Monday, May 21, 2012

Hysterical University Heights, Tempe, AZ

The supposedly charitable thrift store in my old neighborhood, east of ASU, plans to build a 50 unit, 90,000 square foot apartment complex, 4 stories high, on hardly any land, on an already cramped corner. As usual, this behemoth of a motel-style apartment complex has a charming and quaint name: Gracie's Village. Man, that thrift store must really be doing well by doing good. It must take a lot of 50% off sales of half-broken 20-year-old household crap and out of style, vaguely sweat stained clothes to get financing for such a project. But then, I guess anything is possible when you have Jeebus and all the saints on your side. It is intended to be an affordable housing development, which might explain why my old neighbors are so up in arms about it. As if the same neighborhood that hosts Long Wong's and Baker's Acre has very much of the stupid, utterly fake "upscale" feel (as represented by the hideous Grigio apartments, for example) to defend.

I predict the city of Tempe will rubber stamp the project, just like all of the other insane, unplanned, ugly development all over town, all over most of Arizona that has been defiled by the get rich quick morons who somehow still manage to get financing for elaborate commercial projects that befoul the landscape and often sit empty for months at a time. A conservative estimate has about 20 people getting obscenely rich while thousands are forced to tolerate ever increasing levels of garish, big box, overdeveloped, unrented retail and living space.

My former neighbors are up in arms, of course. It's very funny to me that the article mentions the overgrown lawns. Rentals Tempe has a few properties back here, and holds the line on requiring tenants to do all the yardwork, a ridiculous proposition that consumed hours and hours of labor when we lived there. The other absurdity is that these boxy, cookie cutter cinder-block-construction ranch homes from only a few decades ago could even get designation as a "historic neighborhood." Clearly, "history" in AZ means anything that happened about 50 years ago. Combine this utterly surreal sense of "history" with the outrageously overpriced real estate in these neighborhoods (even after the crooked real estate bubble vomited blood and died, there were a still few University Heights 3 bedrooms going for more than 200K), and you get a more complete picture of just how distorted the perspectives are.

I love this quotation from the story: ""But the people in the neighborhood believes there is crime do to the less fortunate.'" I never thought any of the very occasional crime in the old neighborhood was "do to" Gracie's. I always thought it was due to the whole funky ass flavor of Apache Boulevard, with cadres of drunks hanging out at the bus stop at McClintock, throwing beer cans at passers by, hollering obscenities to the sky, wandering into yards and passing out. But this is no different from anywhere else in this general area of Tempe, largely constituted of endless puke colored strip malls full of payday loan companies, liquor stores, convenience stores, "cash for gold" fly-by-night crooks with dogged sign spinners sweating gallons on the sidewalk, coin-operated car washes and huge apartment complexes entirely devoid of class or soul. Given this thoroughly beat and squalid context, the endlessly replicated, obscenely overpriced cockroach infested brick boxes surrounded by howling dogs, inhabited by insane hoarders and gall durned collidj kids of University Heights seem charming indeed.

Definitely a quality of life worth preserving.