CityScape: Too Soon to Call it ShittyScape?

Categories: Laudig

​I left town for a whirlwind week back East -- unplugged from web, email, and social media -- and returned this weekend to big news I'd missed out on: that LGO Public House was pulling out of CityScape.

Stunning, yes. But surprising? I hate to say it, but I'm not surprised at all.

Almost exactly a year ago, La Grande Orange creator Bob Lynn told me of his plans to open a 3,000-square-foot modern chop house at the under-construction Downtown Phoenix mixed use complex. Since then, LGO has been key to much of the excitement about CityScape's restaurant lineup.

Who cares if the only dining options thus far in the now partially-completed (and, frankly, sadly deserted) development are two chains (Five Guys and Jimmy John's), a teeny-tiny, locally owned taco shop with hardly any seating (Vitamin T), and a bowling alley (Lucky Strike)? People haven't been complaining much because they've been holiding their breath for something bigger.

The promise of LGO's cool factor was enough to get CenPho locals interested in CityScape as more than just another mall. Imagine: a hip, homegrown place to eat and drink, sort of like the original LGO Grocery & Pizzeria in Arcadia, only with a nearby parking garage!

Although I dream about having a revitalized, kickass Downtown chock full of people, all kinds of interesting shops, great entertainment, and restaurants galore, I was skeptical about the prospects for CityScape -- and yet, the fact that LGO Public House was still on track gave me some hopeful rationalization that perhaps the best was yet to come.

Now, they say the restaurant isn't happening (at CityScape, anyway, unless they can make the concept work in a different space) because of engineering issues related to the kitchen ventilation. Somehow I think that's a convenient excuse to bail on a ship that's sinking before it's barely left the port.

In general, word is not out on CityScape. Or, perhaps, those who do know about it are shrugging with indifference, not showing up in droves to eat fast food and shop at CVS.

Anecdotally, I can tell that folks from other parts of the Valley aren't aware it exists (seriously, I've gotten quizzical looks from people in Tempe and Chandler), or maybe even confuse it with another attempt at instant urbanity, CityNorth.

There should've been a broad bombardment of publicity for CityScape, and the PR effort should be ongoing -- perhaps even relentless. I hate to say it, but the whole "if you build it, they will come" mentality is as outmoded as luxury condos and $60 steaks.

Just look at the scant pedestrian traffic. CityScape looms like a fortress between Washington and Jefferson. Much like the Arizona Center -- an earlier era's failed hope for Downtown revitalization, along with The Mercado (read this article from 21 years ago and experience revitalization deja vu) -- its design doesn't have many storefronts at the street level. You drive by and there's nothing to catch your eye, to draw you in.

Last time I stopped by Urban Outfitters, one of the few places that does open up to the street (and not that plaza inside the complex), I was literally the only shopper in the whole damn establishment. On a Friday. On payday. In the downtown of America's fifth largest city. At a time when you'd think somebody else might be looking for a cheap party frock or some lipgloss.

Alas.

Now, at the top of my to-do list: finding out whether Oakville Grocery will ever materialize here. Considering that its sister biz at the Scottsdale Quarter closed last month, I'll believe it when I see it.

And when will the other planned restaurants be opening? Nobody involved with CityScape has promoted any of those spots. Chow Bella gets hundreds of thousands of hits a month and it's no secret that I dig restaurant news, so you'd think they'd keep yours truly apprised of the progress -- still, the only news that's trickled out of the fortress is a mass email newsletter with few specifics. Imagine how little info must reach the average dude on the street who isn't a restaurant reporter.

Last week, in my absence, Amy Silverman poked fun of the comical schedule of events promoting the imminent debut of the Arrogant Butcher, restaurateur Sam Fox's new eatery that's about to open at CityScape. There are ten different VIP dinners, cocktail parties, "power lunches" and happy hour events previewing the place for everyone from the D-Backs to the State Bar.

It's so over-the-top, it's truly funny -- the biggest PR push I've seen for any restaurant in ages.

And yet, it's also revealing about what an uphill battle it will be for a 7,500-square-foot restaurant to have a chance in hell at surviving in Downtown. The Fox camp, bless 'em, really does need to promote this place as furiously as possible.

Yeah, I'm laughing -- if only to keep from crying.

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15 comments
Foofster
Foofster

Just like the Scottsdale Quarter, this place is terrible. Perhaps we should change the motto "Build it and they will come" to "Build it well, and they will come". Nobody want to go to yet another poorly designed, poorly thought out development.

Dave Murrow
Dave Murrow

Perhaps momentum will build over the spring at CityScape, and go into overdrive when the 5-day MLB AllStar Fanfest and game come to town in July...?

Cgallus
Cgallus

As a downtown dweller, I'm still holding out hope. Hit pieces like this one do nothing to help the project nor the future of downtown in general.

Pete Petrisko
Pete Petrisko

Perhaps CityScape can be rescued from financial doom if it's plastered outside with insanely huge LED (Light Emitting Diode) signage, marketing local restaurants and other attractions within its hidden interior.

I suggest these LED signs be extra-bright and about five times larger than your standard freeway billboard.

Or would doing something like that just smack of desperation?

Jeff Moriarty
Jeff Moriarty

Sadly, this seems spot on. Every contact I've had with CityScape gives me the impression they are so proud of themselves they are simply waiting for the torrent of people to arrive. But nobody knows they are there, and even driving by doesn't help explain what's inside that big fortress. I'm just glad LGO got out before they got dragged under.

Loosecannonsbluesband
Loosecannonsbluesband

The problem is that one has to step over people who have obviously had too much fun and have either pissed or shit on themselves. What downtown needs is a good manufacturing facility to employ the thousand or so homeless. Perhaps we could get Goodwill to open a sorting and repair recycling facility in one of the downtown warehouses. Those things could employee 2-3 hundred homeless and get them some much needed mulah - mulah they could spend eating out at Vitamin T?

tdhurst
tdhurst

People have been calling it ShittyScape since it opened. @khamish started that one.

BenBethel
BenBethel

If we only spent $0.25 of every $1 on cityscape to build apartments downtown, we'd have $225M to build about 6,500 extra apartments downtown, with an average of 1.5 people per apartment, that's close to 9,750 extra people downtown... that would help support more than a few restaurants and shops...

Oh, and if the city would simply give away the rental fee for the convention center from 6/1 to 9/30, we'd have about 10,000 people per day out there supporting restaurants/shops/etc when those businesses are having their most trying times. and now that they're tearing down the LA convention center for a new football stadium, there's a lot of conventions that need to be relocated that had already booked LA. We could easily snatch comicon and e3 and a few other conventions from other cities in a heartbeat... the money would be made back in sales tax revenues and hotel bed tax revenues in no time flat... why won't the city support this?

vic
vic

That's part of the problem as I see it. It is a wasted effort to try to be L.A. Phoenix is Not L.A., never will be L.A. and should not want to be L.A.Phoenix should be unique and it is surprising that better plans have neversurfaced.

Heather Lauer
Heather Lauer

There's truly no better setting for a restaurant with "arrogant" in its name.

Apstrougo
Apstrougo

As ready and willing as I am (and have been) to throw CityScape under the bus, I still hold out hope... simply because I'd rather see it work than think we just lost another three-block area in downtown.

If you're going to do a huge development, face the street, people. Otherwise it's a hole in the urban fabric. You might as well build a underground shuttle that brings people in straight to the plaza from the suburbs, to spend their money, and get whisked right back to their living rooms. No contribution to the life of downtown at all.

And, City of Phoenix, can we put an end to these giant projects? Mixed use is NO substitute to the natural diversity that grows out of several smaller-scale densely organized projects. LGO would probably have no problem adding ventilation to their own building if there wasn't a friggin skyscraper on top of it...

julie
julie

Wow, I so agree. City Scape is dull on an architectural level, a retail level and in any sense of an artistic/community way. I wasn't a fan of the park that existed there earlier (really, red brick and no trees in the Valley of the Sun?), but the City managed to take a valuable piece of real estate and and turn it into a run of the mill strip mall. There was a larger sense of community in the old park with daytime workers and the homeless at least. What a waste of time and money.

I own a restaurant in downtown Phoenix and we are committed to being open 7 days a week until 9pm and it's worked out for us. We've been open 2.5 years and are doing well. But, I know what it takes to make it work, and it's a lot of hard work and patience. I also know that you can't bite off more than you can chew and you must have something people want and when they want it. A CVS and an Oakville Grocery are not it. It's absolutely awful

David Bickford
David Bickford

I feel that in many ways CityScape and its restaurants have been overhyped, not under publicized. CityScape should be viewed as just another office complex rather than as the salvation of Downtown. Unfortunately everyone from the mayor on down has chosen to make the project sound like a game changer, leading to expectations that cannot match the reality of the project's mediocre design and the challenging economy.

What's most important is not to use the terms "Downtown" and "CityScape" synonymously. There's plenty going on with Downtown dining, but it's not in subsidized big projects, but instead in adaptations of historic buildings

Guest
Guest

I knew this place was destined for failure when I discovered the Jimmy John's closes at 7 p.m. during the week and is closed on Sundays. I guess they are happy continuing the tradition of rolling up the sidewalks at quittin' time for the office workers.

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