Downtown Phoenix seeing continued economic growth

The city of Phoenix and the nonprofit organization Downtown Phoenix Partnership aim to transform downtown Phoenix into a vibrant city core through a $4 billion reinvestment project.

The project began in 2003 to promote economic development through marketing, event development, urban design and transportation coordination organized by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

Dan Klocke, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership's vice president of economic development, has worked with the city of Phoenix for nine years on the redevelopment project.

He said the partnership wants to add more residential buildings, community events and promote a walkable streetscape.

“We want to create an environment where people want to be,” Klocke said. “But like any downtown, it takes time, and we are a part of that process.”

Klocke said the downtown area is developing slowly because Phoenix is much newer than other urban areas, such as Chicago and Seattle.

“We are still a relatively young city,” Klocke said. “We have grown out instead of up and are essentially building from scratch.”

Klocke said 48 new restaurants have opened up downtown during the last four years, and business owners are rehabilitating older buildings into new business spaces.

The Downtown Phoenix Partnership is funded by an assessment of all property owners within the 90-square-block area of the Downtown Phoenix Business Improvement District, which ranges from 7th Street to 7th Avenue and McDowell Road to Jackson Street.

In 2004, the city of Phoenix formulated a 66-page document titled “Downtown Phoenix: A Strategic Vision and Blueprint for the Future.”

The document serves as a guideline for improvements of the downtown area through 2014. It calls for 600,000 square feet of more retail space, 10,000 new jobs, urban-oriented academic and biomedical campuses and a continued focus on the arts.

City of Phoenix Program Manager Jeremy Legg said they aim to bring businesses to downtown by keeping water and sewer costs down.

“For the past year, businesses downtown did not have water and sewer (cost) increases,” Legg said. “We have been able to hold that steady.”

Legg said the city is streamlining the process for business developers and contractors to obtain building permits through a self-certification program.

Once developers go through the program, they can bypass the lengthy permit application process, which should allow economic development to flourish faster, he said.

Legg said the city of Phoenix is anticipating the development of the Arizona Cancer Center at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, which is expected to be completed in 2015.

“The Arizona Cancer Center is expected to bring 60,000 new patients to the area and a half of a million visitors,” Legg said. “We are continuing to work on attracting businesses and people to our core.”

A major addition to the downtown core has been the $500 million CityScape retail building located on East Jefferson Street, which opened in April 2010.

Cityscape general manager Jeff Moloznik said the building was funded by 90 percent private capital sources and 10 percent public capital sources.

“Business at CityScape has been steadily building,” Moloznik said. “We have seen 30 percent annual sales growth and are currently at 96 percent occupancy.”

Moloznik said CityScape has drawn a combination of downtown event-goers, residents and workers.

“This year we have had over 2,000 people come skate on the ice rink in the first week of operation," he said.

The ice rink at CityScape is the Valley's largest outdoor temporary ice rink, which is in operation for the holiday season from the last week of November through the first week of January.

Moloznik said creativity, much of which is concentrated in Roosevelt Row, sets downtown Phoenix apart from downtown Tempe or Scottsdale.

“Things that can’t happen or won’t happen in other parts of the city happen naturally in downtown Phoenix,” Moloznik said. “It’s these things that lend themselves to the unpredictability that makes downtown life entertaining and inspirational.”


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Correction: Because of a reporting error, the incorrect cost of the reinvestment project was written as $4 million.

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