Stanton highlights downtown in State of the City address

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton highlighted how far downtown Phoenix has come in his State of the City address. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton highlighted the progress of downtown Phoenix in his State of the City Address Tuesday.

The state of the city address was held at the Grand Sheraton Hotel, and Phoenix’s inaugural Poet Laureate Rosemarie Dombrowski, appointed by Stanton in December, read a poem prior to Stanton’s speech.

“Whatever can come to a city can come to this city,” part of the poem said. “I see the city change like a man changing. I love this man.”

Stanton discussed how downtown is a place for arts, culture, sports, restaurants and nightlife. He said downtown is a higher education hub that is “spurring innovation and attracting the talent we need to compete.”

According to Stanton’s speech, biosciences are booming, and over the last five years the number of tech companies in downtown Phoenix has quadrupled, going from 67 to 260. Stanton said two more were added this week.

“Take the Phoenix Biomedical Campus downtown. Support from the City Council helped open three new research buildings on the campus since 2012 – including a world-class cancer center,” Stanton said. “Those buildings are now filled up with doctors, researchers and students.”

Stanton said entrepreneurs are “breathing life into our once forgotten Warehouse District.” He said the Warehouse district has become a magnet for creative thinkers.

A bustling downtown benefits everyone, Stanton said, highlighting Crescent Ballroom owner Charlie Levy Levy’s next project is a concert venue four times the size of the Crescent Ballroom in the historically preserved Dud R. Day/Phoenix Motor Company Building at 401 West Van Buren Street.

Stanton said downtown’s vacancy rate is the lowest in two decades, pointing out Block 23, where RED Development broke ground on a project to bring the first grocery store to downtown Phoenix two weeks ago. The project will also bring more than 300 new residential units and 150,000 square-feet of creative office space.

“More importantly, it will be the site of a downtown Fry’s grocery store!” Stanton said.

Stanton praised city council for its recent approval of money directed at light rail expansion into South Phoenix.

“Just last week, the City Council approved a $50 million agreement with Valley Metro, and I couldn’t be more excited that we’re delivering on the promise we made,” Stanton said. “Nobody has pushed harder for light rail south on Central Avenue than Councilwoman Kate Gallego.”

The mayor also highlighted Phoenix’s educational innovation and thanked Councilman Daniel Valenzuela. Code Phoenix is tackling the skills gap and making technology education accessible to anyone who wants to learn.

“There’s no doubt that we’ve shaped a Phoenix City Hall that does more than ever before. Investing in our economy, boosting trade and education, leading on water and sustainability,” Stanton said towards the end of the speech.

Stanton said the majority of the City Council made tough, smart decisions that put public safety first, which will result in a net addition of more than 400 new police officers by next summer.

“Since 2007, Phoenix’s annual public safety pension costs have gone up by $150 million. That makes paying for actual police officers and firefighters tougher,” Stanton said. “But just like we’ve always done, we’ll work with our community and city employees to reach a positive solution.”

Stanton finished the speech by criticizing the recently passed school voucher law and Proposition 123.

“As a local leader, it is increasingly difficult to compete in the hyper-competitive economic development game if we don’t do more to support our schools,” Stanton said.

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