Food for thought: an outdoor downtown Phoenix market, and fading voices

Posted By Mike Padgett

Sept. 30, 2008

An all-weather outdoor market for downtown Phoenix, a lightning tamer, traveling back in time to interview Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, an Irish adventure, and fading voices in the corporate wilderness have my attention this week.

All-weather market ideas for Phoenix

Now that the 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel is opening, and with the new Phoenix Convention Center nearly complete, a regular weekend arts, crafts and farmers market in downtown Phoenix is worth discussing.

A weekend market that has worked since the early 1990s is The Rocks Market, which is in a historic part of Sydney, Australia. Every Friday afternoon, city crews add barricades and canvas canopies for an all-weather outdoor market Saturdays and Sundays on a block-long stretch of George Street overlooking Sydney Cove. Visit for a preview.

When we visited Sydney in 2006, one vendor at The Rocks Market was a Harley-Davidson dealer offering local tours from the back of a Harley cycle or trike. Other vendors sold their paintings and sketches, fresh produce, jams, gourmet foods, new and used books, CDs of Australian music, jewelry and indigenous crafts.

A similar weekend market could be promoted in downtown Phoenix where the shadows of the tall office buildings would offer additional shade from the midday sun. For the sake of discussion, the weekend market could be on Monroe Street, between First Avenue and First Street. Or it could be on Monroe and Adams streets, between Central and First avenues.

The existing Saturday market at Central Avenue and Pierce Street is a great start, but it should be closer to downtown with the new hotel and the expanded convention center.

There are several other streets in downtown Phoenix that could be turned into a weekend market with little impact on traffic, but with much potential to attract more weekend business into the downtown area. The 1,000 rooms at the new Sheraton and the thousands of future visitors to the new convention center represent a substantial pool of customers for a regular weekend market and for downtown restaurants, bars and other businesses.

Inspirational singers

I’m reminded of a creative spirit’s powers of hope and renewal when I listen to cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge perform “I Run for Life” and “What Happens Tomorrow,” and Jeff Austin Black sing about the American landscape. My throat tightens when I listen – really listen – to their creative energy and their talents for wordsmithing and singing.

Time traveling to writers

If I could travel through time, I would like to interview several nonfiction writers of the past 150 years. I would like to learn how they weave captivating stories out of true experiences. What sparks inspiration? Can inspiration be encouraged? Once inspiration begins, as ethereal as it is, can it be guided? I would spend a few days listening to Mark Twain, Jack London, E. B. White, Mary Austin, Joseph Mitchell, Ernie Pyle, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, to name a few.

Solar energy lost?

Those ugly metal canopies over the many parking lots across metro Phoenix look like ideal locations for solar panels, especially in a state where the sun shines most days.

Advisory council

My choice for an advisory council for our suffering nation would include former Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy; lightning tamer and co-creator of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Franklin; Orville and Wilbur Wright; environmentalist John Muir; astronaut John Glenn; architect Frank Lloyd Wright; and reporters Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. I would add a few Medal of Honor recipients to represent voters. People who can make split-second battlefield decisions have much to offer.

I would invite President James Polk, too. During his one term in office, from 1845-49, he led the United States during border disputes with Canada and Mexico. The outcomes of both disputes ended with the United States establishing the current boundary with Canada and the agreement in which the U.S. gained possession of the region between Oregon and Mexico.

Ireland adventure

My Best Friend and I spent four weeks in Ireland this summer, visiting her ancestral land. Even with a backpack, and in the occasionally rainy weather, she outpaced me. The climate must boost the leprechaun in her. The countryside is spectacular, the people are wonderful, and so are the food, the music, the history and the opportunities to visit the campus of Trinity College in downtown Dublin, a cemetery of kings at Clonmacnoise, a ring fort on the Aran Islands, and the Cliffs of Moher.

Fading voices in the corporate wilderness

Listening, whether in a one-on-one conversation or in a meeting, is losing its importance. Just ask Don Henninger, publisher of The Phoenix Business Journal. He hit the bull’s-eye in his Sept. 26 column when he wrote, “People don’t listen to each other anymore.”

Don’s listening skills are among the best I experienced since I entered the newspaper world in the mid-1970s. They served him well while he was an editor at The Phoenix Gazette and at The Arizona Republic before he was hired as the editor at The Business Journal.

Don was one of my editors at The Gazette, where I worked from 1987 until the paper was closed in January 1997. And until he was promoted to publisher at The Business Journal, Don was my editor after he recruited me in 1998. I opted for early retirement in 2006.

Two paragraphs in his latest column jump off the page: “If I could wave a magic management wand and pick one skill to improve that would bring the biggest payout, it would be our ability to listen to each other. I mean generously listen. To actually hear what others are saying. To comprehend their message.”

He goes on: “Relationships would be improved, mistakes avoided, goals clarified, missions understood, and success attained earlier and more easily.”

In my experience, too many people will listen to you as long as your words match their ideas. Otherwise, your words fall on deaf ears, to use a cliché. Whether you are a manager or among the managed, please listen to the words. If you want to read Don’s column, here’s the link:

Sep 30th, 2008

2 Comments to 'Food for thought: an outdoor downtown Phoenix market, and fading voices'

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  1. David SB said,

    The existing Downtown Phoenix Public Market is already working on a building that will provide a weatherproof structure open throughout the week. Creating a second market so close seems not only redundant, but also like it would compound the existing problem of too many outdoor markets chasing too many vendors. Besides, the Downtown Phoenix Public Market is less than half a mile north of streets like Monroe and Adams. There’s no reason people can’t walk that distance or take the DASH bus. I think a better idea would be for DPPM to work with staff at the Sheraton, Convention Center, etc. to make guests aware of the market just a short walk to the north. Perhaps that’s already in the works. The DPPM is hardly perfect, but creating a competing market will only make its problems worse.

  2. Rob Melikian said,

    Dear Mike,
    Your thoughts on the all-weather market downtown are right on. People strolling on the street is the test for success, not the number of high-rises or cranes in the air. Just look at the art walk in downtown Scottsdale or Biltmore Fashion Park.
    A market like you describe would get people used to coming downtown and other retail choices would develop.
    It would be the start of people strolling (success) downtown.
    Rob Melikian

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