For reasonable people, it only makes sense that ASU, one of the largest universities in the country, would have considerable influence on the neighborhoods and districts surrounding it. It makes sense that Mill Avenue would mostly reflect the interests of the tens of thousands of students living and studying in the area. Most people would not consider that a bad thing, but simply a natural occurrence.
The city of Tempe, on the other hand, considers a college town a nuisance; something that needs to evolve; something that needs to grow up.
Downtown Tempe presented its new logo Wednesday night at the State of Downtown Tempe address, signifying the end of Mill Avenue District and the beginning of ‘DT.’
In the words of the minds behind Tempe Rising:
“Rising from its college town roots and stereotype as a post-adolescence playground, Downtown Tempe is about to graduate.”
Did anyone else cringe just reading that? We sure did.
Tempe has decided that Mill Avenue District too strongly connected to a college atmosphere and has instead opted for a marketing campaign that hijacks our historic landmark’s name and replaces it with Downtown Tempe.
And it’s certainly not just the name change that irks us.
Tempe officials tout this as an exciting change toward attracting new businesses and young professionals and creating a higher-end lifestyle. Most instances of gentrification are justified like that, praising the economic growth and development of an area, and we can definitely expect that from this campaign. But gentrification of an area means only bad things for its lower-income residents — and most college students fit into that group. This new focus on attracting higher-end clientele and residents most likely means higher rent for both homes and apartments in the areas surrounding ASU.
Aside from potentially harming our wallets, Tempe would have us believe that Mill Avenue’s diverse establishments are just too dingy and plebeian. It would implore us to make like "Rugrats" and be "All Grown Up."
Tempe may be marketing itself as striving to be more inclusive, but isn’t there something inherently divisive about paving the way for establishments that most students are not wealthy enough to frequent?
Mill Avenue is a welcoming place as it is, and all of this change comes at the risk of alienating the people who have made Mill Avenue such a historic place: ASU students.
Are city officials trying to make Tempe into an attractive place post-graduation in order to prevent local brain drain? For some, it already is a place worth considering, but those who are not swayed will not be convinced by the contrived yuppie paradise Tempe is promoting.
In all truth, the worst thing about this whole movement is how plastic it is. Let Mill Avenue be what it is. Tempe officials shouldn’t force a certain culture on us just because it is more "mature" and "refined." Culture flourishes when it is left to its own devices, not when city officials propagate it.
There is nothing wrong with college towns, and there is nothing wrong with Mill Avenue. This is a rebranding that does not need to happen.
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