‘Detropia’ documentary sparks discussion among Phoenix developers to find city’s niche

Share
Dan Hoffman, David Krietor and Curt Upton spoke on the similarities and differences between downtown Phoenix and Detroit after the screening of the film, “Detropia.” The panel was moderated by Quinn Whissen of This Could Be Phoenix. (Carolyn Corcoran/DD)
Dan Hoffman, David Krietor and Curt Upton spoke on the similarities and differences between downtown Phoenix and Detroit after the screening of the film, “Detropia.” The panel was moderated by Quinn Whissen of This Could Be Phoenix. (Carolyn Corcoran/DD)

As a part of this year’s Phoenix Urban Design Week, a panel of key players in downtown Phoenix’s urban development discussed the documentary “Detropia,” at FilmBar Tuesday night.

The purpose of the event was to “sit down with a beer and spark conversation,” said Quinn Whissen, one of the hosts of the screening and one of the founders of both Envisioning Phoenix: An Urban Film Series and This Could Be Phoenix. The event was also hosted by dtphx.co, an online arts and entertainment guidebook.

Each film in the the Envisioning Phoenix film series is usually shown quarterly, but Whissen said she advanced the showing of “Detropia” so it could be a part of Phoenix Urban Design Week.

The 2012 documentary “Detropia” examines the rise and fall of Detroit, which was largely influenced by the automobile industry. The once booming city was the fastest growing in the country in 1930 and now is the fastest shrinking city, according to the film.

The financially struggling city was even brought to cutting some public transportation and street lights, both very hurtful losses to Detroit residents.

The three panelists at the event were: David Krietor, CEO of Downtown Phoenix, Inc.; Curt Upton, planner with the city of Phoenix and project manager for Reinvent Phoenix; and Dan Hoffman, one of the principal architects at Studio MA.

While the panelists agreed that Phoenix’s situation is different from Detroit’s there are lessons to be learned.

“Phoenix is not Detroit,” Krietor said.

The parallels between Phoenix and Detroit are minimal, but “we really do need to have this conversation,” Upton said.

The panelists and audience discussed Phoenix’s demographics, history, current status and potential future after the documentary finished.

One audience member said the automobile industry defines Detroit, and Phoenix needs something to make it great and draw people to the area. The panelists and other audience members said nature was a potential niche.

Providing shade, both natural and architectural, was what Hoffman said would be “the fusion of a great downtown and nature.” It wouldn’t just block the intense Arizona sun, but it would also provide “connectivity” for the downtown community, Hoffman said.

Support for bikers, pedestrians and those who use public transportation could also be a focus in creating a nature-centered Downtown, said audience member Laura Azevedo, a sustainability major at ASU. “The infrastructure is not set up to be a walkable city,” said Azevedo.

She has seen the impacts of “black gold,” or oil, and said she wants to do her part in minimizing it by using public transit. Expanding the light rail to the suburbs of Phoenix and making every area more pedestrian-friendly is what she would like to see in Phoenix’s future, Azevedo said.

The Envisioning Phoenix film series is one of the many events in the third annual Phoenix Urban Design Week. There are other discussions, workshops, tours and group bike outings that are all centered out downtown Phoenix growth, sustainability and community empowerment, according to the design week’s website. The event lasts from April 3-1o.

Phoenix Urban Design Week, Reinvent Phoenix, This Could Be Phoenix and the many other initiatives currently in action are testament to Upton’s final remark: “Great cities have to be fought for, they don’t just happen.”

Clarification: April 9, 2014:

This article has been updated to say that dtphx.co, an online arts and entertainment guidebook, also hosted the event along with Quinn Whissen.

Contact the reporter at mariah.hurst@asu.edu.

NO COMMENTS