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

Why old buildings aren't saved in Phoenix, Arizona


If you've ever asked asked why old buildings aren't saved in Phoenix, or in any city, you may be misunderstanding how all this works. Because buildings are expensive things, that perform a function. And if for some reason that function goes away, the building has lost its value. That is, its monetary value. And that means that it's no longer valuable to whoever wants to put it to use.

I collect old photos of Phoenix and post them on the web and often people will comment that a particular building "should have been saved". And I agree, but I also know that a building can't be saved just to put velvet ropes around it so we can all sit back and look at it. That would be a pretty expensive piece of public art - and cities have a lot of other demands on the money that they have to spend, such as paying for police, or fire departments, among others.

What I like to see is called "repurposing". The most common repurpose of an old building is to make it into a restaurant. Because there's a lot of money to be made in that, especially if a liquor license is included, it can be worthwhile for investors to put their money into refurbishing an old building. There are a lot of people who like to eat, and drink, in buildings with character, and style. And old buildings can supply that, just take a look at the number of wonderfully repurposed buildings in downtown Phoenix nowadays.

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And, just to keep the record straight, yes there are people who have deep enough pockets that they can save buildings. Yes, whole buildings. I know some of these people, and no, I'm not going to tell you who they are. They're the same kind of people who give to support museums, who endow the arts. Yeah, they're a little kooky, but I love them.

If you yourself are one of those people with a spare million or two sitting around, I encourage you to save a building, or two, or three. If you think I'm kidding here, I'm not. People make a difference based on what they can do. It's all about doing something for the city you love, whether it's volunteering somewhere, or writing a check so big that it takes two people to carry it.

So if you're genuinely puzzled about how all of this works, I hope this has helped a bit. Old buildings can be saved, and so can old cars, it just takes money, and people who believe in their value. Speaking for myself, I'd rather have my tax money go to pay higher wages for teachers, or hire more police officers, I don't see it the responsibility of government to save buildings.

For myself, I invest my time and spread the word about the value of saving old buildings. I collect old photos and share them for free as much as I can on the web. I'd like someone to see an old building in Phoenix which is now in disrepair, looking the way it did back in the day and say, "that would make a cool nightclub, I think I'll invest in it, restore it, and save it". It's happened before, and it'll happen again.

Image at the top of this post: Flying over Phoenix, Arizona in 1976

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