Last week I went to the Cezanne exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum with my friend Sue Weil.  We planned to eat dinner at Cheuvront’s beforehand, stop at Giant for coffee and dessert, then head over to the museum, all without a car.  This is a perfect example of a walkable node in our city.  We were able to make a nice evening out of this little spot in Phoenix without having to drive to every destination.

This walkable node was hand-stitched by me and Sue because we’re in the know that both Cheuvront’s and Giant are within walking distance of the museum. However, this connection is not super apparent to the casual observer yet.  So what we have is a start, the bare bones of a walkable node.  To make this node truly come to life, we need more shops, more restaurants, more coffee shops and bars to connect to each other on the way to the major destination in the area, in this case the Phoenix Art Museum.  And they can’t be connected by a car either, they need to be connected in a way that is walkable.

Another possible urban connection in the area is with the Burton Barr Library and Giant Coffee.  It’s conceivable that someone could park at the library, or take the light rail there, borrow a few books, walk down to Giant and peruse them over a good cup of coffee.  And if that person is anything like me, it would seem natural to saunter over to Bunky Boutique to try on some great local fashions.  This multiple destination experience sans a car is what will bring life to our urban core.

You might be able to tell that I think Giant Coffee is a crux point in the area.  It’s a place to hang out, a place of rest, a place to contemplate and enjoy yourself.  One thing I noticed about hanging out at Giant is the great view to the museum.  Having frequented the coffee shop several times a week for the past few weeks, this view of the museum has seeped into my subconscious.  This may sound a little presumptive, but being able to see the Phoenix Art Museum on a regular basis like that, due to my propensity to hang out at Giant, has encouraged me to frequent the museum.  This visual connectivity between one place and another is more important than we think in fostering the urban experience.

Next time you’re planning an evening out, I urge you to find and stitch key destinations into an urban experience.  Right now, it’s still a difficult thing to do, something you have to plan and think about ahead of time, but the more we cultivate these urban experiences, and show that yes, we Phoenicians are craving walkability and connectivity, the more they will crop up all around us.  Until soon, we’ll be leaving our cars at a park and ride and bringing people and life to the streets of Phoenix.

What are some other walkable nodes in the city?  Leave me a comment and let me know and I’ll write about them!

Photo Credit:  A photo of Giant Coffee and Bunky Boutique from across first street. Photo by Taz Loomans.

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8 Responses

  1. Great post. The intersection of McDowell & Central hides some of its best attractions, but they’re worth seeking out. Along with Cheuvront and Giant, there’s the Blue Fin and Thai Hut. Any of those four establishments combine well with a trip to Burton Barr or PAM. A little to the west, there’s also Easley’s Fun Shop, Hob Nobs, and My Florist Cafe.

    Arriving via light rail or bus makes it easier to enjoy these clusters because it eliminates the awkwardness of parking in one business’ parking lot and then not being sure if it’s possible to walk over to another business without having the car towed. If the car is left at home or in a park-and-ride, then mobility can actually be increased when one is not tethered to a 3000-lbs. object that must often be moved from one parking lot to another.

    Other candidates (beyond the obvious like Roosevelt Row and Mill Avenue):

    The area around Central and Camelback combines unique shops with interesting coffee houses and restaurants

    Downtown Mesa — some good restaurants and coffee houses are within walking distance of the Arizona Museum of Natural History, the Arizona Museum for Youth, and the Mesa Art Center

  2. bloomingrock says:

    David, I agree, arriving via public transportation is the best option, that way it’s easy to walk within one cluster, then take the lightrail to another walkable cluster.

    The lightrail then, becomes the great connector of walkable clusters, a fantastic model.

  3. Donna Reiner says:

    Don’t forget that there is a cafe in the library now which provides another spot for a quick snack and free wi-fi.

  4. bloomingrock says:

    Right Donna, I think the idea of the cafe in the library is great. I found the colors and interior design a bit uncomfortable though. I much prefer Giant to the library cafe at this point. But as you say, there’s plenty of room for both. Hope the library cafe gets a revamp though.

  5. ALthough I live near 12th Street and McDowell – I have been know to drive to Burton Barr Library to park and ride the light rail into downtown (just three stops)for dinner and a live music concert, attend a play or the symphony. A visit to Symphony Hall can be coupled with an evenng cocktail at Hanny’s very easily!

    It saves money and hassle – a round trip ticket on Light Rail is less then event parking, I get a chance to wonerd around downtown and getting out of the city after an event is a breeze!

  6. Leslie Guiley says:

    I live near Christown and have been enjoying the walkability of this neighborhood! It is not a place to go for an evening out but I often walk to do errands as nearly all family necessities can be found between Target, Costco, Walgreens and the mall. No, there isn’t any high end shopping, but my son and I can often be seen pulling our household supplies home in his wagon. We walk to the Yucca library, the park, the YMCA and even the Harkins Theater. We do need a decent restuarant in the area but fun dining & cultural experiences are just a light rail ride away and that’s walkable too!

    • bloomingrock says:

      Leslie, that’s great! I didn’t think of Christown as a walkable neighborhood, but now that you mention it, it makes sense. It’s SO nice to have amenities like the grocery store and pharmacy within walking distance. Plus being connected to the arts district via light rail is awesome too. Sounds like you have it made in Christown.

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