Tunnel Vision

April 18, 2011 | 1:42 PM | City Guides | By Ivy Adenauer

While there’s a lot to love about living in the Valley of the Sun (aka the world’s largest suburb), sometimes we find ourselves missing that certain big-city vibe. You know, catching a free concert in a subway station, or beaching the SUV and actually walking to lunch. So when our toes get to tapping “New York, New York,” we know it’s time to head down into the dank bowels beneath the streets of Phoenix.

OK, so it’s actually really beautiful and light-filled, but the Camelback Pedestrian Underpass is easily the Valley’s most faux-urban hotspot.

Completed in May 2007, this 86-foot-long, $6 million tunnel connects the Biltmore Fashion Park to the half-dozen or so office and condo towers at the Esplanade Center. From the road, it appears as nothing more than a six-foot-high bump in Camelback Road. But step below and you are instantly ensconced in a terrazzo tile-lined slice of urbanity.

Here, you might run into a street musician such as Julian Davis (pictured) playing harmonica to the silky-smooth sounds of classic Stevie Wonder hits. Or a political protester handing out pamphlets from a folding table. But mostly, you’ll be stunned by the beauty of this public passageway, from the oriental carpet-like flooring and glowing glass-block walls, to the central skylight raining sunlight down from windows tucked into the medium dividing the street surface above. Most important, as you listen to the echoing sounds of your own footsteps, it’s a great reminder to get out and enjoy the real reason we all live here—the late Spring weather just outside your car window.

    

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