Phoenix, Arizona–often presented as a poster-child of bad urban planning due to its decades of hideous, water-wasting, traffic-congesting cookie-cutter sprawl, is enjoying its most robust downtown building boom in decades.
The earliest roots of this renaissance can be traced to Mayor Terry Goddard, who served from 1984 to 1990. He was the first local leader to inject some intelligent into local planning, taking steps that started to revive downtown.
But the biggest assist came from years of grassroots efforts. Artists and entrepreneurs have long worked to revive pieces of the urban core, and get a suburban-minded city hall to understand the policies for downtown success.
The preservation and comeback of lovely historic districts just north was another big help. Public investments were necessary, too, including those in controversial sports facilities.
This laid the groundwork for today’s more robust revival. Since 2006, Arizona State University (ASU) has moved several schools downtown and engaged in public-private partnerships with the city to spark development in the area.
In 2008, a light rail system connected downtown to the main ASU campus in Tempe, with its lively small downtown, as well as to Mesa and Midtown Phoenix.
Add to that a few new office buildings, restaurants and bars, a biomedical campus, and the nearby Roosevelt Row arts district, and what we see today is the most vibrant urban core the city has had in generations.
Image credit: Adobe Stock