For homebuyers (hipsters) looking to live in an urban area that affords exceptional walkability, access to cultural amenities, nightlife, dining and more, there are two Phoenix-area neighborhoods that quickly come to mind. Mill Avenue (popularly shortened to Mill Ave.) has been established for some time as a preeminent hipster spot, while Roosevelt Row (the City of Phoenix keeps trying to make RoRo happen, but it is not happening) has started trending more recently with the City of Phoenix’s effort to develop the downtown area. Is Mill Ave. a fading trend? A tourist spot? Has Roosevelt Row overtaken it as the spot the locals go?
Roosevelt Row vs. Mill Ave. Hipster Hangout
Roughly defined as the area between 7th Street and 7th Avenue, bordered to the north and south by McDowell Road and Jefferson Street, Roosevelt Row is quickly becoming a renowned destination for artists and hipsters alike. It is a part of the Phoenix Downtown Arts District and counts among its establishment’s many restaurants and galleries. Perhaps even more impressive are the frequently changing murals that adorn the outdoor spaces and the ever-expanding property values in the neighborhood.
Not so long ago, the historic bungalows on Roosevelt Row were boarded up crack houses. The resulting affordability led many pioneering artists to see their potential as creative space and, thus, Roosevelt Row in its current condition (with beautifully renovated homes) was born. Crack houses have given way to cool art galleries like First Studio, hip coffee shops like Jobot, funky stores like Lawn Gnome Publishing Company, homey restaurants like Carly’s Bistro and decidedly hipster entertainment options like Film Bar – a beer and wine bar combined with an indie movie theater.
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Roosevelt Row also offers access to Growhouse 2.0, an urban community garden, chicken coop and compost area. Or, wander over to Civic Space Park. This park offers meeting spaces for your next big event, local art for your viewing pleasure and delicious coffee at Fair Trade Café, all within the park’s A.E. England Building Gallery. The park in its entirety has been built with environmental sustainability at the forefront. The park’s lighting and electrical needs are fulfilled by solar panels on its shade structures, hard surfaces have been built with porous materials to allow water to seep through and to avoid storm runoff and a combination of specially engineered soil and strategically placed grates protect tree roots.
If you walk into any of these establishments on any given day, the vast majority of people you encounter will be Millennials. However, with the neighborhood’s close proximity to neighboring office towers and sports arena, you will also find the occasional professional in their business attire.
In northern Tempe, Mill Ave. anchors a thriving shopping and arts district that has long been frequented by young people and hipsters. This is understandable given the neighborhood’s extreme proximity to Arizona State University. Named for the flour-milling operation that was established by historic Valley resident Charles T. Hayden back in 1877, the entire area was reestablished as an entertainment district way back in 1971 after Tempe saw unprecedented population growth (84.4 percent—from 24,897 to 45,919 residents) between 1960 and 1965.
In addition to numerous bars and restaurants like Taste of Tops and Ncounter (we highly recommend Ncounter brunch after a night of sampling the 30 rotating taps at Taste of Tops), Mill Ave. is also home to designer fashion stores and numerous festivals and fairs.
Mill Ave. also culminates in the Mill Ave. Bridge which was built in 1931 and crosses Tempe Town Lake. At Tempe Town Lake, people can take advantage of watersports like kayaking and upright paddle boarding.
Which neighborhood is the most hipster?
Taking everything into account, Roosevelt Row has definitely overtaken Mill Ave. as the hipster hangout du jour. Mill Ave. has simply been around for way too long and has become home to too many chains and shiny new buildings. While some worry the same may happen to Roosevelt Row, it has not yet and will take some time before the scruffiness that hipsters are so fond of is completely worn off. And while Mill Ave. is incredibly close to ASU and its associated college athletic events, Roosevelt Row residents are within walking distance of professional sports venues like Chase Field and Talking Stick Arena.
For homeowners, Roosevelt Row is also the more solid choice. There is much more potential for increases in property value and, frankly, far less chance that you will become quickly fed up with college kids walking across your lawn. That is not to say that Mill Ave. is not a fantastic neighborhood and home to some cool spots that everyone should check out. However, with the development of the light rail, residents of Roosevelt Row can quickly and easily access Mill Ave. any time that they want.