This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Return to human scale in downtown Phoenix


I finally got to walk around CityScape in downtown Phoenix yesterday. It covers two blocks, with a second story skyway between them, from 1st Street to 1st Avenue. The skyway crosses Central Avenue. I'll try to get back there and take more photos, maybe on a Sunday when there aren't so many people around. Taking photos when people are walking by is a creepy thing to do, and although I'm interested in the architecture, it doesn't look like that. Personally, I prefer that people not take photos where there are a lot of people, and so I try to follow my own advice.

And that's the whole point! People! Lots of them, walking around. CityScape has created something that didn't exist when I worked downtown in the '90s, human scale. Safe places to walk. Well, I nearly got creamed by someone on a bicycle, but it's certainly safer than I remember.

Since I collect old photos of Phoenix, a lot of people mistakenly believe that I'm wishing for the "good old days", and that I hate modern architecture. Not true. I like looking at the old photos because I see a time when there were people, not just buildings, parking lots and cars.

Don't get me wrong, I love cars. But once Phoenix started redesigning itself around them, in the 1920s, it created a city that, by the time I saw it, had no room for people. The downtown Phoenix that I walked around in in the '90s was a place with empty sidewalks, except for the strange combination of groups of corporate people walking to a downtown restaurant, hoping that they wouldn't see any, uh, unsociable behavior along the way. Yes, there were people passed out on the sidewalk, and, uh, relieving themselves on the walls. I walked around downtown Phoenix back in those days, all by myself, a full-grown man of about number one size, and it still made me nervous. People asked me why I did it, and I said I liked looking at the buildings. In my imagination I could see a city with people walking around, and I wondered what had gone wrong?

I don't get downtown much these days, but when I do I'm just bouncing around from excitement. There are people there! And that's the Phoenix that I see in the old photos, and that's the Phoenix of the future. How about that?

Image at the top of this post: Looking south at the Luhrs Building from inside of CityScape in January of 2017.


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