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Opinion: Renaming Downtown residence hall cements legacy of local leaders

Taylor Place's new name rightfully honors the mayor who believed in its potential

Gordon Commons signage is pictured on Monday, April 17, 2023 on the Downtown Phoenix campus

Taylor Place, the first residence hall built on the Downtown campus, was renamed last Friday to Gordon Commons.

Though the name seems more reminiscent of ivy-covered bricks than Downtown's humble lodgings, Gordon Commons honors a man who quietly but earnestly served his community. 

Honoring former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon's legacy downtown rightfully gives credit to local leaders and serves as a reminder that good public service, no matter the scale, should be recognized.

As is the case with many local officials, Gordon's name doesn't immediately spring to mind when thinking of influential civic leaders. This is despite the fact that our local leaders are the ones contributing the most to our daily lives. Gordon, for example, constructed a college environment by investing in Downtown Phoenix. 

"Part of the reason Phoenix has been so successful as a city is we've had the right elected officials at the right time," said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego in a speech at the renaming ceremony. "The fact that so many community leaders are here today to celebrate Phil Gordon really shows what a difference he has made."

READ MORE: Taylor Place residential hall in downtown Phoenix renamed Gordon Commons

Gordon's administration poured $1 billion into developing downtown's infrastructure — $223 million of which went toward the development of the Downtown Phoenix campus. The now iconic deal scribbled across a napkin between ASU President Michael Crow and Gordon bloomed into the vibrant cityscape we know today, bustling with businesses and bursting at the seams with young people.

"(Gordon) wanted to make certain that the democracy was more successful going forward, wanted to make certain that the world was being moved forward in a positive direction, wanted to make certain that the city could be better and more beautiful than it was given to him," Crow said in a speech at the renaming ceremony.

It's significant that Taylor Place was renamed and not another building. It was one of the first buildings constructed on the Downtown campus as part of Crow and Gordon's plan. Since its completion in 2009, the residence hall has been a home away from home, students' first taste of life on their own within a new community. 

"It's where we all found ourselves after leaving the nest for the first time in our lives, a bunch of wide-eyed young strangers brought together by our selected majors," said Evan Lis, president of Undergraduate Student Government Downtown, in his speech at the renaming ceremony. "However, it was within the walls of TP, now Gordon Commons, that we discovered that we weren't really all on our own here. In fact, far from it." 

The residence hall isn't only stamped by fond collegiate nostalgia. It's perfectly situated to help students follow in Gordon's footsteps. 

"(Gordon Commons) not only facilitates their ability to be successful but also develops their love and passion for the Phoenix community," Christiana Sletten, the University's Director for Residential Life, said in her speech at the renaming ceremony. 

Higher education institutions typically name buildings after wealthy donors and influential alumni. Money buys immortality, persisting in recognition even when its possessor is gone. By choosing to name a place that holds such significance to students after Gordon, ASU pays its dues in a profound and sincere way to a figure who did so much for the downtown community. 

The University didn't have to rename Taylor Place, a years-old residence hall with an established presence. Arguably, renaming it seemed unproductive and illogical. 

Yet, it was simply the right thing to do, ensuring that the legacy of a civil servant wouldn't be forgotten. We tend to look at political history in an overly macroscopic way, often skipping over the smaller players that paved the literal road under our feet. Renaming Taylor Place doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s those tributes building over time that make the difference.

Even if it’s as simple as knocking down President Zachary Taylor's name in order to make room for Mayor Gordon's. 

Edited by Kate Duffy, Reagan Priest and Caera Learmonth.

Reach the columnist at and follow @miaosmonbekov on Twitter.

Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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