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Community Commentary: More Parking for Downtown

March 1, 2010 by J Seth Anderson

The Phoenix City Council made (another) terrible decision regarding the re-development of Downtown. Apparently we have all been slightly misled because the City of Phoenix is not broke after all! In fact, they have $5 million bucks stashed away in a mattress somewhere, $5 million they will use to buy the Ramada Inn just to tear it down.

rscomThe Ramada Inn is one of the only buildings in Downtown Phoenix that is built correctly because it is built up to the street. Streetfront retail on city blocks is an absolutely necessary component of an urban city. It encourages pedestrians to walk and shop, which creates a healthy, vibrant, urban street. Street front retail is like a membrane of a cell and it allows economic activity to pass in and out. This membrane is missing from Downtown Phoenix.

To make matters worse the city has voted to tear down the Ramada Inn. The land will be used for…wait for it…parking! Yes, more heat absorbing, pedestrian hostile, useless, valueless, asphalt.

I sent emails to the entire City Council a few weeks ago begging them not to approve any demolitions. I don’t care if the city buys the land and the building, but why demolish what is there for more parking? It would be one thing if there were actually plans to break ground within 90 days to bring to the city a mixed use building, something with a residential component, retail, entertainment or restaurants. Instead, the Ramada Inn will be razed to build another parking lot for the Sheraton, the 1970s Las Vegas-style, turd-looking hotel the City owns. Why does the Sheraton need more parking?!

The Council says that eventually this land will be part of the future ASU expansion, but it’s not like there is a shortage of land Downtown where ASU could expand. The City owns plenty of land that could be developed before anything else is erased.

There has to be a shift in the way local politicians and the people of Phoenix think about development. If anyone from the Phoenix City Council is reading this, I beg you to send me an email and explain your rationale behind this foolish decision. More parking lots will only feed the suburban blob that ate Downtown Phoenix.

A mix of eclectic buildings, the old next to the new, is a great thing. Perhaps if Phoenix stopped knocking buildings down as if they are nothing more than a house of cards then Phoenix might actually feel like a real city, instead of some suburban hellhole where everything is sterile, bland and boring beyond belief.

Shame on you, Phoenix City Council.


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