Downtown on Top: The Arts

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton takes a long view when it comes to developing Phoenix’s future.
“I think that our city is well on its way to being a leading city in this country and globe over the next decade or so,” he said.
But in order to make that happen, he said we need to attract major companies, entrepreneurs and millennials to the city.
And in order to make that happen, investing in the arts is essential.
“Never underestimate the importance of an investment in your arts community as it relates to the right kind of economic development,” he said.
When he tries to attract a new company to the city, he said, “It really matters whether or not they think you’re a cool place to live!”
Stanton told ABC15 that the city’s investments in light rail and education in downtown Phoenix are paying long term dividends. Click here to watch our interview with Stanton.
Stanton has tripled funding for the arts since he took office four years ago and celebrates the arts districts booming along Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Row.
But fifteen years ago, those communities were largely derelict.
That’s when Greg Esser moved here from Denver, Colorado looking for a community of artists with artist-run spaces, galleries and studios. But there was nothing like that here, he said.
So they started to build it. Artists displaced by the stadium construction downtown started moving to the buildings along Roosevelt Street.
And, soon enough, they started coordinating their gallery hours and marketing collectively with First Fridays, Third Thursdays and weekend art walks.
“From the very beginning, artists began working together and then drawing in other parts of the community,” he said.
Now, Roosevelt Row is a thriving neighborhood of artists, galleries and locally-owned businesses that’s created a walkable, tight-knit community downtown.
Like so many of those who have moved downtown in recent years, it’s full of people who are invested in the community and who want to build the kind of community that they want to live in.
“It really is that sense of place, that sense of ownership and that sense of wanting to create a more vibrant neighborhood that’s spurred, I think, most of the businesses that are in this area to establish here,” he said.
He knows the big infrastructure investments, like light rail and ASU and UofA’s campuses, were important to the redevelopment of downtown Phoenix. “But, it’s the arts and culture, I think, that make it a really memorable sense of place,” Esser said. 
And that sense of place is what he believes will continue to create a thriving center city as the Valley grows in – and not out. 
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