At night, a seemly endless sea of city lights spreads out in every direction from Taliesin West in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in northeast Scottsdale. Frank Lloyd Wright had built his winter home and school to be outside of the city and far from the core.
With a warm fireplace lit, one evening at Taliesin West, home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, members of Spirit of the Senses gathered to hear Wellington “Duke” Reiter, Senior Advisor to the President, ASU, and Chair, Urban Land Institute, Arizona, for a salon discussion about his vision for the core of Phoenix, and the design, culture and transformation of Central Avenue in Downtown Phoenix. The salon gathering was hosted by Aaron Betsky, Dean of Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.
Duke is a charismatic speaker and was able to bring excitement to his vision for Downtown Phoenix. Duke spoke about how cities such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, had neighborhoods that blended walkability, engagement, creativity, education, and investment. Duke told the gathering that the downtown Central Avenue corridor of Phoenix has the potential to develop as a dynamic urban core of the city. Through the convergence of the arts and urbanism, 1.5 miles of Central Avenue in the downtown corridor could be a magnet and give Phoenix a unique identity, such as the San Antonio river walk or The High Line in New York City. Duke spoke with Spirit of the Senses members about some exciting ideas.
Duke talked about the role universities played in developing a successful foundation for the private sector to develop urban areas. The university can provide talent to formulate ideas that businesses can translate to action. Duke, who has been an instrumental player in how Arizona State University has transformed downtown Phoenix, spoke about ASU’s interest in helping Phoenix to be a dynamic place for the University to flourish. Now, apartments and housing are being constructed, business is moving downtown, and perhaps soon a grocery store will be built.
In the near future, 15,000 students will be attending at the ASU Downtown campus. The schools of Journalism, Nursing, and Law have been chosen by ASU to be Downtown. The move of these schools Downtown has given students close proximity to the journalism, medical, legal, and political centers that are in Downtown. ASU is also moving some Art school studios Downtown to be near the recently expanding art scene. A vision for the Central corridor is to also move the ASU art gallery to Downtown nearby the Phoenix Art Museum and Heard Museum that would create a row of museums in close proximity. To create a more walkable and attractive civic space, solar shade structures have been proposed along the 1.5 mile Central Avenue cultural corridor that stretches from Jefferson Street north to the Heard Museum.