Editor’s note: Miracle Mile on McDowell is the latest entry in the LISC Phoenix “Communities on the Line” series. Nearly seven decades ago, shop owners frustrated by the challenges of conducting business in downtown Phoenix went looking for the next big thing in local commerce. They found it on McDowell Road, which back then was on the outskirts of town. McDowell Road quickly became a mid-century commercially vibrant, pedestrian-friendly place to be. A stretch of east McDowell was so thick with business activity it became known as the “Miracle Mile.” Fortunes changed just as quickly for Miracle Mile. By the late 1950s, the hot spot was snuffed out by the next big thing — Park Central, Arizona’s first shopping mall.
Decades of neglect and abandonment and policy decisions turned McDowell Road into a major route for commuters rather than a destination location or a place with goods and services for neighbors. McDowell Road is getting a second chance. In contemporary terms that signal next-big-thing status — revitalization, diversity, inclusion, small-business investment, creative placemaking, connected neighborhoods — the east McDowell Road commercial corridor from 7th Street to Highway 51 is heating up again. The area has amassed an array of ethnic restaurants and markets (Salvadoran, Ethiopian, Morrocan, Mexican) and is becoming a hub for immigrant and refugee entrepreneurship. Other small business also are finding success in the corridor.