Viewpoints: The secret sauce that made downtown Phoenix vibrant

David Krietor is CEO of Downtown Phoenix, Inc.

Viewpoints: Few people thought the core of such a suburban city would ever survive. But today, it’s thriving.

To the surprise of many, downtown Phoenix is changing into a populated, diverse urban place at a pace unforeseen just a few years ago.

For decades, many gave up on downtown as the suburban wave influenced where and how we lived and how public and private resources were allocated. While the “back to the city” movement has been prominent across the country, few thought it would happen here in the most suburban of places.

Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s a handful of downtown civic leaders focused on the things that seemed achievable. Sports facilities, performing art centers, museums and the convention center made downtown a place to visit, creating a level of activity that kept the heart beating.

What happened? How did downtown transform from “roll up the sidewalk” sleepy to energetic? The determination of a small group of working artists helped, as did the supporters of public transportation and university education.

Young Millennials and empty-nest Baby Boomers began migrating to the core demanding a better place to live, work, play and study.

And certainly the willingness of a small group of business leaders working closely with Phoenix and community interests to establish Downtown Phoenix Inc. as a place for civic collaboration helped.

Not surprisingly, almost all the businesses that stepped up to support DPI’s creation – known through its brand as DTPHX – are headquartered in downtown Phoenix.

Remarkably, when the DPI board of corporate leaders, city elected officials and community leaders meet, nearly everyone walks to the meeting. Think how remarkable that is and how it differentiates DTPHX from every other part of our sprawling region.

It’s not just about big events anymore

While the nation has seen DTPHX through the lenses of Super Bowl Central and the Final Four, those of us who work or live downtown know we have crossed over. Nearly 200 restaurants, almost 4,000 hotel rooms, thousands of new residential units, live music every night, professional sports, young people everywhere, and 180,000 jobs within a 2-mile radius. People walking, biking, riding light rail.

Corporate executives, elected officials, small business owners, restaurant and hotel workers, techies, artists and neighborhood leaders all part of the same community.

Will Phoenix cease to be largely a suburban place? Probably not.

Will the center of Phoenix continue its evolution into a diverse, economically vibrant and creative place for those of us who want to be energized, entertained and fulfilled by human interaction? You bet.