Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know that I’m not a fan of CityScape. I was initially excited by the project and had high hopes that the city finally ‘got’ it. However, as the months went by the buildings went up, my excitement turned to guarded skepticism. This week, any hopes I once had were dashed by the following three strikes.
CityScape Strike #1: Urban Form
I recently walked around the exterior of CityScape, Phoenix’s supposedly ‘exciting urban infill’ development. During this walk, my suspicions were confirmed. Far from being an authentic urban development that takes into account the surrounding urban fabric, it is yet another typical suburban development. I guess I was naïve to expect anything different from a project conceived in a Scottsdale business park and designed by an Seattle architect.
CityScape’s idea of urban form is to place a large-scale suburban pharmacy on one corner of the development and an elevator lobby on another corner. So much for encouraging an active street life or pedestrian activity downtown.
While I have no problems with the CVS Pharmacy, I do wish the design took up less street frontage (perhaps placing it on the second floor?). This would free up valuable street frontage for smaller scale businesses. In turn, customers and window shoppers would be attracted, enhancing the urban vitality of the development. Instead we got something like most other CVS’s—large blank walls and faux windows that turn their back on the street, and potential pedestrians.
CityScape Strike #2: Public Space
The supposed ‘park’ to replace the publicly owned Patriots Park, is not really a park. Rather, it is an outdoor arcade on private property surrounded by buildings. This ‘park’ is designed for the office dwellers and patrons of the complex, NOT the citizens and residents of downtown Phoenix. Besides, we already have several downtown park spaces that are chronically under used, why do we need another?
CityScape Strike #3: Grocery Store
On Monday, we learned that the long promised grocery store in downtown Phoenix was not actually a grocery store, but rather a high-end food boutique. I don’t have a problem with Oakville Grocery per se (especially if it keeps its promise to stock locally produced goods). I do take issue, however, with is the conceit that it is a ‘grocery store’ that will meet the needs of downtown residents. There is only so much demand for handmade cheeses and gourmet sandwiches in downtown. Besides the Phoenix Public Market already offers these items and more.
What is really needed downtown is a place to pick up toilet paper, laundry detergent, such as Fresh and Easy or even Trader Joes. Unfortunately, I realize the difficulty in luring other grocers, particularly since the promised residential part of Cityscape is delayed indefinitely. This means that the population needed to support a real grocery store just isn’t there.
Implications: Suburb in the City
As a result of these three strikes, and several others, CityScape represents yet another failed attempt to revitalize downtown. It is basically a mashup of downtown’s last two failed ‘urban infill’ attempts: Collier Center and Arizona Center. Both these were supposed to enhance downtown’s urban fabric. Both failed miserably at this goal.
The various civic ‘leaders’ who continue to push such misguided projects need to wake up. Instead of facilitating a downtown that ALL residents can enjoy, they have continued on the futile quest to keep suburbanites and tourists downtown after ball games or conventions by creating a suburban haven in the middle of the city.
These so-called leaders need to realize that what’s needed downtown isn’t foisting another new mega-project on us. Rather, we—as a broad-based community—need to radically rethink how we approach development. Until that happen, Phoenix will never realize the potential of being ‘Arizona’s Urban Heart.”
Developments such as Cityscape don’t take us closer to a true downtown; they move us further away. In Phoenix’s desperate attempt to attract suburban tourists, downtown is morphing into a suburb itself.
This is day 16 in my 28 Day Blogging Challenge. 12 days to go.