Marketing director promotes downtown community through event planning

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RJ Price, senior director of marketing for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, stands at the counter at One Coffee Company. Price has helped draw attention to many of the events and businesses downtown.
(Madeline Pado/DD)

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Since he started at Downtown Phoenix Partnership three years ago, RJ Price’s focus has been working with local businesses and community events including the development of CityScape and the growing participation in the Zombie Walk.

As senior director of marketing, Price oversees a team of four working on online support, event management and the promotion of downtown Phoenix.

The Downtown Phoenix Partnership is a nonprofit organization focused on improving development in the city’s core.

Price’s background is in journalism. Before moving to Phoenix, he worked on the copy desk at a Minnesota newspaper for four years.

When Price got to Phoenix he transitioned to real estate. He worked in advertising and marketing for eight years before transitioning again into electronic marketing, blogging and Web content.

He was first hired at the Downtown Phoenix Partnership as online community editor where he handled social media, the website and event support.

David Roderique, president and CEO at the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, said Price was promoted into his current position at the start of this year because of his youth and aggressiveness.

“He really understands current marketing trends, especially social media,” Roderique said. “He has a grasp on what downtown consumers want.”

Price said he appreciates the atmosphere in downtown Phoenix, where he knows people at events and knows local business owners.

“I like that downtown Phoenix is a community. … Downtown Phoenix, to me has more of a small-town feel to it, where you know people,” Price said.

He said the biggest thing downtown needs right now is more residents.

“To have more residents, we need more residential developments. And that’s one thing that our organization is focused on, trying to attract developers and builders who want to put a wide range of residential developments here in downtown,” Price said.

He noted that downtown Phoenix comprises a wide variety of residents.

“You have everything from, lawyers, there’s a lot of city workers, there’s a growing medical component, especially with the cancer center coming in a few years,” Price said. “That’s going gift us a lot of really high-paying medical jobs. Those people are going to want to live close to where they work.”

In order to fill the needs of the people downtown, Price said, Phoenix needs a wide range of residential developments, from places for students to more middle and upper-class developments.

“Now there’s such an interest in downtown, socially and professionally. It’s kind of a cool place to be now, which hasn’t necessarily always been the case, but we’re very proud of the fact that it is now,” Price said

He said downtown Phoenix has come a long way in the time he has lived here.

“Unless there was a Suns game or a Diamondbacks game or a big theater event or a concert, people didn’t come down here. They just didn’t, but that’s changed,” Price said.

Both Roderique and Price zeroed in on the Oct. 27 Zombie Walk as a successful event downtown that Price has been involved with.

“Zombie Walk is easily my favorite event,” Price said.

The first year the partnership hosted the event, 200 people attended. This year, at the Fourth Zombie Walk, more than 5,000 people dressed up as zombies and walked through downtown Phoenix, with more than 10,000 people attended the festival following the walk.

“I don’t even think we’ve scraped the surface of what that event could be,” Price said. “The feedback we’ve gotten has all been overwhelmingly positive.”

By the way he talks about downtown Phoenix, it is easy to see that Price cares about his community.

“He lives in the central city. He really is passionate about downtown and what we do,” Roderique said.

Price also works with business owners through the Partnership and enjoys helping people and local businesses have good experiences in downtown Phoenix.

“Nothing is more rewarding for me than seeing a place like Copper Blues jam-packed Friday night or Stand Up Live jam-packed,” he said. “People are planning their weekend adventures downtown. I can’t tell you what a 180 that is from the way it was five years ago.”

The Downtown Phoenix Partnership also hosts events centered on downtown restaurants, like pub crawls and wine walks. “It brings the focus to the restaurants which is always great for me because that’s a tough business,” Price said. “You see a lot of restaurants fail, and fortunately for us, we’ve seen more open than close, and that is a very rare thing in this kind of economy.”

Derek Lewis is the general manager at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails, which opened in June. Lewis said Price was very helpful as Blue Hound brought its business to downtown.

Price oversees the partnership’s dining guide, and Lewis said most of the dining-guide space was sold before Blue Hound was ready to open.

“He was able to work with us before we opened to get some space there,” Lewis said.

Currently, Price is focused on preparing for the partnership’s upcoming holiday programming.

“Downtown hasn’t been known as a holiday destination in years past. I think it should be,” Price said. “I think this year is going to be a huge step in that direction.”

One example of this will take place Nov. 24 at Cityscape, where there will be a large tree lighting and ice rink opening.

“We’re trying to make downtown the epicenter of holiday activity,” Price said.

Cityscape had an ice rink last winter, but Price said this year Central Avenue at Cityscape will be closed for the season to make way for a larger ice rink and other activities.

“People used to say downtown is dead, and I got a kick out of it when we had 5,000 zombies in the street. For once, people were right when they said downtown is dead because there were all these zombies walking around the streets.”

Contact the reporter at aubree.abril@asu.edu

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