Phoenix groups look to unify under one organization, receive mixed reviews

The proposed Downtown Phoenix, Inc., an umbrella organization for Phoenix groups, has sparked controversy among some who fear they will be left out. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

Several downtown Phoenix groups are in talks to create an umbrella organization they say will improve downtown as a whole and promote collaboration between businesses and the community.

Known as Downtown Phoenix, Inc., the organization has sparked controversy between downtown groups because of who has been involved in the formation process and who has been left out.

Primarily responsible for building the organization are two nonprofits – the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, a tax-funded business development organization, and Phoenix Community Alliance, a membership-based advocacy group focused on downtown revitalization.

PCA Chairman Mo Stein of HKS Architects, DPP Chairman Don Brandt of Arizona Public Service Co. and Michael Ebert of RED Development, a board member for both organizations, are drafting the bylaws. The companies’ board of directors, chairmen and key staff, as well as Mayor Greg Stanton, are meeting to discuss articles of incorporation, nonprofit standing and fundraising.

The tentative start date is early next year. The emphasis will be creating affordable housing to encourage people to move downtown and creating greater communication between downtown groups, said DPP President David Roderique.

“The mission statement would be to provide a single organization to broadly represent the entire downtown community,” said Roderique, who is personally involved in the construction of DPI.

Neighborhood groups, such as Roosevelt Action Association and Downtown Voices Coalition, said they have not been officially contacted about DPI and fear it will not represent all parties downtown.

Roderique did not mention DPI’s relationship with neighborhood groups, but said DPI will be meeting with more businesses in the future about getting involved.

RAA President John Couleur said the neighborhood organizations should have been included since the conceptualization of DPI. Now, it will be harder for the various organizations to become involved.

“There’s tension and a struggle there that doesn’t have to be there,” Couleur said.

Businesses in DPP’s district and PCA members will automatically be a part of DPI New members will join through PCA. The costs will vary depending on the type of business and its size, Roderique said.

Membership perks will include advertising by DPP and networking events.

DPI will also have a board of various downtown stakeholders, Roderique said.

Neighborhood organizations won’t be on the board officially, but Donald Keuth, president of PCA, said downtown residents who happen to be on neighborhood organizations can be on the board.

“There’s a real effort to make sure that the size of that board doesn’t get unwieldy,” Keuth said.

The main organizations with representation on the board will be Downtown Phoenix Community Development Corp., a nonprofit focused on creating affordable housing and jobs, DPP, PCA and a currently unnamed events organization.

A representative from the mayor’s office will likely be on the board as well.

DVC Chairman Tim Eigo fears neighbors are being put on the board for appearance’s sake and will not have a say in DPI.

“We would hope that the organization wouldn’t bring in neighbors just in order to neutralize (neighbors’) voice,” Eigo said.

Eigo also expressed concern about neighborhood groups’ lack of involvement, especially in creating the bylaws. He said he hopes for greater transparency and worries DPP and PCA are just expanding their turf.

DPI will likely be primarily funded through sponsorships from large corporations involved in downtown, Roderique said.

The DPP and PCA will continue funding through a property assessment and membership, respectively. The Downtown Phoenix Community Development Corp. and the events organization will be funded through contributions and sponsors.

DPP and PCA started planning DPI a year ago to improve downtown.

Stakeholders expressed concern about having so many downtown organizations, so they began looking for an alternative, Roderique said.

In August, Roderique and Keuth traveled to Denver to learn about the model they are using for DPI.

DPI is still in the beginning stages and announced on Sept. 16 it was looking for a president and CEO. The decision is expected to take several months.

“It is one of these things that will be evolutionary, not revolutionary,” Keuth said.

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