Tempe Rising: The Landlocked College Town Explodes with New Development -- as Planned

Categories: Around Arizona

tempe-rising-cover-550w.jpg
Illustration: Chris Gash
Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the bestsellers Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse, is surrounded by a few academics and fans at a wine-and-cheese reception on the north patio of Tempe Center for the Arts.

It's November 5, the weather's gorgeous, and the dark blue of twilight reflects off the shimmering surface of Tempe Town Lake, which dominates the view.

Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California-Los Angeles, looks every bit the eccentric, brilliant former field researcher that he is, sporting his trademark beard with no mustache and wearing a robin-red suit jacket. He's here to talk about his new book, The World Until Yesterday, which describes his work with Papua New Guinea natives and ponders what modern people in developed areas can learn from primitive societies.

The talk and book-signing event, sponsored by Changing Hands Bookstore and Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability, is so popular that it must be held at the large arts center -- prices started at $25 a head (book included). His books explain masterfully the accidents of geography that led to the dominance of Western societies and how the failure to create sustainable environments leads to sometimes-rapid declines. A reporter works his way to the professor for a handshake and question: What does he think about the long-term prospects of the Phoenix metro area?

"I'd better not say. I haven't researched the history of the place," he says, declining the question with a thin smile. "But . . ."

He turns away for a second, holding out an arm to sweep the view of manmade Town Lake. "What is that doing there?"

A few people chuckle uncomfortably as Diamond smiles at his quip. It's unclear whether he realizes he's made a social faux pas at the expense of his hosts. As he walks away to chat with others who want to meet him, the ASU faculty members who heard the exchange suggest, in hushed voices, that the esteemed professor didn't know what he was talking about.

Tempe Town Lake is a source of pride for ASU. The idea for it sprang in 1966 from the minds of ASU students, who were asked by then-dean of the architecture school, James Elmore, to think of ways to rehabilitate the dry scar of a riverbed that runs through most of Central Phoenix and its eastern suburbs.

Water in the riverbed, arguably, isn't an example of wasteful water policy -- it's the restoration of the natural order of things.

Water ran year-round through the Valley of the Sun in the Salt River until the 1940s, when canal improvements dried up the last trickles. The main flow had been stanched decades earlier with the construction of upstream dams that tamed the river, capturing water for use through years of drought and nearly eliminating the threat of damaging floods. In the process, dozens of miles of tree-lined riparian habitat running across the Phoenix area were destroyed.

When Town Lake was filled 15 years ago this summer, a two-mile section of the sad-looking, trash-ridden, dry riverbed became something like the pleasant place it used to be many decades earlier.

And it's been a money magnet.

About $1.5 billion in lakeside development either has been built or is on the way, city officials boast. The economic feedback to the city has been about $578 million, enabling it to build structures like the Center for the Arts, which opened in 2007.
Professor, that's what Town Lake is doing there.



Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
16 comments
tonyhostboycl
tonyhostboycl

The article you have shared here very awesome. I really like and appreciated your work. I read deeply your article, the points you have mentioned in this article are useful. I must try to follow these points and also share others. http://www.yepionline.org

exiledarizona
exiledarizona

Just because things are being "built" does not automatically equal some sort of positive progress. Massive, square glass office buildings look like total shit. It's always a constant battle in Tempe with the city wanting to just build anything and the residents putting up resistance when they attempt stupid shit. Like for instance, blowing up A Mountain. The concept that USA Place is a good idea is just ridiculous, what will actually be there other than offices? What happens during the next economic downturn when those offices just sit there empty?


It makes our city, the only place in Phoenix that isn't a large beacon for the worst things about the United States of America become less and less unique. And with that loss comes shitty people that have the ability to ruin the party. Remember, there was a serious suggestion to build a multi-lane freeway right through the center of Manhattan at one point. Politicians are fucking stupid and developers don't give a shit about much other than revenue and land grabs. 


I am down with affordable multi unit residential buildings that go up instead of vertical. This office bullshit is in direct conflict with making Tempe safer for pedestrians. I say fuck it, put University down to one lane. 

thomasloleary
thomasloleary

ᴊᴜsᴛ ᴀs Cɪɴᴅʏ ʀᴇᴘʟɪᴇᴅ I ᴀᴍ sʜᴏᴄᴋᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴀɴʏʙᴏᴅʏ ᴀʙʟᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴍᴀᴋᴇ $9163 ɪɴ 4 ᴡᴇᴇᴋs ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ɪɴᴛᴇʀɴᴇᴛ . ʙʀᴏᴡsᴇ ᴀʀᴏᴜɴᴅ ᴛʜɪs sɪᴛᴇ 



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> WWW.Jℴbs75.ℂOM

thomasloleary
thomasloleary

ᴊᴜsᴛ ᴀs Cɪɴᴅʏ ʀᴇᴘʟɪᴇᴅ I ᴀᴍ sʜᴏᴄᴋᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴀɴʏʙᴏᴅʏ ᴀʙʟᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴍᴀᴋᴇ $9163 ɪɴ 4 ᴡᴇᴇᴋs ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ɪɴᴛᴇʀɴᴇᴛ . ʙʀᴏᴡsᴇ ᴀʀᴏᴜɴᴅ ᴛʜɪs sɪᴛᴇ 



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> WWW.Jℴbs75.ℂOM

james8394
james8394

When I met my wife, some 30 years ago, she had a shop on 7th street a half block off Mill. She was a member of Mill Ave Merchants Assoc and juried the, then small, Art Fair. Last time I was over there, the building was still there, one of the few remaining from that long ago. Rundle's Liquors was on Mill & University, (S.W corner), and Restaurant Mexico was next to that. There was a biker bar across the street from her shop. My point is that there was a community there. I now find Mill Ave to be, essentially a city run liquor mall filled with soulless chain restaurants. And the rents have gotten so high even Changing Hands had to move. I don't want to sound like a "get off my lawn" old fart, I know things have to change, but I'm not convinced Mill is better now than then. Also, it seems all you have to do to get a booth at the art fair is pay the fee because there is some real dreck being displayed there now.  

Yeeeeeehawwww
Yeeeeeehawwww

New Times, you always give too much credit to Phoenix - suggesting that Phoenix is some bastion of alternative culture. The reality is and has always been that Tempe is where alternative culture is in the valley. Tucson is even more liberal and caters to alt. lifestyles more than Phoenix. But you probably haven't been there. Roosevelt Row is some old shithole with a handful of generic businesses scattered amongst disgusting vacant lots all modeled off places in hipper cities all owned by wannabes. Grand Avenue is a bit more interesting - although still essentially a ghost town of vacant buildings with unused fluorescent green bike lanes and stupid pocket parks - all of which appears to have been thrown together overnight- which Tempe has had in its Maple-Ash and Farmer neighborhoods for yeeaarrrrssss. The people who write these articles are transplants with zero objectivity and absolutely no perception of reality. You people live in brand new condos a couple light rail stops up from New Times HQ and never leave downtown/midtown except to go to the airport to visit family in the hickville that you came from. "RoRo"? "Arts district"? Give me a break. Remember, Phoenix is the capitol of one of the most backwards redneck wastelands in N. America. It has that reputation. Tempe is known nationally as being liberal, hip, cool, etc. - change your tone. Tempe deserves the credit that you hold back and always find a way to throw towards Phoenix. What is even in Phoenix that's not in Tempe or Scottsdale besides Crescent Ballroom and a couple restaurants?

afdhm
afdhm

@Yeeeeeehawwww He is correct, This is just a blip in the Phoenix wanting to be cool model. This town lost that category years ago. Until you have a SXSW or ACL, it is just a old folks haven.

Yeeeeeehawwww
Yeeeeeehawwww

Sorry that the galleries here don't exist in an ASU drop-out's rented rehabbed ex-crack house in roosevelt row. Tempe's cost of living is higher than Phoenix's - the second highest in the valley after Scottsdale - because Tempe is the only normality in the valley on the socio-political front, there are things to do here within a close vicinity. Valley Metro operates at a higher frequency in Tempe than anywhere else in the valley. We are the most densely populated and smart-growth-oriented city in Arizona, because you know we live in a fucking desert. But all you give a shit about is food trucks and art galleries. Wow, such substance. When you do grow up, you'll laugh at the trends that you idiots are following - although in this case, these trends are old and the arts district thing has already been well-established and gentrified in every other city. Whatever. Also, Tempe has 5 record stores - 1 of which is a collective of different vendors which of course creates an insanely diverse selection that none of your Phoenix places can compete with. We also have venues such as 51west, yucca tap room, marquee, sail inn, and don't forget the old places like the clubhouse, club red, long wong's. But yep, Tempe is a suburb.. I honestly don't remember the last time I went to downtown Phoenix to do something and then just ended up wondering why I came to a vacant boring slat of concrete with no storefronts. Walked through CityScape and thought "oh this is that shit NewTimes always brags about" - I then walked back to the light rail station. Next time I go to Phoenix will be for Boris at Crescent Ballroom. Hopefully it's the last time I'll have to come as well.

Yeeeeeehawwww
Yeeeeeehawwww

Tempe has 160,000 people - Phoenix has 1.4 million. You have a handful of art galleries - half of which exist in rented rehabbed ex-crack houses. Tempe has an art museum and center for the arts and a few small galleries. We do have food trucks scattered around the city any day of the week. Phoenix has food trucks that appear for 1 Friday evening every 31 days - a lot of which come from the east valley. Scottsdale has more galleries than Phoenix.. I think it's great that Grand and Roosevelt are gaining steam, but the reality is that these changes happening this late in the game after places like Brooklyn, Portland, SF, Austin, Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago, LA, Boston etc have already made a name for themselves and contributed to alternative culture in America for the last oh idk - 30 years - is annoying. Hell, even Albuquerque is hipper than Phoenix - but you wouldn't know that because you've never exited off I-40 passing through. Phoenix doesn't even have a natural foods coop! Tempe used to and now has a small privately owned natural foods grocery store in its place. It all feels completely fake as if Phoenix youth have been tortured by city officials and forced to create some tacky copycat bullshit in order to attract gentrification and federal grant money to build that pointless streetcar to the capitol building that Tempe and Tucson-copying streetcar to the capitol.. I mean, really.. How many people at First Fridays aren't white yuppies? How do those encroaching condos look across that vacant lot from the kitchen of your shitty rehabbed crack house "gallery" in the "arts district"? Any sustainability in Phoenix? Any tax-surplus-funded 5-line FREE bus system that runs consistently on time every 15-30 minutes? Any real chance at attracting development and filling those vacant lots with something other than senior housing in RoRo? Is Phoenix's population density the highest of any city in Arizona? No? Well, Tempe's is. My point in commenting is that Village Voice's New Times only talks about other cities in the valley as if they're suburbs to Phoenix and are completely dependent on Phoenix. Well, this article is a half-admittance of New Times being wrong for all these years, but it's not enough. Tempe doesn't need or want Phoenix like you all seem to think. Your 550-square mile retirement community with it's pocket of playgrounds for wannabes in Roosevelt Row can go piss off into oblivion. If I only cared about pissing on a canvas, calling it art and drinking PBR and debating on going to my class at ASU downtown because I'm too lazy daydreaming about living in Williamsburg, maybe then I would live there too.

Yeeeeeehawwww
Yeeeeeehawwww

There are more galleries In Scottsdale than there are in Phoenix. Roosevelt Row and Grand are "up and coming" and are already well on their way to being gentrified. How are all those new condos looking from y

james8394
james8394

@Yeeeeeehawwww Is this just Tempe civic pride or do you really get off on dissing PHX? If it's the former, you should think about toning it down a bit. If it's the latter, you should think about getting help before you have an exploding blood vessel in your brain. Overall, the article was, while not especially probing, pretty complementary to Tempe. I don't get the hostility. 

Now Trending

Phoenix Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...