We're being talked about...
CityScape foes are a frustrating, silly group
Doug McEarchen, Arizona Republic
Feb. 25, 2007 12:00 AM
I don't believe I've ever seen Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon at the end of his rope before.
But there he was . . . legs metaphorically dangling and eyes literally rolling.
Gordon, in a meeting on the downtown CityScape development project, was exasperated. At wits' end.
He was fighting his instincts, which tell him to take citizen concerns seriously, no matter how preposterous they may sound. But the opposition to CityScape - well organized, armed with Web sites and lapel buttons and bereft of reason - finally found his limits. Fighting CityScape to keep that brickyard abomination called Patriots Square intact was just too much.
No Phoenix issue is more perfectly suited to exasperate even the most patient among us than the fight over the downtown CityScape project.
The fact that it has gotten the necessary green lights is almost beside the point. The Phoenix Parks Board (which has the final say over disposition of the city's parks, even faux parks like Patriots) voted 5-2 on Thursday evening to approve the $900 million CityScape design.
The ultimate outcome was a given. It would have been just too insane for any responsible board to side with the dissenters and say no. The exhausting process to get to Thursday's decision, however, should not have been a given. It should not be this difficult for the inner core of a city the size of Phoenix to gain this kind of value.
The message that the CityScape debate has sent to developers curious about investing in downtown Phoenix? Either arrive with limitless patience and the resources to buck weeks or months of frustrating delay or go scrape the desert, instead.
Really, nothing better explains the absurdity of egalitarianism gone mad than the resistance to CityScape, the greatest infusion of private investment into downtown Phoenix ever.
Nothing better explains why developers prefer scraping clean the desert periphery in the suburbs than enduring the torture of instantly organized activists opposed to virtually every infill project in the already developed urban core.
It is the perfect juxtaposition of something very good - that being a huge infusion of private investment into a region that has seen nothing like it in almost 30 years - with something really wretched, which is Patriots Square.
The debate reached its nadir when opponents extended their reservations beyond the usual "sop to developers" language, an argument that under more-reasonable circumstances can have great merit.
Yes, the city has spent enormous sums, haplessly, to make Patriots Square a viable, attractive place. If that investment had not produced a baking brickyard on top and a scary, concrete rainforest of a parking garage below, the investment argument would have a lot more substance to it.
The opposition did not stop there. On various Internet blogs (and, indeed, in the numerous earlier public forums), the opponents argued that CityScape's design is just too suburban for them.
I'm not entirely sure what this means, other than demonstrating that people do enjoy pretending to be urban designers and architects.
But the discussion got silliest when it came to the most fundamental discussion of all: the question of private property vs. public property. And, really, that is the heart of the debate.
Time and again, opponents have argued against the essential nature of CityScape, a project on three square downtown Phoenix blocks, including one square block that is Patriots Square. Oppo-leader Alex Votichenko expressed it best earlier this month at a public hearing on the project's design: "What I see here is not a public park. I see taxpayer-funded landscaping."
Well, no. There's a bit more than that. Like the promise of downtown life. But since development opponents are so fervent in their hostility to the idea of people making money from these deals, they would just as soon keep the forbidding brickyard as it is, thank you very much.