Making Phoenix a World-Class City
I started writing this article on my flight back from Ottawa, Canada. I had just spent five glorious days in one of the most amazing cities I have ever had the opportunity to visit. To give you a little perspective I’ve had the privilege to spend time in many great cities including London, Birmingham, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Panama City and many more. They are all great cities in their own right, but Ottawa
was particularly memorable.
Every time I have a chance to visit a new city I do my best to walk to as many places as possible to get a good feel of their culture, streets, people, neighborhoods and modes of transportation.
In Ottawa I would wake up early every morning and walk to daily mass. There were five different Catholic churches all within one mile of my hotel so I got a good taste of the different neighborhoods.
As I would walk to a different church each day I was amazed at the amount of people walking, running, or biking for work, play,
exercise or shopping. The streets were well designed with separate bike lanes on both sides of the street, lots of shade trees, beautiful and native landscaping, water features, large open public spaces, parks, unique street lighting and poles, hundreds of benches, sitting areas and a ton of artistic garbage cans. It was by far the cleanest city I have ever seen. I did not see any graffiti at all and after I returned home and researched the city’s history, I discovered it is the third cleanest city in the world.
The density was magnificent. There were three and four story housing structures everywhere and a great mix of high rise, mid
rise, row housing, single family attached and detached all integrating with the streets, canals, parks, shops, restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and cafes. There were also many bike share racks, street side parking areas and very cool double decker buses.
The amount of public art was profound. I could not walk very far before stopping and taking a quick pic with my iPhone or camera.
They celebrated their founders, leaders, soldiers, firefighters, women who fought for equal rights, culture, dogs, nature and the
list just goes on and on. I could have spent a good week or more trying to capture all the public art pieces. The greatest thing about
the art is that it was enriching the community.
Kids were climbing all over the art, adults were laughing, reading the plaques on the art pieces and of course taking their picture with these one of kind landmarks. The art was not
always motionless; there were many street performances by parliament soldiers, large marching bands, bagpipers, street performers and musicians.
I think the best part for me were the people. They were absolutely the kindest, loving and helpful citizens you could imagine. Most days I was walking by myself and had to ask
individuals in passing to snap a picture of me on the way to their destinations. Not only would they take a picture of me they would
ask me if it was ok and they did not mind taking another one to get it right. They would also ask questions about me and where I
was from and offer places to visit and see, and always ended with a smile and a have a nice day. When asking for directions they
were so courteous and friendly and never appeared disturbed or short. Most times their English was broken or was limited, as
they mostly speak French; nonetheless they were most willing to help me find my way. One lady who was with her husband even
thanked me for visiting their city and said she appreciated my investment in her community by eating, touring and sleeping there.
Ottawa was only founded in 1826 compared to Phoenix 1868 and has evolved into a world class city. Initially it was a French and Irish Christian settlement and is now a vibrant multicultural city that has become the technological and political center of Canada.
So why have I shared this with you and what does this mean for you and me here in SoPho and Laveen? Well it gives me
great hope for our own future. Putting all things into perspective I know our environments are completely different and that they live right off of the great Ottawa River. But to that point our resources here in the Sonoran Desert are different and we need to harness all the technological advancements in building and development and integrate all the great planning that has occurred all over the world into our area of the city.
Our vision for SoPho and Laveen should be no less than that of a vibrant city like Ottawa. We need to embrace that we live in a desert and start creating walkable streets that make it enjoyable for visitors, residents, pedestrians and bike riders to go to and from with ease.
The vacant land we have in this area is unlike anywhere
else in Phoenix and it must be developed, redeveloped and planned well with great care in our architecture, technology, public art, open spaces and many of things that I have mentioned.
I plead with all of our residents, leaders, land/business owners, and politicians to think long term, broaden your vision and
make the changes necessary to help us develop world class neighborhoods. Let each one of take ownership of our streets,
public spaces and neighborhood planning.
We must get it right even if we don’t live to see it. It’s not for us but for our children and the many generations after us. Mistakes
will be made and it will take major sacrifices and reallocation of resources to build a city that is livable, vibrant, and memorable. Take some time daily to think about where you live and take action, no matter how small it might seem to you.
We must study, innovate, create and care more than any other community in the world.
I will leave you with a quote by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta; “What I do, you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot
do. The needs are great, and none of us including me ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and
together we can do something wonderful.” Let’s do something wonderful!
By Victor Vidales
RE/MAX NEW HEIGHTS