As you may have noticed, much of my writing is done on historic preservation, but I am also very motivated by new building developments in the downtown area as well. Personally, the kind of Phoenix I want to live in is one that is steeped in life and culture; one that embraces our desert landscape, but is not defined or dictated by it. I don’t want to settle for “Well, it’s hot…we might as well stay inside or get out of town”. I want to find ways to work with it without having to create an environment that is more wasteful than it is helpful. I want to be able to enjoy Phoenix all year round, yes, even in August, and I understand that attaining that might mean finding many indoor activities, but I’m just one voice.
In an attempt to get people thinking about what kind of Phoenix THEY wanted to be living in I set out to do some market research, Guerrilla style. I wanted to ask five, non-guided questions – at random – to people in the Downtown Phoenix, Tempe, and Central Phoenix areas.
- What kind of Phoenix do YOU want to live in?
- Where is the best place to live/work/play in Phoenix?
- What does Phoenix need?
- How do you beat the heat?
- What city do you want Phoenix to be compared to?
Unfortunately, what I found was an overwhelming sense of disregard for what Phoenix is trying to accomplish. Most people didn’t even know there are resources like the Downtown Voices Coalition, Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition, or other writers/bloggers like Yuri Artibise (whose blog I read regularly and highly recommend). Even ASU has the Downtown Devils to inform the student community of all things CenPho. It just kind of blows my mind that no one seems to care. We live here! Work here! We raise our kids here (even four legged children count!) Shouldn’t we care what our city is, or says, or does?!
I set out to not only learn, but to motivate others to think about who we are, what we need, and what we can do to achieve it, but was throughly rebuffed. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it was the fact that I was randomly talking to strangers (not my strongest suit by any means), or maybe it was that people really don’t care…all I know is that I was totally unsatisfied with the results. Though after a few days of fuming, I started to wonder how much of this failure is my fault? In truth? All of it.
In a communications class I took in the early years of my undergrad, we talked about motivating group members. We discussed asking compelling questions, uncovering group members interests and incorporating those interests (and talents) into group processes, and active listening. To anyone that knows me, you know I suffer from an almost debilitating case of “If I don’t do it myself, it’s not done right”. It’s been devastating in the past, and I truly believe that my recent experience is symptomatic of a flare up.
Relying on others to give me the answers that I wanted was never going to work. Thus, I was so focused on the information I was NOT getting, that I forgot to actively listen to the information I WAS given. People, THE PEOPLE, want a Phoenix that is different from what it is now = innovation. They want a cooler place to play and work, and live = working with our climate and combating it at the same time. They want a “cooler” place to play, and work, and live = embrace and cultivate the local arts scene. They want New York and Los Angeles = more people downtown, shopping that faces out to the street, walkability, and accessibility. And most importantly, they want to be able to afford it = affordable housing, retail, entertainment, transportation. That’s why this Saturday, March 12, at 9:30am, I will be at the Roosevelt Commons Clubhouse for the monthly Downtown Voices Coalition meeting to learn more about specific issues, their feasibility, and all the red tape that goes along with urban planning.
To everyone that took a second look at me and responded, regardless of how sarcastic your answers were, thank you. To those of you who gave me serious, sentimental, answers, your input is invaluable. And to everyone reading this, I hope that you all think about what kind of Phoenix you want to live in, whether you have it now or not. The desert may be “uninhabitable” to some, but…“According to aerodynamic laws, the bumblebee cannot fly. Its body weight is not the right proportion to its wingspan. Ignoring these laws, the bee flies anyway.” — M. Sainte-Lague