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: 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.

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! 

laMadeleine at Luhrs Tower to open Aug 15th

A new restaurant is coming to the Luhrs Tower at 1st Avenue and Jefferson. laMadeleine French Bakery and Cafe will open its 3rd Valley location on August 15th, according to several restaurant and construction workers I spoke with.

The Dallas, Texas-based chain has been in business since 1983 and has 86 locations throughout the U.S, including 54 in its home state.

The restaurant opening is a positive signal for the historic Luhrs City Center, which has struggled to attract and maintain tennants ever since the construction of the Metro Light Rail. The only other active storefront is Serafina Coffee Roasters; a Subway restaurant in the complex closed earlier this year as the result to a corporate revitalization effort.

The restaurant will bring additional walkability back to the what has been for years a fairly desolate stretch of sidewalk.

Developer buys Sing High property

Sing High Chop Suey House, a very long-running restaurant located at 1st Avenue and Madison St, will close its doors after nearly 90 years in business on September 30th; the result of the recent sale of the land the restaurant sits upon.

Sing High has been serving Cantonese-style Chinese food in Phoenix since 1928, and has something of a polarizing experience – downtowners tend to either adore by the place, or avoid it completely.

The New Owner

A quick trip over to the Maricopa County Assessor website revealed the site’s new owner: Madison 27, LLC. The principal registered agent listed for Madison 27 is Rajan Hansji of the Hansji Group, which recently finished construction of the $80M Courtyard Marriott hotel just across the street.

The Marriott Project unfortunately required the demolition of the 100-year old Industrial Congress Building, also called the Luhrs Central Building.

Above: The Industrial Congress Building, built in 1914, now demolished. Below: The Luhrs City Center Marriott, completed in 2016.

The Sing High property will be exciting to watch in the coming months. Absent a community effort, however, the building that housed the restaurant is likely to meet the same end as its ill-fated neighbor.

The Luhrs City Center Marriott is admittedly boring from an architectural perspective, and missed an opportunity to honor the neo-classical and art-deco styles of its immediate neighbors. If we must lose the Sing High building, it would be nice to see something more interesting go up in its place.

Inaugural post

Phoenix is rising in many ways. Like the mythical bird after which the city is named, Phoenix is rising from the ashes of the 2008 financial crisis that struck the Arizona economy with particular force.

Downtown Phoenix now is well underway with an increasingly rapid transformation into a livable, walkable city core. Gone are the days when nary a soul remained in the area after 6pm; bars, restaurants, and other small businesses now dot the central corridor and hum well into the night. We’ve seen an explosion in the construction of mid-rise living, driven in parts by both the light rail and by the changing preferences of Millennials and Baby Boomers alike for a more urban, cosmopolitan style of living.

The increase in density has brought increases in culture, neighborhood identity and, of course, building height. Several neighborhoods around the downtown area have formed their own identities: Melrose, Roosevelt, Encanto, Coronado, Garfield, South Central, Downtown; and several high-rise projects are either planned or already under construction.

All this activity begs to be documented, encouraged in its positive aspects, and submitted for discussion.

This blog will, to the best of its ability, document and track infill projects in and around Downtown Phoenix, follow news related to walkability and transit, and provide commentary and a platform for discussion among those who take an interest in these subjects.

I bring you Phoenix Rising.