December 22, 2010

“Yes Virginia, there is community in Phoenix”

by: Jim McPherson


Today’s post is by Jim McPherson, a dedicated and revered community leader here in Phoenix…

A few months ago at Hob Nobs Coffee House I chatted with Russ Haan of After Hours Creative about the “ups and downs,” “twists and turns,” and “progress and pitfalls” of getting projects off the ground in downtown Phoenix.  In our conversation we rattled off a dozen or so, but later I got to thinking, “How many projects are we talking about?”

Before I go any further, let me define “projects.”  It’s those “fine grain” projects, initiatives, events, and activities organized by individuals and groups that care deeply about their community and work hard to promote and enhance the place they call home.  (Yes Virginia, that would mean Phoenix.)

With pencil and paper in hand (No Virginia, I don’t have an iPad), I jotted down everything I could think of.  I didn’t dwell on whether something was concrete or pie-in-the-sky, or who initiated it.  After three sheets of single-spaced scribbles, I called it quits.  My writing hand hurt.

I had come up with 94, and that’s not even including the seasons of professional sports teams; seasons of arts organizations large and small; neighborhood and block watch meetings; events (like parades and festivals) revolving around major holidays or cultural groups; or the work of individuals, businesses, non-profits, and government agencies to fix up and make more inviting their own spaces.

My list is not definitive, of course.  I’m certain you can add to the list. That would be great, by the way.

So my point is (Yes Virginia, I’m getting to the point), there are plenty of opportunities for anyone who wants to offer up their time, talent, and commitment to build a better community.  Granted, there may be political hurdles and fiscal roadblocks to get some of these things done — or even halfway achieved — since we’re still in the midst of the Great Recession you know.  But it’s the striving that’s important otherwise, We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight.”*

Let’s review my list with handy links included.  It’s divvied up into categories of my own making rather than a straight alpha-sort.  You may want to plop one or more items into a different or new category, and that’s fine.  The most important thing is that the list is down on paper (on Taz’s blog right now and in the near future at Downtown Phoenix Journal in a cool, wiki format).

Improving Our Physical Space

Numerous projects are underway to improve our downtown’s physical space, and many seek volunteers or public feedback: Adaptive Reuse Program, Adopt a Light Rail Station, Adopt a Park, Brownfields and the Arts Phoenix, Calle 16 Mural Project, Canalscape, Central Station Revitalization, Community Gardens, Desert TULIP (temporary infill), Discovery Triangle, Dojo Collective, Downtown Phoenix Public Market, First Baptist Church Housing & Public Utility Park, Graffiti Busters, Grand Avenue Rail Project (GARP), Greater Phoenix Cohousing, Green Art Park, Maryvale on the Move, Margaret T. Hance Park Redo, Rio Salado, Roosevelt Grow Garden, Urban Form Project, and Washington Street/Centennial Way improvements.

Building Community

Many community-building activities bring out lots of people each and every week, monthly, or simply once a year.  Check these out and mark your calendar: Art Detour, CityScape Entertainment & Events, Civic Space Park Concerts & Movies, Day for Downtown Community Service Project, Critical Mass Bicycling Ride (Facebook), Devoured Phoenix, First Friday Artwalk, Dine Around, Grand Avenue Festival, Melrose on 7th Street Fair, Mile Club Challenge Downtown Walk, Night Rail, Park(ing) Day, Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts, Phoenix Phoestival (Facebook), Phoenix Retro Spectacular (Facebook), Pub Crawl, Third Friday, and Urban Wine Walk.

Hidden Phoenix

Whether you’re new to the Valley, a native, or something in-between, you can always learn something new about Phoenix.  Some helpful guides include: 26 Blocks, Arts/Culture Along Light Rail Map,, Cenpho.TV, Downtown Phoenix Journal, Downtown Phoenix Partnership Ambassadors, Light Rail Blog, Most EnDangered Dozen List, Public Art Map, Radio Phoenix, State of Downtown Address, Vanishing Phoenix, Welcome Back Students (Facebook), and You Are Here Guide.

Touring the City

A great way to learn more about downtown and adjacent neighborhoods is to get out and walk.  Take a walking tour of… Coronado, Downtown, Encanto-Palmcroft, F.Q. Story, Grand Avenue, Jane’s Walk, Midtown Museum District, Modern Phoenix, Sunnyslope, Willo, and Windsor Square.  You can even receive a free tour map of Phoenix’s historic neighborhoods, created entirely by volunteers with the Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition, by sending an email.

Meet and Greet

You can meet new people who share your interests or catch up with friends at one of the community-focused “meet-ups” sponsored by various individuals and groups: Buzzcation, CenPhoCamp, Creative Connect, Downtown Phoenix Book Club (Facebook), Downtown Voices Coalition, Get Your PHX (Facebook), Ignite Phoenix, Pecha Kucha, Phoenix Community Alliance “Buzz” meetings, Phoenix Design Week, Places/Spaces/Faces Community Dinner (Facebook), Radiate Phoenix, Rogue Green, or TEDx Phoenix.

Shop Till You Drop

With a few more shopping days until Christmas in the back of my mind, here are a couple of ways that locals can shop locally: ASU Sun Card, Community Supported Market Card, Independents Week, Metro Max Card, and Phoenix Small Wonders.

More Good Stuff, Yet Webless

The following projects also included on my list of 94 unfortunately don’t have a web presence, but hopefully will one day (hint, hint!): Downtown Phoenix Dog Park, East McDowell Revitalization Project, Historic McDowell Now, Matador Façade Upgrade, Mid-Century Commercial Building book, PHX BUX, South Phoenix Between the 7’s, SWAT Team (Exterior Fix-Up), Urban Infill Working Group, UrbanLab, and Wrap Your Night event/dining walking map.  If you’re interested in learning more about any of these, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with folks involved.

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong.  They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.  They do not believe except [what] they see.”*

Well, 113 years later and 2,420 miles to the southwest, there is more to see of central Phoenix — as a community — than meets the skeptical eye. Hopefully this list will spur you on to get engaged in an existing project or encourage you to initiate something that fills a hole or strikes new territory.  And if you live or work outside of central Phoenix — in another council district or city across the Valley — I’m sure you can get out your own pencil and paper and create a similar list.  I, and I know many others, would enjoy reading it too.


* Source: Francis Pharcellus Church of the New York Sun who responded to eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon’s famous question, Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?,” Newseum, Washington, D.C.  Note that Virginia’s home at 115 W. 95th St. in New York City still stands.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Be Sociable, Share!
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. Kara Roschi says:

    Thanks for this list! Great resources!

    I gotta say, despite all the pessimistic/cynical/skeptical complaints I hear about Phoenix— I’m never bored. There are so many different events going on in town, so many networking and community building opportunities (as listed above), and so many projects to jump on board with, that if you’re bored– you’re asleep at the wheel.

    That being said, not every initiative has the means (or wants to designate that significant a chunk of their budget) to smack me in the face with its presence like a Coke ad– so I actively try to stay informed and research what’s going on in the community. Spread the word about these organizations. Connect my interests and passions with associated projects already underway.

    Keep up the informative blogs, guys! Thanks, Blooming Rock, for hosting these sorts of discussions!

  2. […] Bah Humbug!  I feel awful.  Earlier today I uploaded a rather cheery post to Taz Looman’s Blooming Rock blog about many of the wonderful community building projects that […]

  3. Janet Waibel says:

    Great Blog – there are so many opportunities to enjoy downtown and to improve it! Get on board with getting involved – if something isn’t done well to make downtown better – and more livable please let you voice be heard!

  4. beatrice moore says:

    Thanks to Jim Mc for being so engaged and finding out about all these things and keeping track of them. The curiosity and sharing of all these resources is wonderful (even if I don’t believe in Santa Claus). And thanks Taz for keeping the home fires burning.

  5. Ken Clark says:

    Thank you, Jim. We are what we make it and I know we will make it better all the time!

  6. […] week in my post, “Yes Virginia, there is community in Phoenix,” I listed 94 “fine grain” place-based projects carried out each and every day by […]

  7. This list is now over 120. While some have been removed for a variety of reasons, numerous others have been added.

Post a Comment