This is something DT Phoenix should get into
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 10, 2006 12:00 AM
Much of the attention on downtown's $2 billion worth of new development has focused on large-scale projects like the Scottsdale Waterfront, Optima Camelview condos and the W Hotel.
But nightclub entrepreneur Randy Smith has turned his attention to the smaller scale of alleys, the city's forgotten and neglected urban spaces.
Smith has approached Scottsdale officials about allowing him to spruce up the alley behind his Stetson Drive nightclub called 6.
It would provide a comfortable patio for the club and at least two adjacent bars.
Patrons could enjoy the patio's hideaway ambience, decorative lighting and landscaping.
The city's director of downtown, John Little, welcomes the idea as part of Scottsdale's efforts to make downtown more walkable.
But, first, Scottsdale must find a 21st-century solution for hauling trash from the bars. The current method of using metal trash bins creates odors that would hurt Smith's proposal.
Smith wants to add a patio with decorative lighting along what now is a stark, asphalt drive with unsightly trash bins.
City officials are open to the idea.
But the metal bins are a fly in the ointment.
'Little too chic'
"I'm into urban chicness, but a big, stinky garbage container - that's a little too chic," Smith said.
Scottsdale is looking at its alleys as spots for hideaway shops and interesting nooks that visitors can discover.
It is part of an effort to make the increasingly urban core of downtown Scottsdale pedestrian-friendly.
Elsewhere, an alley renaissance is emerging in places like Seattle; San Francisco; Vancouver, British Columbia; and even downtown Flagstaff, where business owners have embraced their backdoor customers.
Little is enthusiastic about Smith's proposal and sees other opportunities for similar alley improvements downtown. But there are hurdles.
The alley overhaul hinges on finding a new way to handle trash rather than letting it rot in metal bins.
Scottsdale wants to explore a solution pioneered by a Seattle-based company called CleanScapes, which operates in the Northwest and San Francisco.
CleanScapes picks up trash in leakproof plastic bags several times a day from its customers, eliminating the need for metal bins.
New collection method
Scottsdale is considering a pilot program that would use a similar collection method with a golf-cart truck hauling the refuse to a large bin elsewhere for removal to a landfill.
It is a method that could also eliminate noisy trucks from slamming trash bins outside downtown condominiums early in the morning.
Another roadblock is getting adjacent business owners to cooperate with an alley makeover.
Andy Meyer, owner of DJ's of Scottsdale, said he is all for Smith's idea of using the alley behind 6 and the other bars in the 7300 block of Stetson Drive.
The alley abuts the Galleria Corporate Center parking garage.
"It would be nothing but a plus for everybody," Meyer said, adding that he would use the space behind his 32-year-old bar, as well.
He is skeptical, however, that Scottsdale will go along with Smith's proposal.
"If the city would do that, I would be shocked to death," Meyer said.
Little said Smith's alley proposal is "just the kernel of an idea, but it's a dang good kernel."
Scottsdale would have to work out a license agreement and rental rate for using the public alley behind 6.
Smith, who operates another downtown bar, Mickey's Hangover, said 6 would use collapsible barriers to give ambulances access to the alley in an emergency.
Most deliveries could continue to use the front doors of the businesses, he added.
The nightclub 6 currently uses its back door as a VIP entrance, but Smith's Bottomline Hospitality Group wants to provide a comfortable patio for the club with a stamped-concrete or brick deck.
The front half of the building could then be turned into a 63-seat American bistro.
"This would activate an urban space" and create the kind of discoverable place that would be memorable to tourists, Smith said.
It would be much like the Kazimierz World Wine Bar behind the Cowboy Ciao restaurant at Stetson Drive and Sixth Avenue.
Like a speakeasy, the wine bar, tucked in a courtyard, is only marked by a cryptic sign that reads: "The truth is inside."
Smith, who is working on opening two other restaurants, said he is eager to try a pilot program in the alley behind 6. But the city has not yet fully vetted his idea so he has to be patient.
"It can be a huge positive for the city," Smith said.
"It's a whole new way of thinking about these types of spaces."