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May 01, 2009


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The Echelman art installation could have been a game changer downtown. It needed to be vivid, kinetic and beautiful. It could have been a major wow but what we got was something less than that. It's still good but it's just one more missed opportunity for our lifeless downtown.

Still, the park is a big advance. It took one of the most forlorn stretches on Central and, together with ASU, has dressed it up nicely. If the ASU campus knits together around it, something good is bound to happen.

The major opportunity that remains is the old Westward Ho Hotel just north of the park. It's a fabulous building that's been allowed to devolve into a virtual homeless shelter. It needs to be brought back into the public sphere, either as a boutique hotel or an ASU usage. It has wonderful bones and huge potential in its old restaurant and club spaces. It's currently under contract with HUD for low-income housing but it's not too soon to begin plotting its comeback.

The Ho, together with a Hotel Monroe (a casualty of the Mortgages, Ltd implosion) would go a long way to establishing a downtown pedestrian corridor. Right now, there's really no reason to wonder around downtown since it's mostly dead zones, inert government buildings and behemoth parking garages.

This being Phoenix, I'm not hopeful. But the good news is that there are a couple of wonderful old buildings we didn't tear down. We're alert to their beauty and functionality. The preservationist movement is strong and vocal. All that remains to be done is finding the resolve to take them - and downtown - to another level.

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