Most Walkable neighborhoods near Downtown Phoenix

Phoenix is widely regarded as a car-dependent city.
So it might surprise you to learn that several of our neighborhoods are rated as ‘Very Walkable’ (or close to it) by a company that rates neighborhoods according to how friendly they are to pedestrian life.

A Seattle-based company called Walk Score (acquired by Redfin in 2014) has been rating neighborhoods in America on the basis of how ‘walkable’ they are since 2007. Walk Score takes several factors into consideration when determining their score. Points are awarded based upon the proximity of various amenities like grocery stores, shops, and restaurants to a given address.

Based on this data, Walk Score calculates a score for each address between 0-100, where a 100 represents a perfect Utopia of walkability and a 0 indicates areas where pedestrians are hunted down and eliminated in a real-life version of 1975’s ‘Death Race 2000’; well not really, but you get the picture. A Walk Score over 50 is considered “somewhat walkable”, meaning some errands don’t require a car. A score over 70 is considered “very walkable”, indicating most errands can be accomplished on foot, and 90+ is a “Walker’s Paradise” where car-free living is a real possibility.

With these tiers in mind, Phoenix has only three neighborhoods that qualify as ‘very walkable’ – Downtown, Booker T. Washington, and Eastlake Park. An additional 8 neighborhoods are within 5 points of making that grade. Phoenix has an overall Walk Score of 41 and is unsurprisingly designated as a “car-dependent city”. While Walk Score doesn’t take all walkability-affecting factors into account, notably excluding sidewalk quality & design safety, shade, and crime, it’s currently the only available metric that attempts to quantify the pedestrian-friendliness of an area or an address. Without further ado, here are the 5-(ish?) most walkable neighborhoods near downtown Phoenix:

Downtown (84)
McDowell to Lincoln, between the 7’s
Population: 7813

Downtown is sort of a given, since downtowns generally form the core of any urban area. In Phoenix’s case, Walk Score and Google’s definition of ‘Downtown’ actually encompasses several neighborhoods which have formed (or are forming) their own distinctive identities, including Downtown Core, Evans Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Warehouse District. All of these neighborhoods enjoy great access to local shops and restaurants, and the Downtown Core will be getting a Fry’s Grocery store by the end of next year. In addition, being anywhere within this neighborhood puts you within walking distance of the Light Rail, which takes you to East to Mesa and Tempe, or North toward Christown and (eventually) MetroCenter.

Booker T. Washington (74) & Eastlake Park (72)
Van Buren to Jackson, 7th to 16th St.
Combined Population: 2206

Booker T. Washington and Eastlake Park are mentioned here together because they are essentially the same neighborhood. Both areas share a rich history as Phoenix’s traditionally black neighborhoods. They hosted several civil rights rallies during the Jim Crow era, including ones hosted by Martin Luther King Jr as well as the neighborhood’s namesake, Booker T. Washington. Phoenix’s fist all-black elementary school still stands at 1201 E. Jefferson Street and serves as the headquarters for The Phoenix New Times newspaper. Finally, Eastlake Park, which is Phoenix’s oldest city park, sits near the geographic center of this community. Both neighborhoods also share great access to the Light Rail, which runs Eastbound along Jefferson street and Westbound on Washington street.
 

Governmental Mall (69)
Fillmore to Jackson, 7th Ave to 19th Ave.
Population: 3613

The Governmental Mall neighborhood consists of the area immediately West of the Downtown Core. As its name would suggest, it encompasses dozens of State offices and buildings including the Arizona State Capitol building and Supreme Court. Almost all of its actual residential inhabitants live in a cone extending North and West from the triple intersection of Van Buren, Grand Avenue, and 7th Avenue. This close-in section of Grand Avenue earns the neighborhood the balance of its walkability points and has seen a recent resurgence as an arts and small business district. This historic district is home to the Tuft and Needle mattress company, Thirdspace Coffee, the Grand Avenue Pizza Company, and several other small businesses. The area also hosts University Park, a large municipal park with a public pool and baseball field.
 

Garfield (69) and Coronado (68)
Garfield: Van Buren to I-10, 7th St to 16th St.
Coronado: I-10 to Sheridan, 7th St to 16th St.
Combined population: 10,184

These two neighborhoods once formed the center of a booming “streetcar suburb” of Phoenix. Built mainly during the early 20th century, both of these historic neighborhoods housed mainly working-class families and were well-served by Phoenix’s streetcar system (the evidence of which almost seems to have been systematically eradicated, save for a small museum on Grand Ave). Houses contained a diverse mix of architectural styles including English Cottage, Craftsman, and Spanish colonial. These neighborhoods thrived throughout the 1940’s and were complete with small businesses, a grocery store, and a pharmacy. 
 
Unfortunately, both communities started to fall on hard times after 1947, when the Phoenix Streetcar system suffered a catastrophic fire that destroyed several of the trolleys as they were sitting in the streetcar barn at 13th Street and Van Buren. The I-10 freeway came through in the mid sixties and dealt another severe blow to the area by splitting these once-contiguous neighborhoods in two. By then, the suburb builders had moved on along with most of the middle-class population. The homes started to fall into disrepair until the mid 2000’s, when a city and community-backed neighborhood revitalization effort began to breathe new life into the area. Today, the neighborhood is thriving once again as many of the homes are renovated and restored to their former glory and the area is again served by a rebuilt streetcar system in the modern Light Rail. Many of the new residents are younger millennials, and current and former college students attending the campuses downtown.
 
 

Development in the areas near downtown Phoenix is moving along at a very brisk pace, and the walkability scores for each of these neighborhoods can be expected to improve steadily. Phoenix has designated most of these areas as Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) districts and implemented a Walkable Urban Code among them as well. These codes were specifically intended to encourage walking and biking through mixed-use and transit-oriented development, as well as relaxed parking requirements, among other things. The codes arrived through a 2012 effort called Reinvent PHX, which was undertaken to improve Phoenix’s competitiveness among other urban areas for both population and business. In the years since, Phoenix’s downtown has surged in vitality and is on track to continue its rapid transformation into a true urban core we can all be proud of.

Project Profile: Collier Center Tower

Overview

  • Project Name: Residence at Collier Center
  • Location: NW Corner of 3rd Street & Jefferson (201 E. Washington St.)
  • Type: Mixed-Use
  • Status: Proposed Construction (Expected commencement Q1 2019)
  • Expected Completion: Q4, 2020
  • Last Update: 6-Nov-2018
  • Developer: Hines
  • Builder: ?
  • Design: SmithGroup

Project Details

    • 25 story tower
    • 379 Condominiums including 125 2-bed units, 179 1-bed units, and 75 studio apartments
    • 2,800 square foot fitness center, Community Kitchen, elevated courtyard with pool and private seating, firepits
    • 10,000 square feet of existing office space will be renovated
    • 5700 square feet of retail space will be added

Additional Concept Rendering:

Project Profile: Cambria Hotel

Overview

  • Project Name: Cambria Hotel
  • Location: 222 E. Portland Street, Phoenix, AZ
  • Type: Hotel
  • Status: Under Construction
  • Expected Completion: Late 2019
  • Last Update: 26-Oct-2018
  • Developer: True North Studio
  • Builder: UEB Builders

Project Details

  • 127-room luxury hotel
  • This will be the third Cambria Hotel in Phoenix
  • Located in the Evans Churchill Neighborhood
  • Amenities to include:
    • Spa-style bathrooms
    • Fitness center
    • Onsite dining with specialty beers and cocktails
    • Rooftop pool and bar
    • Multi-function meeting space
  • Project Webcam: https://ueb.net/webcam47.html

Project Profile: Kenect Phoenix

Overview

  • Project Name: Kenect
  • Location: 355 N. Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ
  • Type: Mixed-Use (Residential/Retail)
  • Status: Under Construction
  • Expected Completion: Fall 2019
  • Last Update: 26-Oct-2018
  • Developer: Akara Partners
  • Builder: UEB Builders

Project Details

  • 23 Stories (285 feet est.)
  • 320 Residential Units (Studio to 3-bed)
  • 8,000 Square Ft. Ground Floor Retail
  • Amenities to include a fitness center as well as a rooftop deck with a swimming pool, fire pits, and grill area.

Project Profile: Phoenix Central Station

Overview

  • Project Name: Phoenix Central Station
  • Location: 300 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ
  • Type: Multi-Use
  • Status: Proposed
  • Expected Completion: March 2023
  • Last Update: 18-Oct-2018

Project Details

  • 300 Market-Rate Residential Units
  • 150-room Hotel
  • 217 Student housing units with a 600-student capacity
  • 35,350 square feet of office space
  • 47,350 square feed of ground-floor retail/restaurant space
  • 3 structures: 300′, 200′, ~50′

Phoenix awards Central Station RFP to Houston-based developer

The City of Phoenix has awarded the 2018 Central Station RFP to Electric Red Ventures LLC,  a subsidiary of Houston-based Medistar Corp. The RFP was issued in June this year to solicit proposals to redevelop the 2.6-acre bus & light rail transit center located on the Northwest corner of Central & Van Buren.

Phoenix has been looking to redevelop the Central Station for several years. A previous proposal to revamp the site was awarded to Chicago-based Smithfield Properties in 2014, however the deal fell apart owner Bill Smith passed away. The Smithfield proposal had envisioned a single 34-story project for the site at the cost of $72m.

Above: 2014 rendering of the original Smithfield plan

The new proposal features three structures including two high-rise towers with rooftop terraces. The first tower will be about 300 feet in height and will house 300 market-rate residential units along with a 150-room hotel. The second tower, about 200 feet tall, will consist of 217 student-housing units with a capacity of 600 students. An early rendering obtained by the Phoenix Business Journal also shows a third structure roughly 50 feet tall; the plan calls for 35,350 square feet of office space which is likely to be housed in this building. Additionally, the proposal includes 47,350 square feet of ground-floor restaurant/retail space.

Central to the City’s RFP was that the existing transit center be included into the project. The rendering shows how the proposed facility will be flanked on the East and the West sides by the Metro Light Rail, with bus access on the North side along an upgraded Polk St.

The proposal must still be approved by the City council and is subject to design review by the City’s Historic Preservation Office due to its proximity to the old Board of Education building. If everything goes right, the project should be completed around March 2023.

Mesa featured in NYT’s ‘A Map of every building in America’

It’s always nice to see Arizona featured positively in the national news.

The New York Times published today a detailed map of the United States filters out everything except human structures. The authors compiled the map from a massive data trove from Microsoft that outlines buildings only. The resulting interactive map is a fantastic illustration of urban density throughout America. In each city, you can see the level of layout planning – or the lack thereof. You can also see the clear East-West transition from free-flowing networks of communities that fill the map to relatively isolated towns and cities with clear boundaries; caused by high levels of federal land ownership in the Western States. This line runs roughly north from San Antonio Texas.

The article highlights certain areas of the United States and their design, including the fingerprint-esque tracings of civilization through the hills of Appalachia, the French-influenced communities of New Orleans, the angled street blocks of Washington D.C., and the suburbs of Mesa. It notes specifically how much of America consists of suburbs, but notes in Mesa that the layout of these suburbs is designed to decrease speed and praises them for the creativity in their layouts.



Image Credit: The New York Times, 2018

Overall, the article is pretty free of judgment as to which layouts are better or worse, or whether planned cities are better than unplanned ones. The beauty of the map lies in its diversity and the way it shows how these layouts are influenced by geography, culture, history, and government – and it’s outright fascinating.

Go take a look! 

Crane Alert: Application submitted for 200 Monroe project

The developer of the project at 200 W. Monroe has filed an application to erect a 340-foot tower crane. The crane is to go up in March 2019 and come down by September 2020.

Overview
Study (ASN): 2018-AWP-14797-OE
Prior Study:
Status: Work In Progress
Received Date: 09/17/2018
Entered Date: 09/17/2018
Map: View Map
Construction Info Structure Summary
Notice Of: CONSTR
Duration: TEMP    (Months: 18    Days: 0)
Work Schedule: 03/01/2019  to  09/01/2020
Structure Type: Crane
Structure Name: 200 W Monroe Construction Crane
FCC Number:
Structure Details Height and Elevation
Latitude (NAD 83): 33° 27′ 03.69″ N
Longitude (NAD 83): 112° 04′ 37.59″ W
Datum: NAD 83
City: Phoenix
State: AZ
Nearest County: Maricopa
Proposed
Site Elevation:
1085
Structure Height:
340
Total Height (AMSL):
1425

 

 

About the Light Rail

I had the good fortune recently to attend both City Council meetings regarding the Light rail projects around town. The first of which focused solely on the South Central extension and whether it is to be two or four lanes. I was impressed and heartened by the amount of people who came out to participate in the discussion. I was  especially surprised to see so much support for the light rail extension, since so much of the media coverage leading up to the meeting  had focused on the ‘4 Lanes or No Train’ opposition group.

I took off work early to attend the meeting and filled out a card to request to speak, but had to leave before my turn arrived.

There are a few quick takeaways from this meeting:

1. By the time I arrived home, the City Council approved the 2-lane configuration 6 to 2. (Yay!)

2To construct the light rail in the 4-lane configuration would have required another environmental assessment and would have sent Phoenix to the back of the line in terms of priority for funding from the federal government. In so many words- 4 lanes meant no train.

3. There was a lot of support for the light rail in the 2-lane configuration.

4. Councilman Sal Diciccio ‘will never support light rail’, according to his words.

The Second Meeting

During the second meeting, a controversial project in Kierland mostly took the spotlight, and the Council deferred the Light Rail discussion to the very end, perhaps anticipating more people than actually arrived. I got to speak at this meeting as one of maybe three people who showed up to defend future light rail projects in the city.

This meeting left me wondering where all the allies went. The council eventually voted to kill off the Northeast/Paradise Valley or at least delay it indefinitely. They also indicated they might stick the Camelback extension on the shelf as well due to Glendale’s decision against building their light rail leg, which would’ve connected to the rest of the system around 43rd Avenue and Camelback. Luckily, the Metrocenter, South Central, and Capitol/I-10 extensions are still a go.

I learned a couple more things at this meeting, namely that Waring and Diciccio seem more concerned with how people currently get around as opposed to how they could get around if you simply gave them more options. It’s a position that feels more than a little short-sighted.

Why Phoenix needs Light Rail

The post-WWII years were very kind to Phoenix; millions of Americans moved from farms and cities to live in what became a seemingly endless suburbia, egged on by developers eager to convert wilderness into easily profitable streets of neatly-arranged single family homes. During this rapid outward growth, houses spring like weeds with little concern about building real neighborhood cores, walkability, or bike-friendliness. City planners worshiped at the altar of wide roads and ample parking.  Our culture changed as a result of this process; a driver’s license and a car became a symbol of freedom.

Fast forward to today, and cities are contending with choking traffic, vehicle-borne pollution, identity-deprived neighborhoods, and bloated road maintenance budgets. It turns out that the 2-car garage and white picket fence hasn’t made us happier or healthier – just the opposite, in fact. Americans now commute over an hour total each day, are generally overweight, and spend a full fifth of their income on transportation. We’re ready for a change.

There is a solution, and it can be found downtown.

America sits on a bit of a demographic precipice. Baby Boomers and Millennials alike are revealing a strong preference for walkable, transit-oriented, urban living, and there are 150 million of us. This preference is the driving force behind the unprecedented boom currently being observed in America’s downtown areas. I could throw a bunch of numbers at you (and I might, later) but suffice it to say that the evidence isn’t hard to come by.

Phoenix must become a competitor for the kind of people who are moving in droves from suburbia to places like Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Washington D.C., and others. These cities have invested in mass transit and walkability, and are reaping the benefits in spades.

These cities are attracting young, well-educated, entrepreneurs and professionals looking to start careers in big cities with the big city lifestyles they saw on TV growing up. On the flipside, these same cities are also attracting retiring baby boomers looking to leave their empty nests for places that offer more community and less maintenance.

Phoenix, reborn.

What Phoenix needs is to reinvent itself, much like the legendary bird after which the city takes its name. The thesis is this: In the face of skyrocketing demand for walkable urban living combined with the accompanying crash in demand for suburban living, Phoenix must choose whether to be a city people come to, or a city people leave.

It’s really up to us.

 

Project Profile: 201 Van Buren

Overview

  • Project Name: ?
  • Location:  SW corner of Van Buren and 2nd Avenue (201 W. Van Buren)
  • Type: Mixed-Use
  • Status: Proposed Construction
  • Expected Completion: ?
  • Last Update: 05-Nov-2018
  • Developer: PMG
  • Builder: ?
  • Design Contractor: Kimley-Horn & Associates

Project Details

201 W. Van Buren is a yet-unbranded 2-phase residential project by Chicago-based PMG group under an updated GPLET development contract with the City of Phoenix.

The project will consist of 2 towers approximately 275 ft. tall, each containing about 300 residential units and 20,000 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail. Between them, the agreement also calls for 1000 parking spaces indended to to serve the nearby Orpheum Theater, along with various other improvements.

Note: The current rendering was done for the previous design. An updated one is not yet available.

Quick Facts

  • 2x 275′ towers
  • 600 Total Residential Units
  • 40,000 sq. ft Retail/Office
  • 1000 Parking spaces

New developer,  New design

The agreement is an revised version of one that Phoenix entered into in 2012 with Chicago-based Golub Corporation. Unfortunately Golub was never able to execute on that project due the Great Recession. They have transferred the property to another Chicago developer, Property Markets Group (PMG), to move forward with it.

The original agreement outlined a single high-rise tower with 300,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, 650 parking spots, and ground-floor retail.

To move forward with the conveyance of the property to the new developer, the City of Phoenix proposed new terms.

The changes reflect the updated priorities and market reality in the years since 2012. Commercial space is drastically reduced to 40,000 sq. ft., replaced instead with 600 residential units. Parking is slightly increased, with Phoenix wanting to provide parking for events at the nearby Orpheum theatre. The agreement also carries forward the original GPLET agreement, which was negotiated prior to the 2018 update by Arizona’s legislature that restricted the program’s use after it generated a lawsuit related to another project.

A booming downtown

Downtown has become a hotbed of growth since the end of the Great Recession, adding over 3500 residential units since 2010, with another 5100 in development. Even still, the projected increase is not likely to keep pace with demand. Phoenix ranks 5th nationally in fastest-growing rents, rising 4.4% since 2017, more than twice the national average of 2%. (Data from DTPHX and RentCafe)

The growth is driven in parts by improved economics, the metro light rail, ASU Downtown, and the emerging preferences of Millennials and Baby Boomers alike for a more urban, walkable style of living.

The new agreement calls for construction to begin within 24 months, with an allowance for an additional 12 months if PMG needs it.

Update 11/5/2018 – Post updated to include the design firm and to reflect the address found on design & permit documents.