"The Changing Face Of Phoenix"

by Derrick Bostrom

You'll Like Living In Phoenix

The day after Christmas, my wife and I attended a hockey game at the Jobing.com Arena. This state-of-the-art facility stands adjacent to something called the "Westgate City Center." On what was once a quiet corner in Glendale is now erected this new mall "concept:" a pre-fab fake "town," surrounded by lots of freshly bulldozed, freeway-accessible real estate: "Shop Here - Dine Here - Live Here - ONLY HERE!" "LIVE WHERE YOU LIVE!" I'm sure there are several of these sorts of places in your town as well.

This "multi-use destination" is mostly comprised of restaurants as big as city blocks. The "food," served up in different shapes and "flavors," is your typical modern corn and soybean based cuisine. What these places offer is not so much "nutrition," as a Disney-fied, sports-bar kind of "atmosphere" designed to simultaneously stimulate and dull the senses.

As we stood huddled beneath five-story-high images of Carlos Santana and Mel Gibson, we watched a teenage fake-rock band supply the soundtrack to house-sized video displays broadcasting ads for local casinos and upcoming "tribute "concerts. At one point, an ugly long-haired dude in a shiny shirt came on the screen. He sat on a brand new leather couch, moving his lips inaudibly. Above his luminous head appeared this grave message: "$998."

Spaces like the Westgate City Center make Phoenix's older box malls look like palaces of subtlety and restraint. But the kids that milled around the grounds that night seemed just as enthusiastic about their current shopping arrangements as our grandparents' generation must have been. And as these old photos from "Arizona Highways" clearly show, nothing evokes "civic pride" like a new retail innovation. These photos leave little room for debate on the matter, taken as they are from an article entitled "Phoenix - City Of Shopping Centers."

Most of the businesses in these pictures are long gone, but if you look closely, you might recognize something of what remains.