Monthly Archives: April 2009

First Saturday: Jane’s Walk is only the beginning

Downtown Phoenix has been busier than ever and this weekend is no exception. In addition to First Friday,  Saturday is also choke-full of events.

janeswalk42Of course, Saturday morning is the city’s inaugural Jane’s Walk. Once again Jane’s Walk Phoenix will start and end at Portland Park, located at 1st Ave and Portland St, next to the Central and Roosevelt light rail station and goes from 9am-11am.

After the walk,I encourage you to continue the discussion with some of the otehr participants (and hopefully newly made friends at  to check out only of the many nearby restaurants, such as Fair Trade, Carly’s or Matt’s Big Breakfast.  Otherwise, you can drop by the Downtown Phoenix Public Market to check out this weeks specials.

hmnAfter lunch,  head on over to Modified Arts for the Handmade Nation screening and booksigning with author/director Faythe Levine at 2pm. Come learn about the rise of DIY and the new wave of art, craft and design as documented in Levine’s film and book. Seating is limited and $10 tickets are available at Stinkweeds, Frances and MADE.  Books will be available at the screening.  (if you can’t make it Satuday, there will be an encore showing on Sunday at 2pm.

During the afternoon, you can get your weekend errands done or rest up, before returning downtown for more fun…

img_06151At Phoenix’s incredible new Downtown Civic Space (at Central and Fillmore), there will be an all-ages outdoor screening of the movie Wall-E. Otter pops and other cool treats will be available as you watch this great flick on a huge screen, right in downtown. Screening begins at 7:30.  If you haven’t yet seen the Echelman sculpture “Her Secret is Patience” at night, here’s your chance!

Otherwise, you can head over to Space 55 (636 East Pierce) for the “Spring Fling Shorts Show,” an evening of short films curated by No Festival Required at 8 pm (doors open at 7:45 with café open for snacks and drinks) Admission is $6. Cash only, $1.00 off with student i.d.


Quick Take: Books for the Amateur Urbanist

Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities tops the list (fitting as it was itself wrtitten by an amateur urbanist)

From Where:

1. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (1961). At about 450 pages, “concise” is probably not the most apt description of this book. But, as this is the single best written, most accessible, most compelling book I’ve ever read about cities, I’m willing to forsake the concision criterion even in my first recommendation. If you want to know what can make cities pleasant, safe and interesting places to live, read this book. If you want to read one of the best non-fiction prose stylists of our time, read this book. It’s a classic, and deservedly so. As one Where reader put it: “It’s a great book for explaining why we care about all of this.”
2. The Option of Urbanism by Christopher Leinberger (2007). While not as fun to read as The Death and Life of Great American Cities or The Geography of Nowhere (see below), this slender volume briskly highlights difference between drivable sub-urban development and walkable urban development, and does a good job of explaining the benefits of walkable city neighborhoods. It’s good primer on the basics of density, zoning and the hidden subsidies fueling drivable sub-urban development.

3. The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler (1993). This book is an exploration—and excoriation—of the rise of suburbia and sprawl. It also explains how the more traditional patterns and places of city life and country life are superior to the “geography of nowhere.” Accessible and ferocious.

4. Cities Back from the Edge by Roberta Gratz, with Norman Mintz (1998). According to a Where reader, this book is “in the spirit of Jacobs” and discusses “how existing cities can be improved with citizen participation in contrast to destructive master plans.” The book is filled with lots of specific ideas about how to improve downtown areas, all of them lavishly illustrated with real life examples from successful efforts in dozens of cities.

5. How Cities Work by Alex Marshall (2000). Squarely aimed at the lay person, this book seeks to discover what forces shape places and cities—and finds that one of the most powerful forces is political choices, particularly those having to do with transportation policy. A Where reader gave this recommendation: “It’s not comprehensive, of course, but it’s a good snack, possibly the kind that could interest a person in a larger meal.”


For more suggestions, look here

Quick Take: The Economic Power of Adapative Use

In new construction, half the cost of a project is for materials (usually sourced from non-local sources) and half for labor; while in rehabilitation of “old” buildings, 80% of the cost of the project is labor and 20% on materials

— The Economic Power of Restoration

(HT: Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space)

Quick Take: New ideas must use old buildings


Photo credit: rllayman on

Photo credit: rllayman on

“Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them…. for really new ideas of any kind—no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be—there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”

–Jane Jacobs


Local Happenings: Radiate Phoenix @ Turf on April 28th

6a00e39827aafa883301157056cd2f970b-320wiOne of the groups that is celebrating the resurgence if downtown Phoenix is RadiatePhx, a downtown centered non-traditional networking group. RadiatePhx is more about community building, knowledge sharing and supporting local business than swapping business cards. In other words it is the type of group that Jane would support. The group meets that last Tuesday of each month at different central Phoenix establishments  with a guest speaker to discuss place making, design, community building and what’s going on in our urban core.

Turf2This month the Radiators are gathering at one of the local businesses that will be highlighted during Jane’s Walk PhoenixThe Turf Restaurant & Pub in downtown Phoenix.  The group will be joined by Malissa Geer.  Malissa is the Community Engagement Liaison at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. who serves as a catalyst to enrich the social, cultural, economic, and political life of the community that surrounds ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

We will be meeting from 5:30-7:30pm and will also hear from Turf’s owner Andrew Mirtich about how ASU and other factors influenced their decision in selecting Turf’s location. I will also be making a brief presentation about Jane’s Walk Phoenix.

All Radiators get 15% off their bill tomorrow night.  That’s on top of the 50 cents off happy hour specials.

If you’re following this blog, chances are you are already interested in seeing downtown thrive.  This is a great opportunity to come out and here from people who are helping make it happen, while  supporting a local business, and learning more about Jane’s Walk.

Come Radiate with us.

Phoenix New Times: See Jane Walk

Jane’s Walk has been profield in the New Times.  

See Jane Walk

Urban trek puts community in motion

By Jose Gonzalez

See Jane Walk

You’re melting in traffic and you know that there must be a better way. There’s just gotta be. Jane Jacobs felt your pain, too, and her ideas will be brought to life with the inaugural Jane’s Walk Phoenix. The Pennsylvania-born urbanist/activist, who died in 2006, wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a 1961 book that remains one of the most influential tomes on urban planning. The informal walking tour will be fueled by locals sharing observations and neighborhood history in one of the most walkable parts of downtown, while at the same time emphasizing people and their interactions as a community as the basis of great cities. Jane’s Walk Phoenix leaves at 9 a.m. from Portland Park and will pass by supercool sites like the Roosevelt Arts District, the Westward Ho, and the new Downtown Civic Space Park.

Thanks Jose!

Sites to See: A.E. England Building

One of the sites that will be featured during Jane’s Walk Phoenix is the recently completed Downtown Phoenix Civic Space, which features not only the ‘air sculpture’ Her Secret is Patience, but also the restored A.E, England Building that was recently profiled on the  Downtown Voices Coalition site:

While much of the hubbub of downtown Phoenix’s Civic Space focused on Janet Echelman’s public art piece, “Her Secret is Patience,” another important feature of the park is the historic A.E. England Building.   Thanks to the 2006 Historic Preservation Bond Committee, Phoenix residents who voted for the 2006 Bond Program, local preservation advocates, the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and Commission, and Mayor Gordon and City Council, the building was spared from the wrecking ball (yes, it was threatened at one point).

The interior renovation is not quite done.  While you’re waiting for it to be completed and the “grand opening” later this spring, sit back and read about its history, courtesy of the staff at the Historic Preservation Office:

Locally prominent builder Clinton Campbell constructed the A.E. England Motors, Inc./Electrical Equipment Co. building in 1926.   The Spanish Renaissance Revival style building features three large storefront windows with ornate cast concrete window surrounds and decorative course molding along the roof parapet.  Six original bow-string wood trusses, sandwiched between new laminated beams, support the roof structure.

Originally an automotive dealership, A.E. England sold autos from the Hudson Motor Car Co. (1909-1954) and its less expensive Essex brand.   Cars were featured prominently in the building’s large display windows.   Central Avenue north of Van Buren Street became Phoenix’s first “auto row,” lined with Cadillac, Studebaker, Ford, and DeSoto dealerships well into the 1960s.

England left the auto sales business sometime in the early 1930s.   The Electrical Equipment Co., purveyors of radios, batteries, and Kelvinator refrigerators, occupied the building for the next twenty-five years.   The company’s “Gold Room,” decorated with gold drapes, gold walls and gold wicker furniture, provided an optimal radio listening experience for prospective buyers.  Five Atwater-Kent cabinet radios were on display, ready for demonstration by company salesmen.

The Electrical Equipment Co., along with The Arizona Republican (now The Arizona Republic) newspaper, owned the KTAR radio station.   Initially called KFAD and founded in 1922, KTAR was the first radio station in Arizona.   The Electrical Equipment Co. provided the equipment for the radio station which was originally located in the Heard Building at 112 N. Central Avenue.

In its later years, the A.E. England Motors Co., Inc./Electrical Equipment Co. building hosted a stationery store and an art gallery.   The building’s north wall, which was originally a party wall with another building, now consists largely of glass storefront panels in-filled between the original concrete columns.  The building was listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 2006 and rehabilitated by the City of Phoenix in 2008-2009 as part of the downtown Phoenix Civic Space.



*     *     *

A common shorthand for Jane Jacobs was that she ‘loved side walks and hated parks‘, inspired by this passage from Death and Life of Great American Cities:

“Conventionally, neighborhood parks or parklike open spaces are considered boons conferred on the deprived populations of cities. Let us turn this thought around, and consider city parks deprived places that need the boon of life and appreciation conferred on them.” (p. 88)

While this may have been true of the Patriots Park, the new Phoenix Civic Space refutes this notion…  in fact you could easily replace ‘Rittenhouse Square” with Civic Space park in the follow quotation (again from DLGAC) and be alarmingly accurate:

“Rittenhouse Square possesses a diverse rim and diverse neighborhood hinterland. … This mixture of uses of buildings directly produces for the park a mixture of users who enter and leave the park at different times … The park thus possesses an intricate sequence of uses and users.” (p. 96)

Part of the reason for the early success of the Civic Space lies, not necessarily with the art sculpture, which has garnered much of the park’s attention (both positive and negative) to date, but rather how the park integrates with the ‘diverse rim of the neighborhood around it, including ASU Downtown (and the Taylor Place  residences), the YMCA,  Westward Ho, and  several apartments, condos and office buildings in its immediate vicinity.    

Another large part of the success of the park is how it respected the remaining history of the site and protected the A.E England building  from the imminent wrecking ball and  (as well as the  and the future integration with the historic US Post Office, which is being adapted into the Downtown ASU  Student Services Center, and the adjacent Metro Office Building at 311 N 1st Ave..  

After all, another famous Jacob’s adage is ‘new ideas require old buildings.’  The A.E. England Building is poised to become an incubator for new ideas as it continues is adaptation into a neighborhood meeting space for the a mixture of community uses.