It’s time for the annual Spring Training scouting report from your economics columnist, a fourth-generation Arizonan. By the time you get to Phoenix, look around and resolve never to build a metropolitan economy like this: Overly dependent on housing, population growth and low-wage service and tourism jobs. Now to the fun stuff, for when you’re not watching baseball.
Out in suburban Peoria, you might think Phoenix has no soul. Although the sprawl developers have done their best to pave it over, it still beats — but you’ll have to drive to find it, as with everything in this car-dependent metro-blob. The historic districts of the nation’s fifth-largest city are just north of downtown and worth the trip for the beautiful, real neighborhoods, houses with character and a sense of what Phoenix was like when it was an oasis surrounded by citrus groves, flower fields and agriculture. They’re around McDowell and Central, and include Willo, Palmcroft, F.Q. Storey, Roosevelt and Alvarado. The old city also still has Encanto Park, nestled into Palmcroft, a gem.
While you’re in central Phoenix, check out two fine museums, just one stop apart on the Metro light-rail line: the Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard Museum, the latter with one of the world’s finest collections of tribal art from the Southwest. Also on Central: the main library building designed by Will Bruder. Drive farther north on Central between Bethany Home and the Arizona Canal, and you’ll get a sense of the lushness that was once abundant here.More