Phoenix: Light rail boosts uptown’s economic revival


From the Light Rail Now folks.

There has been a lot of nay-saying about the new Phoenix LRT and unlike our transit planning here, there was a long and full public debate about the project culminating in a winning public vote to proceed. Unlike SkyTrain, the Phoenix LRT, like so many other American LRT lines are funded by long term bonds, thus the full cost of the LRT project is known, while here only the direct costs are published and the debt servicing charges (which are well known in the USA) are almost a state secret in BC. SkyTrain is presently subsidized by at least $230 million annually and now including the RAV/Canada Line light-metro, the public has invested over $8 billion in metro and that number will increase by at least $250 million annually!

What this article illustrates that where LRT is built, investment follows and LRT is not just seen as a “people mover”, but a tool for economic revival of city centres.

Phoenix: Light rail boosts uptown’s economic revival

Phoenix “Light rail contributes to Phoenix area’s revival” is the headline of a June 8th Arizona Republic article describing what the paper calls a “renaissance” attributed at least in part to the urban area’s new Metro light rail transit (LRT) line (connecting central-city Phoenix with two major suburbs, Tempe and Mesa)

As the paper reports:

“Uptown Phoenix, once home to dilapidated strip malls and run-down lots, is enjoying a revival of sorts. With light  rail cutting straight through the central Phoenix district, more than a dozen new businesses have sprouted in the neighborhood near Camelback Road and Central Avenue from coffee shops and restaurants to anorganic pet store.”

The Republic quotes City Councilman Tom Simplot, speaking during a recent ceremony celebrating the spate of mom-and-pop businesses that have recently opened.

“As we hear about all the businesses closing in the malls and other parts of the city, this is proof we are really sizzling in this part of Phoenix” Simplot told the audience. “The investment [in light rail] is paying off.”

As an example, the article focuses on Hula’s Modern Tiki, an “Hawaiian-inspired eatery” owned by Dana Mule and his two California business partners. Having taken over a “funky” old building along the Central Avenue segment of the Metro LRT line, Hula’s owners have implemented what the paper describes as “a massive $1 million remodel, nearly doubling the size of the building to 2,900 square feet.” As a result, “The expansion and renovation will allow seating for up to 125, including an indoor bar and outdoor patio area.”

“We looked at 50 locations in Phoenix before we found a place we really loved” Mule toward the Republic reporter. “This has the soul and character and community-based support that we were looking for.”

The future Hula’s is located “At the heart of the renaissance” notes the Republic, described as “the unassuming Xavier Square retail center at 4700 N. Central Ave.”

Among a diversity of “trendy” retail establishments blossoming at this center is an “eco-friendly pet store”, relocated to the Central Avenue site from elsewhere in Phoenix. The owner, Christopher Pulvermacher, emphasized that, in contrast with his previous location, his new location on the LRT line is more in synch with his target market.

“People downtown are more savvy about health and about what is important” he told the Republic reporter. “Most of our customers come here because of what we carry.”

As for Hula’s, the Republic article recounts that the restaurant “will join a small cluster of trendy restaurants along Central.”

One of these is Maizie’s Cafe and Bistro, whose owner, Joel Miller, told the reporter that his restaurant was received well by the community it first opened a year previously. However, noted the article, “since light-rail trains began rolling in December, there is a new energy in the neighborhood that has boosted business.”

“Uptown was nothing” Miller emphasized. “It was dead. You only went to uptown if you needed a bicycle fixed or wanted to go to AJ’s [Fine Foods]. Now, people are saying, ‘Let’s go to the north-central area,’ and they are not being disappointed.”


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One Response to “Phoenix: Light rail boosts uptown’s economic revival”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    I’m happy for Phoenix. LRT is a good fit for their urban environment.

    But even the CEO of Phoenix’s LRT will tell you to pick the right mode for the right corridor.

    “I do not believe that a street-level rail system is the right choice for Honolulu. I say this as the CEO of a 20-mile rail system that runs completely at street level in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa.

    I urge Honolulu to keep moving forward with your elevated rail system. You only have one opportunity to get it right.

    In my opinion, you are making the right choice and your community will reap rewards for years to come.”

    Zweisystem replies: Unless the Honolulu metro carries 400,000 customers a day or more, the only benefits will be higher taxes and transit fares. If they opt for SkyTrain, then even higher taxes and fares.

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