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-   -   Phoenix 101: What killed downtown (http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=239762)

sopas ej Jul 18, 2019 7:15 PM

Phoenix 101: What killed downtown
 
The other night I decided to look through my collection of DVDs which I haven't touched in a long time, and saw Alfred Hitchock's 1960 film "Psycho." I've watched that film many times, but I thought to put it in the DVD player and watch it again, at least the first hour of it or so, just to kill time.

Anyway, if anyone hasn't seen the film, the story starts out in Phoenix, and I do think they use an actual establishing shot of it circa 1959-1960 (I think the film was shot in 1959 but released in 1960). But anyway, it doesn't look at all like the Phoenix I think of when I think of Phoenix. Later, there's a shot of Janet Leigh, sitting in the car, waiting at a stoplight, after she steals the money from her boss (that then puts her on the lam and she ends up in a small roadside motel somewhere in Central California where she gets murdered in the shower, and this is all in the first 20 or 30 minutes of the film). I don't know if it was rear projection (Alfred Hitchcock loved using rear projection a lot) or if it was real, but if that scene was indeed shot in Phoenix, it showed a very vibrant city with lots of pedestrians and businesses in a busy downtown setting.

I've only been to Phoenix once, back in 2005, I think... and anyway, it seemed very much to me like a sleepy overgrown business park with some tall buildings, mixed in with maybe a few older housing, and other areas with postwar-era housing that was kind of run down. I'll admit I haven't been to all parts of Phoenix proper, but watching "Psycho" made me wonder if Phoenix really at one time was that vibrant busy place portrayed in the film (albeit briefly), so looking online, I saw this series of articles from 2013, which is in three parts, called "Phoenix 101: What killed downtown", by the Rogue Columnist. I thought it was an interesting read.

It would be interesting for me to hear some opinions from people who live in Phoenix, what they think.

From the Rogue Columnist:

Phoenix 101: What killed downtown, Part 1

The links to Parts 2 and 3 are in the Part 1 article.

Downtown Phoenix in the 1930s, facing south.

https://www.roguecolumnist.com/.a/6a...78ee37e970b-pi

Buckeye Native 001 Jul 18, 2019 7:42 PM

Jon Talton (Rogue Columnist) has opinions that I mostly agree with about the current state of the economy in Arizona and the death and resurrection of Phoenix as an urban city, but he does it in the most condescending way possible. Nothing is ever good enough for him.

That said, Phoenix was a relatively small city until the 1950s and unfortunately began to peak right around the time of urban renewal and mass exodus to the suburbs.

Handro Jul 18, 2019 9:04 PM

It’s not just Phoenix, most American cities were decimated by urban renewal and the migration of families to the auto-centric suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Check this out: http://iqc.ou.edu/2014/12/12/60yrsmidwest/

In Chicago, entire neighborhoods full of dense urbanity were destroyed to make way for the expressway and parking lots.

DCReid Jul 18, 2019 9:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Handro (Post 8635964)
It’s not just Phoenix, most American cities were decimated by urban renewal and the migration of families to the auto-centric suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Check this out: http://iqc.ou.edu/2014/12/12/60yrsmidwest/

In Chicago, entire neighborhoods full of dense urbanity were destroyed to make way for the expressway and parking lots.

Agree about assessment of Phoenix. While Chicago suffer because of expressway building, it was unfortunately the African American neighborhoods south of downtown that bore the brunt of the destruction. I think that was the case for most expressway building in major cities. Back to Phoenix, the city basically sprawled, like most Southern cities. Just look at places like Houston and Dallas, which have downtowns that really are not hugely vibrant except for work days or even important expect for office and a few entertainment/sports venues compared to the whole metropolitan area.

An interesting comparison to Phoenix would be Denver, which seems to have a more lively and important downtown. Is it because Denver is an older city or because it was a regional powerhouse while Phoenix was mostly a retirement and tourist place?

austlar1 Jul 18, 2019 10:00 PM

Phoenix 1950 population was 106,000. That is about .063% of the present population of 1,660,000 in a metro of around 5 million. There is no reason to speculate too much about why downtown Phoenix failed to keep up with growth in population. Urban renewal played little or no role. Most of the lost buildings downtown (and it was a small downtown) were replaced with parking lots in the 50s. The car was king. People did not move to Phoenix to live in high rises and ride streetcars. Plus most of the metro development outside of Phoenix clustered around several other local cities such as Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Chandler. Downtown did expand a bit to the north along North Central in the 1950s and 60s, but that was pretty much a done deal by the late 70s or early 80s. It is worth noting that Phoenix did this rapid suburban expansion largely without a comprehensive network of freeways. Interstate 10 and 17 were built in the mid to late 60s, and that was pretty much it for freeways until the early 1990s when massive freeway building funded by a special local sales tax got underway. Before that time the Phoenix area was known to have most traffic moving on major arterial roads on the regular street grid, kind of like an LA or Chicago pre-war expansion without freeways. I don't think that happened anywhere else in the country in the post WW2 era. By way of comparison, major Texas cities and other cities like Atlanta engaged in a lot of freeway building as early as the mid 1950s prior to the advent of the interstate highway system.

Sun Belt Jul 19, 2019 2:31 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Handro (Post 8635964)
It’s not just Phoenix, most American cities were decimated by urban renewal and the migration of families to the auto-centric suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Check this out: http://iqc.ou.edu/2014/12/12/60yrsmidwest/

In Chicago, entire neighborhoods full of dense urbanity were destroyed to make way for the expressway and parking lots.

This.

Downtown LA:
https://laplanninghistory.files.word...-libraries.jpg

Pedestrian Jul 19, 2019 3:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Handro (Post 8635964)
It’s not just Phoenix, most American cities were decimated by urban renewal and the migration of families to the auto-centric suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Check this out: http://iqc.ou.edu/2014/12/12/60yrsmidwest/

In Chicago, entire neighborhoods full of dense urbanity were destroyed to make way for the expressway and parking lots.

And yet that didn't happen in San Francisco (and New York and some other places).

In San Francisco, the neighborhoods that were abandoned were fairly quickly refilled with newcomers, many of them famously gay, who renovated them and made them nicer places to live than ever. And the freeway construction was halted by citizen action. Whatever parking lots there have been in the city for decades have been almost entirely transitional--a way to make money from land intended for eventual development while money for such development was accumulated and/or the bureaucratic approval process was navigated.

The closest SF came to the process you are describing came in only two neighborhoods: The Fillmore and a portion of South of Market around 4rd and 4th Streets once known as "Skid Row". Both those areas were bulldozed for redevelopment like in other cities but have, by now, been pretty much rebuilt and are once again active neighborhoods (if different in character--the Fillmore's active jazz club scene has never really revived and Skid Row's low income housing has been replaced by luxury hotels and apartment towers along with Moscone Center).

The "old" Fillmore
https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/...2016/D4771.jpg
https://www.sfmta.com/blog/22-fillmo...tten-funicular

Approximately same area today:
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/fG...=w1326-h749-no
https://www.instantstreetview.com/@3....13h,-8.05p,1z

Obadno Jul 19, 2019 5:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sopas ej (Post 8635867)

From the Rogue Columnist:

Phoenix 101: What killed downtown, Part 1

The links to Parts 2 and 3 are in the Part 1 article.

Downtown Phoenix in the 1930s, facing south.

https://www.roguecolumnist.com/.a/6a...78ee37e970b-pi

The "Vibrant" Downtown that Phoenix had was just the city center of any pre-war twon, it was a small city in a rural region much like any city in the central valley.

It wasn't so much that the city had a downtown that was lost, its that when the city boomed downtown got none of that, the demand and desire was 100% suburban. Downtown was a virtual ghost town until maybe 2013? at best? a standard 9-5 place that only had people in it for work or for sporting events. The improvements in the last 5-10 years have been nothing short of staggering.

So the issue isnt "why did downtown go away" its "why did downtown never develop to begin with"

And the answer to that is the same for LA, Dallas, or any other large sunbelt city Sprawl was the order of the day.

As you said you were there in 2005, it would be night and day compared to now. However there is still a very long way to go. Luckily as downtown never really developed we basically get to start with a blank slate instead of dealing with the carcass of some old downtown.

Here are some street views I cobbled together. Not just of downtown but just to give an idea of the changes within the last 10 years (most of it in the last 5)







Then:

https://goo.gl/maps/hL9rbzwbJsDiZQo68

Now:

https://goo.gl/maps/s8ikkBSHGQBsVyfd9

Then:

https://goo.gl/maps/XC6wTLazvQmRcxLs8

Now:

https://goo.gl/maps/M95oN5aa57VRTiEeA

Then:

https://goo.gl/maps/2QcNncEncftarvUt5

Now:

https://goo.gl/maps/PGGhEgheDYRKBSNz6

Then:

https://goo.gl/maps/x5buFP3Zxo3va4m58

Now:

https://goo.gl/maps/uYJRerszFNuXPqtR8

Then

https://goo.gl/maps/TJ1tVfYMjkDKgtEU6

Now

https://goo.gl/maps/f61oQpQt3W9DLFrQA

Then

https://goo.gl/maps/3LeUBLTpJpaRmxof9


Now

https://goo.gl/maps/dtZa8ciaWzjZiZAt6

Obadno Jul 19, 2019 5:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 8636207)
And yet that didn't happen in San Francisco (and New York and some other places).

San Francisco is a very rare exception. And new York did suffer from Urban Renewal madness, they lost Penn Station, Nearly lost Grand Central and almost had a massive highway network across Manhattan.

The cities that didnt get reduced to massive parking lots were already extremely dense, but even those had terrible mass housing projects that created horrible crime and blight for decades in the 50's, 60's, 70,s and 80's.

The North One Jul 19, 2019 5:25 AM

What was demolished in San Fransisco still looks like renewal today so no the city did not leave unscathed.

10023 Jul 19, 2019 5:45 AM

Did Phoenix ever have a downtown?

Pedestrian Jul 19, 2019 7:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The North One (Post 8636276)
What was demolished in San Fransisco still looks like renewal today so no the city did not leave unscathed.

Nobody said "unscathed" but it didn't have it's downtown destroyed or any important neighborhood and that doesn't mean the Fillmore, which was the principal neighborhood affected wasn't changed for the worse. But the changes were minor and marginal looked at from the perspective of the city as a whole.

Sun Belt Jul 19, 2019 1:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 10023 (Post 8636285)
Did Phoenix ever have a downtown?

In the traditional sense? Yes. But that was in 1950 when the population was just 100,000. It was a place where people would dress up, take the trolley and shop.

Like most other downtowns it became a place for local, county, state and federal government complexes, law firms and banks -- some of the most boring professions in terms of urban vibrancy. After 5:00pm, it would empty out to the newer/safer parts of the city.

As mentioned above, this wasn't a Phoenix phenomenon, it was nationwide. Unlike New York, Phoenix didn't have 7 million people living in the city, it had 100k. It's downtown has never had a large footprint and there wasn't much of a reason to either.



Bunker Hill, L.A.
https://www.mparchitects.com/site/si...?itok=vwamS02P
http://www.mparchitects.com/site/tho...-los-angeleses

1969:
https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/NKAm...ramic_view.jpg
https://la.curbed.com/2018/11/28/181...opment-history

Scollay Square, Boston
https://c.o0bg.com/rf/image_960w/Bos...e1-7205999.jpg
Boston Globe

Government Center, Boston
https://beautifulbuildings.files.wor...entervista.jpg
https://beautifulbuildings.wordpress...rnment-center/

Sun Belt Jul 19, 2019 1:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Obadno (Post 8636264)
The cities that didnt get reduced to massive parking lots were already extremely dense, but even those had terrible mass housing projects that created horrible crime and blight for decades in the 50's, 60's, 70,s and 80's.

And some still do, like Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and many other midwestern cities both large and small. Then and now of Detroit is astonishing.

The North One Jul 19, 2019 2:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Obadno (Post 8636261)
Luckily as downtown never really developed we basically get to start with a blank slate instead of dealing with the carcass of some old downtown.

What is lucky about this? Lucky you have next to zero surviving pre-war development to restore and that's lucky? Hooray for your sterile new autocentric podium hotels and apartment donuts, so lucky.

I think I'll still prefer a downtown Buffalo or a Cleveland that had a "carcass" to clean up.

Handro Jul 19, 2019 2:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 8636207)
And yet that didn't happen in San Francisco (and New York and some other places).

In San Francisco, the neighborhoods that were abandoned were fairly quickly refilled with newcomers, many of them famously gay, who renovated them and made them nicer places to live than ever. And the freeway construction was halted by citizen action. Whatever parking lots there have been in the city for decades have been almost entirely transitional--a way to make money from land intended for eventual development while money for such development was accumulated and/or the bureaucratic approval process was navigated.

The closest SF came to the process you are describing came in only two neighborhoods: The Fillmore and a portion of South of Market around 4rd and 4th Streets once known as "Skid Row". Both those areas were bulldozed for redevelopment like in other cities but have, by now, been pretty much rebuilt and are once again active neighborhoods (if different in character--the Fillmore's active jazz club scene has never really revived and Skid Row's low income housing has been replaced by luxury hotels and apartment towers along with Moscone Center).
]

Yes that's great! Of course the same level of destruction didn't happen in every city, but many (maybe most) suffered due to the wholesale demolition of buildings and neighborhoods to build expressways and more car-friendly businesses. Just check out hte link in my original post--you can view other cities outside the midwest as well here: http://iqc.ou.edu/urbanchange

Quote:

Nobody said "unscathed" but it didn't have it's downtown destroyed or any important neighborhood and that doesn't mean the Fillmore, which was the principal neighborhood affected wasn't changed for the worse. But the changes were minor and marginal looked at from the perspective of the city as a whole.
Right. My original point exactly... the original post was simply saying what happened to urban America in the 1950s and 1960s, it certainly wasn't mean to be a pissing contest of which cities suffered the most lost density during that period. Phoenix may have suffered MORE than San Francisco, but that's beside the point--both saw changes in their urban landscape due to a shifting attitude towards urban density.

Steely Dan Jul 19, 2019 2:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The North One (Post 8636470)
I think I'll still prefer a downtown Buffalo or a Cleveland that had a "carcass" to clean up.

agreed.

it's much easier to revive a downtown carcass than to create a downtown from scratch on a blank slate.

just look at what downtown detroit has be able to accomplish over the past 10, with so much more exciting stuff to come.

Crawford Jul 19, 2019 2:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 8636207)
And yet that didn't happen in San Francisco (and New York and some other places).

NYC actually had the nation's largest urban renewal program, multiples bigger than any other city. It just isn't as obvious because NYC had so much urbanity to begin with, and because much of the urban renewal was denser than in other cities.

Many neighborhoods, like East Harlem, Brownsville, Coney Island, and the Rockaways, are mostly postwar urban renewal. But they don't have the desolate feel because the projects were built denser and the surroundings remained dense.

And I'm pretty sure SF had major urban renewal with Fillmore/Western Addition/Japantown, and downtown projects like Embarcadero Center.

I also doubt Phoenix had much urban renewal. Its downtown just died as the region transformed into a Sunbelt giant. I don't think the Phoenix mayor was pushing mega-housing projects and the like back in the 50's-60's.

iheartthed Jul 19, 2019 4:06 PM

It's weird to hear that SF didn't suffer effects of urban renewal, since many urban planners point to SF as the leading pioneer for undoing urban renewal damage.

IrishIllini Jul 19, 2019 4:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sun Belt (Post 8636416)
And some still do, like Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and many other midwestern cities both large and small. Then and now of Detroit is astonishing.

Chicago razed pretty much all of its public housing between the 90s and early 10s. I don’t think there’s much left in Detroit or Baltimore either.

Steely Dan Jul 19, 2019 4:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by IrishIllini (Post 8636584)
Chicago razed pretty much all of its public housing between the 90s and early 10s. I don’t think there’s much left in Detroit or Baltimore either.

the highrises have now all been demolished (except for the one-off senior buildings), but many low and mid-rise projects remain in CHA (cabrini rowhouses, dearborn homes, ABLA brooks, lawndale gardens, lathrop homes, wentworth gardens, altgeld gardens, etc.)

iheartthed Jul 19, 2019 4:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by IrishIllini (Post 8636584)
Chicago razed pretty much all of its public housing between the 90s and early 10s. I don’t think there’s much left in Detroit or Baltimore either.

Detroit has almost none left.

But public housing didn't create crime and blight. Those projects were the pre-war solutions to overcrowding and affordable housing crises. Many of them were inhabited by middle class white families until the FHA began backing home loans to middle class families... but largely excluded non-whites from participating.

LAsam Jul 19, 2019 5:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The North One (Post 8636470)
What is lucky about this? Lucky you have next to zero surviving pre-war development to restore and that's lucky? Hooray for your sterile new autocentric podium hotels and apartment donuts, so lucky.

I think I'll still prefer a downtown Buffalo or a Cleveland that had a "carcass" to clean up.

This is hard to argue with. The old portion of downtown LA that was neglected and is now being revived is one of the most exciting parts of the city. Newer development just seems to lack the character that the older stuff has.

Obadno Jul 19, 2019 5:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The North One (Post 8636470)
What is lucky about this? Lucky you have next to zero surviving pre-war development to restore and that's lucky? Hooray for your sterile new autocentric podium hotels and apartment donuts, so lucky.

I think I'll still prefer a downtown Buffalo or a Cleveland that had a "carcass" to clean up.

The whole city is new, there is no past legacy to repair or correct for it can be whatever we want it to be. The only unfortunate thing really is lack of old architecture and although there was some loss generally speaking there wasn’t really that much to lose.

If you are going to put a big emphasis on living in a place with 200 years minimum of urban history it’s not going to be for you.

JManc Jul 19, 2019 5:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by LAsam (Post 8636676)
This is hard to argue with. The old portion of downtown LA that was neglected and is now being revived is one of the most exciting parts of the city. Newer development just seems to lack the character that the older stuff has.

Because the old stuff was organic and grew/evolved in stages and over time. The new stuff is contrived and value engineered. That's not saying I wouldn't welcome the new stuff because there are cities that lack a lot of pre-war development (i'm in one) so anything is better than nothing. My hometown of 60k in upstate NY has more prewar than Houston.

As for the old stuff in LA being redeveloped in LA, when I was driving around there last summer, i couldn't help but noticed all the activity.

soleri Jul 19, 2019 6:27 PM

Phoenix has squandered an untold amount of tax dollars trying to revive its old downtown. Most of that money went to lollapalooza-style projects - sports arenas, convention centers, parking garages, and shopping centers that only served to emphasize Phoenix's pointlessness as a city. Still, 10 years ago, there was an uptick in the quality of those urban Hail Mary passes. The city put in a light rail system. Then ASU set up a satellite campus downtown. Today, there are huge residential infill projects downtown and the central city. There's even a burgeoning nightlife in the Roosevelt Row neighborhood. It's still a long way from being interesting but by comparison to 20 years ago, it's been a remarkable renaissance. The few civic assets Phoenix has are mostly in and near downtown - the museums, library, theaters and concert halls. I would wish for better architecture in the new construction - much of it is cheap and forgettable. But for a city whose urban pulse was mostly an ill-founded rumor the current transformation is nearly stunning.

Pedestrian Jul 19, 2019 7:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Crawford (Post 8636491)
And I'm pretty sure SF had major urban renewal with Fillmore/Western Addition/Japantown, and downtown projects like Embarcadero Center.

Quote:

Originally Posted by iheartthed (Post 8636571)
It's weird to hear that SF didn't suffer effects of urban renewal, since many urban planners point to SF as the leading pioneer for undoing urban renewal damage.

There seems to be a lot of dsyslexia going on here. People so love to argue against points that were never made.

What I said was to the topic of the thread: Not that SF didn't have "urban renewal" and not that you couldn't argue that renewal was not ultimately a good thing, but that its "downtown" (or even its city fabric on a large scale) was not "killed" by urban renewal the way it was being argued Phoenix's was.

And this should not be a city vs city thing. What's interesting is WHY there was a difference. I don't claim to have the answer but clearly there was a difference. For one thing, San Francisco is NOT criss-crossed by freeways the way the planners wanted it to be and the way cities like LA and Pheonix are. They were stopped by citizen action.

Niether is NY by the way.

austlar1 Jul 19, 2019 7:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by iheartthed (Post 8636571)
It's weird to hear that SF didn't suffer effects of urban renewal, since many urban planners point to SF as the leading pioneer for undoing urban renewal damage.

Mostly for tearing down expressways in the inner city like the Embarcadero Freeway along the waterfront and the 101 extension that crossed Market Street just above the Civic Center.

Handro Jul 19, 2019 7:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 8636772)
There seems to be a lot of dsyslexia going on here. People so love to argue against points that were never made.

What I said was to the topic of the thread: Not that SF didn't have "urban renewal" and not that you couldn't argue that renewal was not ultimately a good thing, but that its "downtown" (or even its city fabric on a large scale) was not "killed" by urban renewal the way it was being argued Phoenix's was.

And this should not be a city vs city thing. What's interesting is WHY there was a difference. I don't claim to have the answer but clearly there was a difference. For one thing, San Francisco is NOT criss-crossed by freeways the way the planners wanted it to be and the way cities like LA and Pheonix are. They were stopped by citizen action.

Niether is NY by the way.

Maybe not Manhattan, but the other boroughs are. And what about the PCH and 280 through SF?

Pedestrian Jul 19, 2019 7:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by austlar1 (Post 8636778)
Mostly for tearing down expressways in the inner city like the Embarcadero Freeway along the waterfront and the 101 extension that crossed Market Street just above the Civic Center.

No. In the era we are talking about, it's not about tearing down the few freeways that were built but for not building so many others that were planned:

https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qim...63ac9ff7f1a5-c
https://www.quora.com/Why-has-San-Fr...t-west-freeway

Pedestrian Jul 19, 2019 7:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Handro (Post 8636788)
Maybe not Manhattan, but the other boroughs are. And what about the PCH and 280 through SF?

You are referring to 101 (which is not on the coast in SF)? It's really just a Bay Bridge connector to the south but it's one of the rump freeway system that was built--see above. It's about ⅔ of the freeway left in the city. The other third is 280 (demolition of part of which is under discussion), a few miles of the Central Freeway and the extended Golden Gate ramp structure (part of which has now been buried).

Handro Jul 19, 2019 8:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 8636796)
You are referring to 101 (which is not on the coast in SF)? It's really just a Bay Bridge connector to the south but it's one of the rump freeway system that was built--see above. It's about ⅔ of the freeway left in the city. The other third is 280 (demolition of part of which is under discussion), a few miles of the Central Freeway and the extended Golden Gate ramp structure (part of which has now been buried).

So there are freeways running through San Francisco, as there are in New York. I think the confusion came from implying SF and New York were outliers as the cities that were spared freeway construction and urban renewal in the 20th century when they are not.

Back to Phoenix, I wonder if the desert climate has anything to do with the lack of built density. Would it make sense to build dense housing when the summers can reach 105+ degrees regularly? Early planners and builders might have just been thinking logicially.

Pedestrian Jul 19, 2019 8:24 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Handro (Post 8636811)
So there are freeways running through San Francisco, as there are in New York. I think the confusion came from implying SF and New York were outliers as the cities that were spared freeway construction and urban renewal in the 20th century when they are not.

To compare the freeway construction in SF and NY with that in Phoenix and LA is ridiculous--SF has 2 parallel freeways in the southeast part of town only and part of one of those may eventually be torn down as I said.

But you are right--those who don't want to see that there's a vast difference and take an interest in why such a difference just aren't interested in why what happened in Phoenix and elsewhere did. So be it.

JManc Jul 19, 2019 8:32 PM

The freeways in New York are barely freeways. They are car destroyers disguising themselves as highways.

Handro Jul 19, 2019 8:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 8636837)
To compare the freeway construction in SF and NY with that in Phoenix and LA is ridiculous--SF has 2 parallel freeways in the southeast part of town only and part of one of those may eventually be torn down as I said.

But you are right--those who don't want to see that there's a vast difference and take an interest in why such a difference just aren't interested in why what happened in Phoenix and elsewhere did. So be it.

Ha, you are the one comparing them by even bringing them up. Cities in the USA suffered during urban renewal in the 20th century, that's not up for debate. The nuanced ways that cities changed is another story, but the original point still stands. There are innumerable small differences in planning, economics, population, etc. that vary from city to city over the decades, so I think it's a fools errand to specifically compare Phoenix to other cities and instead a better way to approach the discussion is why Phoenix in particular was impacted by this period as it was.

iheartthed Jul 19, 2019 8:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 8636772)
There seems to be a lot of dsyslexia going on here. People so love to argue against points that were never made.

Ironic. lol.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 8636772)
What I said was to the topic of the thread: Not that SF didn't have "urban renewal" and not that you couldn't argue that renewal was not ultimately a good thing, but that its "downtown" (or even its city fabric on a large scale) was not "killed" by urban renewal the way it was being argued Phoenix's was.

...

Niether is NY by the way.

So I'll agree with the spirit of your point, but I don't think the particulars of the argument are all that accurate. This is exactly the same type of urban renewal freeway building that happened in cities like Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit: https://goo.gl/maps/7AvM13hCssJikJv87

And you don't have to go far from here to find, in SF, the telltale signs of the destructive forces of our mid-century obsession with automobile traffic (i.e. surface lots): https://goo.gl/maps/cjxbQtUxDNmAQGSa7

One thing I find interesting about SF, considering how expensive land is there, is how much surface parking lots still exist so close to the city's core. These lots exist just several blocks from some of the city's signature skyscrapers. In a New Yorker's eyes, this is pretty weird.

sopas ej Jul 19, 2019 8:48 PM

I guess I should have said more in my OP...

When I visited Phoenix in 2005 (and it was the only time I've ever been there), I felt that most of the place looked like it was built within the previous 30 years or so, minus of course the very few pre-war buildings I saw, and the historic territorial capitol building. I also felt like I saw a lot of vacant undeveloped areas.

So when I saw this while watching "Psycho" recently (starts at around 0:13, and then you see the pan over Phoenix, and then the camera "goes into" the room where the John Gavin and Janet Leigh characters are finishing up with their nooner):
Video Link


... so I thought 'Wow, Phoenix at one time looked like that?? It looks so established.' Because when I went there in 2005, it didn't look like an established city at all; everything looked new or fairly new, and very spread out, with little development in between other developments. But if you look at that shot in the film, it looks like every block has development on it, with a few parking lots. And this was circa 1960. When I was there in 2005, I guess I had assumed that a lot of those vacant lots had never been built on before, but apparently, many of them probably were; things were just demolished. And that's why I like reading about a place's history; it explains why things are the way they are at the present time. I had just assumed that most of downtown Phoenix hadn't been developed, but instead, I learned that a lot of it was torn down.

So, it wasn't that Phoenix abandoned its downtown, it DESTROYED it. In the comments section in the articles, someone said, to paraphrase, "At least in LA, you can still see some old sections and imagine what it might've been like in the past, but you can't do that with Phoenix."

I don't know if it's the case, but I feel like a lot of the people who responded in this thread didn't even read the articles I linked. In the articles, you will see that downtown Phoenix looked like it did in the 1930s in the photo in the OP, and then by the early 1970s, you saw this:
https://www.roguecolumnist.com/.a/6a...7030d2a970b-pi

And then by the 1980s, I guess it was the nadir of downtown Phoenix:
https://www.roguecolumnist.com/.a/6a...814e8b0970b-pi

It looks like it was nuclear-bombed.

And now it looks like this:
https://www.roguecolumnist.com/.a/6a...9b64a7c970d-pi

Like it says in the article, there's development now, but a lot of it consists of superblocks.

The first several paragraphs of the Rogue Columnist Article part 1:

Quote:

When you see downtown Phoenix today, be kind. No other major city suffered the combination of bad luck, poor timing, lack of planning, vision and moneyed stewards, as well as outright civic vandalism. The only thing missing was a race riot, which happened elsewhere in the city during World War II and is not spoken about. First, definitions. Downtown runs from the railroad tracks to Fillmore and between Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue. Any other definition — even though much of the local media are oblivious to this — is ahistorical, inaccurate and, as my sister-in-law would say, just wrong. Twenty-fourth Street and Camelback is not downtown. Central and Clarendon is not downtown.

If one were going to site the center of Phoenix today, one would pick Arcadia, with majestic Camelback Mountain nearby. But that was not the case with the original township in the 1870s. The town was centered in the great, fertile Salt River Valley, soon to be reclaimed by revolutionary waterworks from the Newlands Act and connected by railroads to the nation. It was here that downtown grew and for decades flourished. But Phoenix was small and isolated. It did not grow from 10,000 in 1910 to more than 185,000 in 1930 like Oklahoma City. In 1930, Seattle's population was more than 386,000 and Denver nearly 288,000. Phoenix held 48,118 souls in the same year and was far from any other metropolitan area.

It's a fascinating counterfactual to wonder what might have happened in downtown Phoenix if not for the Great Depression and World War II. The decades before 1940 were the golden age of American city building, including art deco architecture and the City Beautiful movement. One can see it in such buildings as the Luhrs Tower and Luhrs Building, the Professional Building and the Orpheum Lofts (and, north of downtown, in the Portland Parkway). Conventional wisdom holds that the Depression didn't hurt Phoenix much, but this is not true. With deflation and little building happening, it stopped downtown dead. This was continued by the material shortages of World War II. By the time the economy began the long post-war expansion, downtown was facing too many obstacles and didn't have many of the grand bones of the other cities I mentioned.

The distorting result of the region's abundant land showed up early. The territorial capitol (today's historic state capitol), built at the turn of the 20th century, was not located downtown, as was the case in, say, Denver and Atlanta. Instead, it was placed a mile west, through neighborhoods of charming Victorian houses. A city hall, band shell and Carnegie library (still standing) were also built outside the original township along Washington on the way to the capitol. When the beautiful post office-federal building at Van Buren and First Avenue had become obsolete, an attempt was made to replace it on that site with a multistory building. The result would have been a jewel for the city. Instead, a real-estate hustle and speculative land prices forced the government to place a much smaller new post office at Central and Fillmore. This remains a pleasing building — now part of the ASU campus — but at the time was far from the old downtown and a failure of will and vision.

The city built out in both directions and downtown was pulled north by the famed Hotel Westward Ho in 1928. The inability to create vertical density and focus for downtown was already evident. Another problem facing downtown: Arizona was a frontier state, the 48th star in the flag, with less than half a million population in 1940. It was capital poor. Phoenix was home to no major corporations; everything was small-scale except for agriculture. This would have profound consequences for downtown.

Still downtown thrived. Here is the state of play around 1940 (population 65,414 in 9.6 miles of city limits): At the southern foot of downtown are the busy Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroad tracks servicing the produce warehouses and Union Station. With agriculture the one big business, this is a huge employment center and like the rest of downtown, excluding these giant railroads, locally owned. With hundreds of thousands of acres under cultivation, agricultural operations get their seeds and equipment from companies located here, and ship a good portion of its produce from here. A handsome combined City Hall and Maricopa County Courthouse had been completed eleven years earlier at First Avenue between Washington and Jefferson. All the banks and radio stations (with their towers) are located downtown. The retail district is centered at Central and Washington, including all the department stores and scores of specialty retailers. Want to eat or drink? Downtown is full of restaurants and bars, many run by Greeks, including the legendary Saratoga. For motorists, this is where the neon entryways to the city converge. Pedestrians are shaded by blocks of awnings and overhangs. Downtown still had residential area, too. The imposing Victorian mansions on Monroe from Second Avenue to Seventh Avenue made up "Millionaires Row." Palm-lined streets of bungalows ran north of Van Buren.

austlar1 Jul 19, 2019 10:24 PM

see below

austlar1 Jul 19, 2019 10:35 PM

That fairly close range pan shot from NW to NE downtown PHX captured most of what was there at the time. Note that at about 26 seconds there is even a repeat of part of the pan shot to make it appear that there is more to the place. There were a few blocks to the south that contained one or two department stores (one was Goldwater's owned by Barry Goldwater's family) and some smaller stores. Most of those closed a few years after Psycho was filmed. Some relocated to a new shopping center built a mile or two out on North Central that also contained a hotel. That was a Del Webb project I believe. Even that is no longer operative, but the hotel might remain. Back downtown the Westward Ho Hotel with the radio mast on top was one of the two or three tallest buildings. My interest in downtown PHX arose from the fact that my grandfather spent his last night alive as a guest of the Westward Ho. He and my grandmother were driving from Texas to California and spent the night at the once famous hotel. They left early the next morning (to avoid the heat of the day) and drove west. My grandfather had an asthma attack and wrecked the car. He was killed instantly and my grandmother was seriously injured. This was in the late spring of 1937.

sopas ej Jul 19, 2019 10:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by austlar1 (Post 8636971)
That fairly close range pan shot from NW to NE downtown PHX captured most of what was there at the time. Note that at about 26 seconds there is even a repeat of part of the pan shot to make it appear that there is more to the place. There were a few blocks to the south that contained one or two department stores (one was Goldwater's owned by Barry Goldwater's family) and some smaller stores. Most of those closed a few years after Psycho was filmed. Some relocated to a new shopping center built a mile or two out on North Central that also contained a hotel. That was a Del Webb project I believe. Even that is no longer operative, but the hotel might remain. Back downtown the Westward Ho Hotel with the radio mast on top was one of the two or three tallest buildings. My interest in downtown PHX arose from the fact that my grandfather spent his last night alive as a guest of the Westward Ho. He and my grandmother were driving from Texas to California and spent the night at the once famous hotel. They left early the next morning (to avoid the heat of the day) and drove west. My grandfather had an asthma attack and wrecked the car. He was killed instantly and my grandmother was seriously injured. This was in the late spring of 1937.

If you look at the pan, it's still somewhat of a continuous pan, it's just edited with dissolves and then a slight closeup; he does 2 dissolves/2 slight closeups.

Even if that is all that there was to downtown Phoenix at the time, I think it still looks more like a substantial CBD than what was there in 2005. You don't even see any vacant lots in the foreground/midground.

That's terrible about what happened to your grandfather, btw. Did your grandmother make a full physical recovery?

austlar1 Jul 19, 2019 10:56 PM

You are right that downtown PHX was a mess by 2005. Some of it (I think the area with the vacant lots you pictured, if that is the area south of the below grade IH10 below the museum and library), was leveled in the late 1990s. It was mostly early 20th century houses and small business structures at the time of demolition. It was in rough shape, but it had a certain strange charm. Anyway, there was not much life in downtown when I briefly lived in PHX in 1994-95. I couldn't handle the heat, but that is another story. Yes, my grandmother made a full recovery. My grandparents were very big on road trips and starting in the 1920s they would take long trips, accompanied by my mother, uncle, and some of their cousins to places all over the western US. My mother used to have amazing scrap books filled with pictures of these land voyages. I don't think she realized how remarkable those trips really were.

Here's a link with lots of pics of PHX downtown and midtown in the 1960s. https://roguecolumnist.typepad.com/r...e-sixties.html

Buckeye Native 001 Jul 20, 2019 6:37 PM

Talton's blog does a pretty good job of conveying how small was Phoenix before it's population started to boom in the 1950s, and how what was present Downtown was destroyed/paved over as suburban development blossomed in every direction across the Valley of the Sun except for within Downtown Phoenix.

What's amusing to me about the opening of the original Psycho was how Downtown Phoenix was already starting it's decline by the time principal photography wrapped.

As soleri already mentioned, what is happening in Downtown Phoenix today is nothing short of a miracle even if it's subdued compared to other cities already undergoing urban renaissances. ASU Downtown has been a bigger boon than most Valley residents want to admit (Phoenix has at least one city council member and a State Legislature that openly loathe anything that benefits investing in anyone or anything that doesn't personally enrich them). There's still a hell of a learning curve when it comes to developing a viable urban living space in Central Phoenix. As a result of five-plus decades of suburban development, it's at a disadvantage wherein it has to compete with Midtown, 24th and Camelback (the Camelback Corridor?), Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale and Chandler for business development (coupled with height restrictions from nearby Sky Harbor Airport, this results in a short, lackluster skyline). Hell, as ugly as it's street presence is, it's amazing that a building like Valley Center (aka Chase Tower, Arizona's tallest at a whopping 483 feet) was constructed in the early 1970s because Valley Bank's president wanted to show to other developers and businesses that there was still a reason to stay in Downtown Phoenix. It was obviously a failed effort, but it's hard to knock someone's civic stewardship.

When my family moved to Phoenix in 1996, there was never a reason for us to go Downtown except to visit a handful of museums as well as Suns and Diamondbacks games (it pisses me off to no end that the Dbacks want to move to the Salt River-Pima Reservation near Scottsdale). It was strange moving from a place like Cincinnati, which has large, centrally-focused public spaces such Fountain Square, Sawyer Point and Public Landing, but compared to 15-20 years ago, there's some semblance of an urban movement in Downtown Phoenix that simply hadn't been there for as long as most of us can remember.

It sounds defeatist to say that there's a faint pulse now compared to decades past, but it's hard to emphasize/overstate just how important it is that there's something, anything, happening there right now.

Obadno Jul 20, 2019 10:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sopas ej (Post 8636874)

It looks like it was nuclear-bombed.

And now it looks like this:
https://www.roguecolumnist.com/.a/6a...9b64a7c970d-pi

Like it says in the article, there's development now, but a lot of it consists of superblocks.

The first several paragraphs of the Rogue Columnist Article part 1:

I dot know what’s to them you man, there was never much of a downtown, sure there was a busy ish center of town when it was literally a town but Phoenix never had a serious downtown. It didn’t destroy its downtown it never had one to begin with

Sun Belt Jul 20, 2019 11:01 PM

Then and Now:

2011:
https://goo.gl/maps/DSF5KDyj5rD3UKwBA
2019:
https://goo.gl/maps/KJLhfE97e29EhsPd9

What was once a neighborhood of single family bungalows, that was cleared out in the 1980s has risen from the ashes into a new residential district. Pretty remarkable changes in just a few short years.

E] Take note of the historic, slow growth, California Fan Palms. They're all that remains from the past.

urbanview Jul 24, 2019 5:29 PM

Ah, pity Phoenix bulldozed its historic downtown but its not alone. I've seen this all over America, especially South and West.

SunDevil Jul 25, 2019 3:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by urbanview (Post 8640576)
Ah, pity Phoenix bulldozed its historic downtown but its not alone. I've seen this all over America, especially South and West.

Let me just put out a few facts.

AZ became a state in 1912. In the 1920 census the entire state had 334,000 people. In 1950 it was about 750,000 people FOR THE STATE.

Phoenix was 107,000 people in 1950. It never had a car-less downtown. It never really had a "downtown" before the "modern era" (post WWII). Therefore it never really had a downtown to bulldoze. Not like a Kansas City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Denver, Portland, etc... to name newer-ish (compared to the East coast) western US cities.

subterranean Jul 25, 2019 2:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The North One (Post 8636470)
What is lucky about this? Lucky you have next to zero surviving pre-war development to restore and that's lucky? Hooray for your sterile new autocentric podium hotels and apartment donuts, so lucky.

I think I'll still prefer a downtown Buffalo or a Cleveland that had a "carcass" to clean up.

You have seriously become one of the biggest trolls on SSP. It was a lot better here before you came around, and that is no exaggeration. Why don't you try adding something of value or substance instead of just pouncing on people and treating them like they're pieces of shit with your non-analysis shit-talking.

JManc Jul 25, 2019 4:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SunDevil (Post 8641174)
Let me just put out a few facts.

AZ became a state in 1912. In the 1920 census the entire state had 334,000 people. In 1950 it was about 750,000 people FOR THE STATE.

Phoenix was 107,000 people in 1950.

You would think people would know this. Especially on this forum.

subterranean Jul 25, 2019 4:26 PM

Not coincidentally the decade in-home air conditioning began to proliferate (50s).

Obadno Jul 25, 2019 4:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by subterranean (Post 8641460)
You have seriously become one of the biggest trolls on SSP. It was a lot better here before you came around, and that is no exaggeration. Why don't you try adding something of value or substance instead of just pouncing on people and treating them like they're pieces of shit with your non-analysis shit-talking.

They seem to have a big problem that time is what it is and some cities are not old.


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