Culdesac Tempe, and neighborhood street art

1/27/22

Today I got to meet with some representatives of a really cool local venture, Culdesac Tempe. Follow the link to learn more, but in a nutshell, this is a planned 1000-resident car-free neighborhood here in Tempe. They plan to open later this year, and the model will also serve as a template for similar communities in other parts of the country.

My host here in Tempe, who is the head of her local neighborhood association, knew some of these folks from her work in that arena. (My previous Tempe hosts, from back in October, had initially told me about Culdesac; they knew it because of their bike-heavy lifestyle.) The build site is just about half a mile from where I’m staying now, right near the university campus and also right in the middle of the area’s light rail line.

However, their office is in downtown Tempe, and I got to visit their “parklet” today, to meet up for the chat. I also plan to see them this coming Saturday, when they will be attending a transportation open house at the Tempe public library.

I love their vision for this community. It brings back fond memories of my time with a now-long-defunct startup called CarSharing Portland. That was the first commercial car sharing organization in the United States, back before Zipcar and their ilk arrived on the scene and came to dominate it. CSP was founded by my then-boss, Dave Brook, in 1997, and I worked for the company from 1998 through 2001, when it merged with Seattle’s (also now-defunct) Flexcar, which was eventually swallowed up by Zipcar. I recall the early days at CSP, when several local Portland real estate developers—including Homer Williams, largely credited with revitalizing the Pearl District in the late 1990s—were building communities and excited to offer car sharing cars to keep on site as a benefit to promote to prospective residents.

Similarly, Culdesac will have car sharing cars on site—as well as scooters—and every tenant will receive a free platinum transit pass, to make living car free as attractive as possible.

The community will include a locally owned, non-chain grocery store, and they will also host an artist-in-residency program, offering free rent to a local artist who will create work as a part of the community.

I enjoyed talking about my own current multimodal journey with Alexys, Erin, and Ryan (and showing off to them how I fold my bike!) and I also thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their vision and plans.

These are the kinds of visionary folks—working to make the world a better place in creative and innovative ways—who I am excited to meet on this journey. I’m glad I got to connect with them today.

I’ve seen a lot of cool art in Tempe, too, including at least these four street-art examples I happened to see right in this neighborhood as I began my ride over to the Culdesac office. My host later explained that the city of Tempe is generous in funding public art.

I’m really enjoying exploring this place.

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