With a job change in Spring and a move to Phoenix, AZ from St. Louis, MO, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Since most of my follows consist of my wife and I, I’ll say welcome back Tom. Thanks Tom.
Since moving to Phoenix, I have become very interested in the option of living in downtown phoenix / a more “urban/pedestrian” style of living. It has been something I’ve craved and have often admired when visiting successful urban living cities.
Are you Crazy?
As I inquired about living in downtown Phoenix, I was met with negative feedback left and right. “Why would you live downtown? It’s boring, ugly and there’s no where to live, nothing to do, no good restaurants, no entertainment. Plus, you’ve got crime and no schools nearby, etc..” Nearly every one I asked said that same thing.
No, I’m new here.
However, coming from St. Louis, I thought people simply didn’t know what they had here. It seems like every city but the one you live in is cool. My view of downtown is through a new set of eyes/new transplant perception. Downtown Phoenix is unbelievably clean and beautiful. It is small, but you don’t have all the old junk and old streets/abandoned buildings, etc.. that you might find in older cities. I also happen to know that the crime rate is incredibly low, in fact lower than all of the seemingly “safe” cities such as Scottsdale and Chandler.
So, my wife and I got to talking about why we don’t live downtown. (We moved to Chandler, mostly because of this wonderful, little school hidden smack dab in the middle of a park-ridden neighborhood with cute homes and quiet streets. These were very basic reasons why we moved where we did vs. downtown. Being a marketing geek, I thought that I needed quick focus group on this topic. So, I called a few friends to get their take on suburban living vs. urban living.
Why choose the suburbs?
- No / low crime
- Good schools
- Green space, parks nearby / many kids parks for playing
- Quiet neighborhood
- Grocery stores/farmers markets
- Newer home with modern amenities: 2 car garage, big closets, backyard
What they did NOT like about the suburbs:
- Long commute
- A little too boring
- Neighbors never come out of their house / ghost town
- Houses all look the same
- Price of homes can be high
- Not enough farmers markets,
- Have to drive everywhere
- Not enough community events
What would it take to move to the city?
- Nice, clean, quiet neighborhood
- Not being scared/crime rate
- Schools nearby
- Grocery store nearby
- Lots of parks/places for kids to play, ride bikes
Love the Urban Feel
When I asked about the “urban/pedestrian” feel, they all love it. They all love the benefits of a pedestrian walking city and the urban look and feel. They ALL said if downtown was a huge Kierland commons style place but with more residential and offices, they’d live there in a heartbeat.
There is a perception issue…along with a bit of truth with the empty parking lots, homeless people walking around, etc…
Everyone loves the idea of an urban, pedestrian, sidewalk cafes, 5-story loft buildings, etc…
They all “get” that style of living and crave it. The problem is the list above. They want good schools, parks and conveniences nearby that LOOK AND FEEL NICE AND QUIET.
From my bike ride on my way to work this morning, I believe that right now, there’s a chance to change minds. I’m guessing in 10 years, it will be 100% easier to change minds and in 20 years, people will be scratching and clawing to live downtown (or nearby).
Marketing is the Answer
I think that good marketing is half the answer to all the main issues. The other half is to get the right developers to create a pedestrian-friendly downtown with good mixed-use developments, canal-focused developments, and dense housing.
In general there are 3 keys to marketing.
I believe if carried out properly, these keys could unlock the poor stereotype that is pervasive in the minds of all those suburbanites out there, including me.
1. CREATE AWARENESS (of your product)
I think we need to create more awareness of all the fantastic things that currently exist downtown. The problem here is that no one lives downtown. So, no one (relatively speaking) will come downtown for a fantastic event at the Orpheum Theater or at a park, etc… For, example, I get off work and catch the next bus out of here. By the time I am home, it is after 6pm, followed by dinner and baths. Then I put my daughters to bed and the night is over. There is no way I’ll do anything during the week downtown.
2. COMMUNICATE VALUE
Once we find a way to tell people about the great things in downtown, we have to put our best foot forward and indicate why downtown is great, and perhaps even better than a suburb.
3. CULTIVATE A NEED
This is the most crucial and hardest part. We need to answer the “why.” Why should I leave my current comfort of suburbia to move downtown. Let’s pretend that downtown has good schools, low crime, parks nearby, grocery stores down the street, quiet neighborhoods and good housing. So, now we’re on equal ground. But why not stay where I am?
Why Not Stay Where I’m At?
This is the root behavior that could solve the “problem.” There are actually many economic, social and cultural reasons to live in a densely populated area vs. the suburban sprawlarific trend. We weaken our economy the more we spread out. We increase chances for businesses failing, restaurants going under, corporations dying due to a lack of talented job pools, etc.. A primary city is the key to success for the greater Maricopa County/Phoenix metro area.
Imagine a technology-laden city with intelligent, forward-thinking people dying to move there. Combine a rich, culturally diverse people with great businesses and thriving retail, mixed with arts, renowned chefs, entertainment, music and more. Who wouldn’t want to help their city grow, which would in turn help their business, their home value, their environment, etc…?
There are many levels to my naive utopia view of how the world should and could be run, but I believe it can happen. It just has to start with me.