To continue to foster the hotbed of innovation and economic development happening in the city’s center, Phoenix has launched PHX Core —its innovation district. With the launch, the City unveiled the district’s new website and brand. The district’s strategy and its new brand have been in development since Mayor Greg Stanton first announced plans in 2016.
Innovation districts are geographic areas that cluster together innovative people, companies and leading anchor institutions in urban areas. These collaborative environments, emerging in cities across the U.S., bring together startups, business incubators, accelerators, entrepreneurs, universities, and the like, to cultivate economic development and foster innovation and job creation. Innovation districts can play a major role in increasing a city’s competitiveness.
“We have worked hard to create an economy rooted in innovation,” Stanton said. “There are great opportunities and challenges ahead for our City, and in many ways, those will be concentrated in PHX Core. But I’ve never been more optimistic about this area’s future. If we continue to collaborate across industries and sectors, if we continue to cultivate the diversity that makes our community so rich, if we continue to lift entrepreneurs, I have no doubt PHX Core will be a resounding success.”
PHX Core overlaps parts of both downtown and the Warehouse District. It is bounded roughly to the north by Garfield Street, to the south by Hadley Street, to the west by 2nd Avenue, and to the east by 7th Street. PHX Core is anchored by the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, ASU Downtown Campus and Galvanize—each with distinct economic attributes.
“PHX Core ties together our economic development efforts downtown into a new and exciting brand that also provides strategic direction to drive growth that will benefit our entire city and region,” Councilwoman Kate Gallego said. “Downtown Phoenix has unique attributes that must be leveraged to drive innovators and entrepreneurs to locate in our city and PHX Core provides guidance to achieve those goals.”
Brookings Institution first defined the idea and model of innovation districts in 2014. Innovation districts grow by intentionally locating innovators, creatives and entrepreneurs in a dense, transit-oriented area, where anchor institutions help leverage job growth and economic development.
Since 2016, Phoenix’s Community and Economic Development Department and Mayor’s Office staff have worked with a steering committee (appointed by Council through a public process) to develop a report assessing Phoenix’s innovation assets and present strategies for future growth. The steering committee held monthly public meetings over the course of a year to study best practices and evaluate Phoenix’s strengths and weaknesses.
“PHX Core shows what happens when you bring together brilliant minds from people living and working in Phoenix,” said Christine Mackay, director, Phoenix Community and Economic Development. “The cross-pollination of unique ideas from this group grows the range of our innovation ecosystem. Now, with a designated Innovation District and a solid strategic plan, the future of the PHX Core is solid, providing a place where our innovative and creative companies can form, thrive and succeed by working together.”
The following are key findings from the report that inform the goals and strategies of PHX Core:
• PHX Core’s workforce is booming: Employment in PHX Core is 24 times more dense than employment in the city of Phoenix overall.
• The residential population in PHX Core and the immediate surrounding area is set to grow significantly: More than 800 units are under construction in PHX Core with an additional 2,100 planned through 2019. Residential growth in the immediate surrounding area is also on the rise.
• The growing number of students in PHX Core is strengthening the talent pipeline: In 2000, there were virtually zero higher education students in downtown Phoenix. Today there are more than 13,000.
• There is an important relationship between the top industries by employment and the degree programs offered by the higher education institutions in PHX Core.
• PHX Core attracts a highly-educated workforce: There is a concentration of bachelor and graduate degree holders working in the area that far exceeds education attainment levels citywide. Sixty percent of PHX Core employees have a bachelor or graduate degree, compared to 30 percent of residents in the greater Phoenix metro.
• The people in PHX Core are diverse: One-third of both residents and employees are Hispanic, and 30 percent of residents and 10 percent of employees speak Spanish at home.
• Commuting to PHX Core is convenient: Nearly half of employees commute just 5 to 24 minutes to work each way.
• Valley residents will commute an hour one-way for quality jobs: While half of employees have a short commute, 24 percent of PHX Core employees commute more than 60 minutes each way.
• There is room for more growth and new tenants in PHX Core: There is currently 9.2 million square feet of office space and 1.1 million square feet of industrial space located within PHX Core (with vacancy rates of 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively).
• Light rail is a critical public transit option for residents and employees in PHX Core, and they are taking advantage of it: There are approximately 7,000 average weekday boardings within PHX Core, and 10,000 average weekday boardings within downtown overall.
The report also outlined goals and strategies to build expertise, support entrepreneurship and cultivate diversity within PHX Core.
The full report can be viewed and downloaded at www.phxcore.com.
A list of steering committee members is available on p. 26 of the report. Raquel Estupinan, mayor’s press secretary, and Eric Jay Toll, Community and Economic Development communications manager, can help connect media with steering committee members for interviews.