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Central Avenue
Phoenix-Central Avenue.JPG
Downtown Central Avenue in Phoenix
Location Phoenix
North end 10499 North (near Sunnyslope)
South end 11699 South (in South Mountain Park)

The Central Avenue Corridor is a significant stretch of north–south Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona. Roughly bounded by Camelback Road to its north, and McDowell Road to its south, this is one of Phoenix's most vital and heavily trafficked stretches of roads. It is also one of the region's largest centers of employment, with nearly 60,000 people being employed within a three-mile (5 km) radius of this swath of Central Avenue. Major employers here include major banks and financial institutions, hi-tech companies, and several significant law firms and government agencies.

This corridor bisects a larger area known as Midtown, Phoenix—the collection of neighborhoods north of downtown, and south of the North-Central and Sunnyslope areas. Block numbers or addresses for Central Avenue landmarks are indicated in parentheses where available.

Central Avenue Corridor today

Downtown Phoenix Aerial Looking Northeast
Central Avenue Corridor from Madison St. looking northeast

Located halfway between the major arterial roads 7th Street and 7th Avenue, Central Avenue is the dividing line for Phoenix as well as other Maricopa County cities that do not have their own addressing system.

Central Avenue crosses every economic stratum in Phoenix, rather abruptly in places. Downtown Phoenix land values are on par with other major cities despite the generally perceived lack of vitality. North of Midtown and Uptown Phoenix, the large old homes in the tony North Central neighborhoods hark back to lower North Central Avenue's past. On the other side of the canal from North Central, at Central Avenue's dead-end, is the Sunnyslope District, founded in 1907. South of downtown, approaching South Mountain, the South Central area contains some of the most blighted neighborhoods in the city.

Central Avenue represents almost every architectural use and style found in Phoenix. Dilapidated and thriving strip centers, small old brick warehouses, industrial and commercial properties, single family homes and estates, and many of the city's high-rises all have Central Avenue addresses. On Central or in the immediate vicinity lie officially recognized and protected historic neighborhoods and a variety of cultural, performance, and sporting venues.


Pre–World War II

Phoenix AZ USA Center Street 1908
Center Street in 1908

Central Avenue was originally named Center Street upon Phoenix's founding with the surrounding north-south roads named after Indian tribes.

Phoenix's first school was built on Center Street and Monroe in 1874 as a one-room adobe. A new four-room schoolhouse replaced it in 1879 as the fourth brick building in the city, and the school was expanded again in 1893. By 1919, the school had deteriorated considerably and was condemned and sold. The luxurious Hotel San Carlos, the first downtown hotel to feature air conditioning and elevators, opened on that spot in 1928 after a long delay. The Phoenix Indian School was established in 1891 giving Indian School Road (4100 N) its namesake. Near North Mountain, architect William Robert Norton subdivided the first parts of Sunnyslope in 1911 amidst a "squatters' community of asthmatics and tuberculosis patients" whose makeshift dwellings were illegal in the city proper.

Westward Ho PHX
The Westward Ho, a Phoenix landmark.

By 1917, a mile-long bridge was open over the immense Salt River ultimately connecting downtown with South Mountain, the latter known as the Salt River Mountain at the time. The Westward Ho was constructed in 1927 and would remain the city's tallest building until 1960. Brophy College Preparatory (4701 N) opened for the first time in 1928 amidst agricultural fields. The Heard Museum (2301 N) opened in 1929 with little fanfare but would grow to be a highly respected institution of Native American culture and history.


As Phoenix sprawled north, developers found plenty of available land on Central Avenue and began capitalizing on the cachet of the youthful city's signature boulevard. Local steakhouse legend Durant's (2611 N) opened in 1950 The Phoenix Art Museum moved to Central Avenue in 1959. Phoenix fully annexed Sunnyslope, at Central's north terminus, that year. Central Avenue to its southern terminus, South Mountain, where minorities had been historically redlined, was annexed a year later.


Phoenix financial center
Phoenix Financial Center.

The 1960s brought a wave of high-rise development in Phoenix to Central Avenue that the city had hardly seen in its modern history. In 1960 the Phoenix Corporate Center opened, which at 341 feet (104 m) became the tallest building in Arizona. In addition to a number of other office towers, most of Phoenix's residential high-rises, such as the Landmark on Central (4750 N, then known as Camelback Towers), Executive Towers (207 W. Clarendon) and the Regency On Central (ROC) (2323 N, then known as Regency Apartments), were built during this decade.


The Great American Tower and 3300 Tower, completed in 1985 and 1980.

In 1971, Phoenix cemented the precedent of previous ad-hoc zoning decisions with the adoption of the Central Phoenix Plan, which envisioned unlimited building heights along Central Avenue. The new plan, however, did not sustain long-term development of the Central Corridor. Only a few office towers were constructed along North Central during this decade and none approached the scope of projects constructed during the previous decade. Instead, downtown resurged in popularity during the 1970s, witnessing a flurry of construction activity not seen again until the urban real estate boom of the 2000s. In 1979, Phoenix adopted the Phoenix Concept 2000 plan which split the city into urban villages—each with its own village core where greater height and density is permitted, further shaping the free-market development culture. Phoenix officially turned from its roots as a city built around its two main drags to a city of many nodes later connected by freeways. The cluster of high-rises north of Thomas Road became part of the Encanto village core.


Development on North Central Avenue began anew in the 1980s as part of that decade's real estate boom with a second wave of office towers. One Camelback was built in 1985 and would remain vacant for years. The city's current third-tallest building at 397 feet (121 m), Qwest Tower, opened in Phoenix Plaza in 1989 on Thomas Road (2900 N).


The Viad Tower, completed as the Dial Tower in 1991. The building notably resembles a Dial bar of soap.

Phoenix adopted the Arts District plan in 1992 in an attempt to connect lower Midtown's cultural amenities together in a walkable area, but the private development that the plan anticipated never arrived, though Burton Barr Central Library (1221 N) opened in 1995. The savings-and-loan boom that birthed new towers for Midtown Phoenix plagued it throughout the economic doldrums of the 1990s. The city's current fifth-tallest at 374 feet (114 m), the Viad Tower (1850 N) opened in 1991 as the Dial Tower, an isolate between the Downtown and Midtown skylines and would be the last new tower constructed for Midtown Phoenix. Floorplates of office towers built in previous decades had become functionally obsolete and contributed heavily toward Midtown's high vacancy rates. Even despite the recession, the swank Biltmore area surrounding 24th Street and Camelback Road began to eclipse the Central Corridor as the Phoenix metropolitan area's premiere office destination with mid- and low-rise developments such as the Camelback Esplanade. But as the 1990s were unkind to Central Phoenix's oldest parts, a renewed interest in the central city was taking form, this time focused on new residences instead of offices.


After numerous failed initiatives, Phoenix voters finally approved the Transit 2000 Regional Transportation Plan which dedicates a percentage of funds raised through a 4/10-cent (four cents on ten dollars) sales tax to build the METRO Light Rail line. The 20-mile (32 km) initial phase, which opened for service in late December 2008, begins at Christown Spectrum Mall, to Camelback, down Central, and then down Washington Street en route to Tempe and Mesa. On Central Avenue, there are seven stops in Midtown [1] and Uptown Phoenix and three in downtown. The three-year construction process commenced in late 2005, with the final rail being laid in late April, 2008. Many businesses experienced challenges during construction, but most have persevered—some through an assistance program sponsored by Valley Metro and the City.

Skyscrapers and light rail construction on Central Avenue, February 2008.

The alignment of light rail down the center of Central is the most significant event in the street's history. It reformed its future growth as Phoenix adopted transit oriented development zoning standards in 2003 within 1/2 mile of stops,

Steele Indian School Park opened in November 2001 on the site of the old Phoenix Indian School five years after an intricate three-way land exchange involving the Barron Collier Company and the federal government. for long-term investment in addition to the Downtown block on which the Collier Center was built.


The north and south sides of the Central Avenue Corridor of Phoenix are lined with historical houses and buildings. These are the images of those properties. Some are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and some are listed in the Phoenix Historic Properties Register. There are also some historic properties which are listed in both registers.

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