing, light rail, and education were analyzed based on Phoenix’s example. We have found that each of them plays a crucial role in stimulating economic activity, cultural development, and transformation of downtown into a ‘knowledge hub’ and ‘cultural oasis’. The creation of new university campuses and integrating education with a knowledge economy are important in transforming Phoenix into an educational and scientific center and attracting new investment in high-tech spheres like genetic medicine.

New housing projects in this view become tremendously important as the lack of residential living is a considerable challenge to these deep transformations. Entertainment and cultural activities are crucial elements in these efforts since they attract qualified labor force and specialists to the downtown. As we can see, all these four elements of infrastructure are interconnected and need organic integration.

The analysis of Tucson and Houston’s downtown revitalization plans showed that similar trends define the direction of downtown revitalization through each city structures it correspondingly to available resources and its comparative advantages.


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