Whether you prefer to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit or rebel against the trappings of the season, you’ll find your fun downtown with a few of Phoenix’s quirkier activities. Adults-only theater pushes the envelope with A Bloody Mary Christmas while unique Christmas light tours appeal to all ages, and puppetry and dance shows keep kids jolly.
Ballet Arizona offers the usual fairies and sugarplums at Symphony Hall with its spectacular, highly acclaimed production of The Nutcracker (through December 28), reinvented a few years ago by artistic director Ib Andersen. Tchaikovsky’s familiar music performed by The Phoenix Symphony can’t be beat, and a family four-pack includes parking, premium seats, a photo with the Sugarplum Fairy and hot cocoa.
If you prefer the music of a different Russian, try Snow Queen at Herberger Theater Center’s Stage West (through Dec. 21), choreographed by Frances Smith Cohen and presented by Center Dance Ensemble. Hans Christian Andersen’s tale comes to life with melodies by Sergei Prokofiev. Take a midday work break, buy or bring your lunch, and sample the Lunch Time Dance Theater option for only $6.
In addition to the occasional wickedly subversive 18+ puppet slam, Great Arizona Puppet Theater provides a steady stream of funny shows for children young and old. The Night Before Christmas (through December 28) features joyful music and stories.
For those who love cinema, FilmBar offers a glorious month full of movies in an intimate 70-seat venue with the added bonus of a beer and wine bar (alcohol with popcorn — what could be better?). December’s options include The Captive, The Babadook, Bad Santa and Free the Nipple (both on the Naughty & Nice Film Series), Awake: The Life of Yogananda, and the incomparable Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Foreign films include Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador) and Louis Malle’s Zazie dans le metro as a double feature. And don’t miss Opera at FilmBar — December 19 brings Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella) from the Gran Teatre del Liceu, starring a sparkling Joyce DiDonato and the yummy Juan Diego Flórez.
The calendar’s packed at Crescent Ballroom, where Cocina 10’s food and drink are complemented by the stories of Chow Bella’s Eating Christmas (December 16). For a canned food donation you’ll hear food-themed tales of holiday adventure (for ages 21 and older). Otherwise, try “Life’s a Drag. Party Like a Queen” (December 18) with interactive games, “Truth, Drag or Dare,” and drink specials all hosted by Olivia Gardens.
Phoenix Theatre serves a full plate of seasonal cheer with Holiday Classics From Screen to Stage (December 18-21), when Arizona Opera singers croon holiday favorites from films like Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Love Actually, A Charlie Brown Christmas and more. Vocalist Dennis Rowland takes the stage with the Greg Warner Project and special guest Diana Lee for the Holiday Jazz Cabaret (December 22-24) and a range of Christmas classics. And you’re sure to have a jolly holiday with Mary Poppins (through December 28), an eye-popping fast-paced feast of color, song, dance, and special effects including Valley favorite Toby Yatso as a tap-dancing, levitating chimney sweep.
Back in the realm of adults-only entertainment, Space 55 pulls out all the stops for the fifth year of A Bloody Mary Christmas (through December 21), in which Sun City retirees sing, dance, and battle a heartless homeowners’ association. Set to original music by Dangerville and Samson Says, Bloody Mary showcases Toni Jourdan, Lee Quarrie, Paula McKenny and Bob Peters. 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe (December 20) gives local performers their seven minutes in the sun with an opportunity to do whatever they want — interpretive dance, dinosaur burlesque, competitive doughnut eating, action figure battles…even naked stage magic. Who knows what you’ll see?
Other Space 55 shows include Storyline: A Winter’s Tale (December 19), part of a monthly storytelling showcase, and Resolutions! A new show for an old year (December 31), a good warm-up for your New Year’s Eve party or downtown’s Flannel Ball.
“Hip Historian” Marshall Shore brings a big yellow school bus to The Clarendon Hotel as the launch point for his Christmas Lights Tours (December 16, 18 & 23). “We cruise through Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa,” says Shore. “I curate for the most jaw-dropping displays that I can locate.” Join in the caroling and live music with your very own kazoo (provided), or sit back and enjoy Shore’s talents as a storyteller while you see commercial, private home and religious displays.
If you go:
- Ballet Arizona: The Nutcracker (through December 28)
- Center Dance Ensemble: Snow Queen (through December 21)
- at Herberger Theater Center’s Stage West, 222 E. Monroe
- visit centerdance.com or call 602-252-8497
- Great Arizona Puppet Theater: The Night Before Christmas (through December 28)
- in the GAPT’s lovely renovated historic 1929 LDS 2nd Ward Church, 302 W. Latham
- visit azpuppets.org or call 602-262-2050
- 815 N. 2nd St.
- visit thefilmbarphx.com or call 602-595-9187
- Crescent Ballroom and Cocina 10
- 308 N. 2nd Ave.
- visit crescentphx.com or call 602-716-2222
- Phoenix Theatre
- 100 E. McDowell Rd.
- visit phoenixtheatre.com or call 602-254-2151
- Space 55
- 636 E. Pierce St.
- visit space55.org
- “Hip Historian” Marshall Shore: Christmas Lights Tours (December 16, 18 & 23)
Schedules are subject to change. For more holiday diversions visit DowntownPhoenix.com:
If you’ve been to The Fillmore Vig or Cibo, you’ve probably noticed the giant chunk of empty land south of Fillmore between 6th Ave. and 4th Ave. This expansive 7.5 acres is the former site of the Thomas J. Pappas School, which was closed in 2008, and is about to become largest downtown parcel to come available since the Arizona Center was built in 1990.
Most of the site is owned by the City of Phoenix, while a small portion is owned by Maricopa County. Over the last several months property owners and community leadership have begun to examine the site and create a vision for this part of South Roosevelt that would make this site a huge catalyst for that part of the neighborhood; that plays off of and responds to the Urban Form Code, which emphasizes the pedestrian-friendly, urban design we have to have here in downtown; and that truly responds to the desires of the community surrounding the site and the greater downtown.
To get a better understanding of this process, we spoke with Dan Klocke, Vice-President of Economic Development with Downtown Phoenix, Inc. ” The whole idea is not just to throw out an RFP for the largest piece of land in downtown, the idea is to be thoughtful, to work through what could happen….,” said Klocke. “We want to make sure that it’s true urban development that stimulates more activity in the west side of downtown, that it (the RFP) takes full advantage of having this size of parcel…to leverage as much as possible.” Klocke points out that with a parcel this size it is critically important to “make sure it’s economically viable, so the development community says ‘yes this is a really good opportunity and it makes a lot of sense’ and that the community says, ‘this is going to be a great urban development for our neighborhood.’”
The process to get the RFP right began with conversations with the property owners in June and July. Then Downtown Phoenix CDC received funding through LISC (the Local Initiative Support Corporation) to hire Ayers Saint Gross, a national planning company with a lot of combined experience building projects in downtown. They have been looking at conceptually how this could lay out, and how to make it meet the economic reality of urban construction. “These are folks that get urban and that’s why we picked them. They understand the Urban Form Code, and they get what its intent is,” said Klocke. “They know how to structure the elements of the RFP so that it works both from an urban design perspective, and from a developers’ perspective.”
In addition to Ayers Saint Gross, they hired Belfiore Real Estate Consulting, a market research firm, to assess what’s doable: What’s the market in downtown? How does that match up with construction costs that they’re looking at for these conceptual plans? Klocke emphasized that the concepts being created are not what will get built, they are simply there to show what’s possible. “It’s more of an exercise to show that it can happen, and that it can be good and urban,” said Klocke. “These concepts will be part of the eventual RFP,” he continued. “So the developers can see that A) a lot of work had been put into this and, B) the principles of what we expect to happen there are laid out in both words and drawings.” Some of these principles include stated density levels, an east-west thoroughfare to break up the super blocks between Fillmore and Van Buren, and better circulation in the neighborhood, which will allow people to cut across this part of downtown.
The next stages of the process are that the city and the county have to get together and make sure that everyone is on the same page. When you put out an RFP it’s much easier when you’re dealing with one entity, such as the city. Additionally, the county can’t sell property, unless it’s at auction, or unless it’s to a municipality, and the city has both the wherewithal and experience to do it. To simplify the RFP process, the Phoenix Industrial Development Authority (Phoenix IDA) is looking to purchase the county piece. On Wednesday, December 3, the Downtown, Aviation and Redevelopment Subcommittee will be asked to give its approval that the Phoenix IDA can purchase this property, then it will go to the full council for a vote. Once that decision has been made there are several steps until the final RFP is released in February.
“Before the final RFP goes to the city council for approval,” said Klocke, “we’re going to go out to the communities and show them what we’ve been working on, and get their feedback. There will be a lot of bites at this apple over the next few months, where people can give their feedback.”
If You Go:
What: Downtown, Aviation, and Redevelopment Subcommittee Meeting
When: 10 am
Where: Phoenix City Hall, 200 W. Washington St.
Image courtesy of Google Maps.
Long-time midtown restaurant favorite, FEZ is moving just a few lights south on Central to 105 West Portland, adjacent to the Roosevelt light rail station.
Fez has built their success on a fun, accessible atmosphere; an eclectic, reliable menu; full bar; late night hours and menu; and a well-trained staff. The new location will be all of that and more. The location of the new FEZ will be familiar to some as the old Portland’s, but Mark Howard (pictured right), one of the co-owners of FEZ, (as well as Bliss/Rebar) is quick to point out that “it won’t look at all like the old Portland’s. We’re giving the whole space a complete lift.”
The new FEZ will have a great mix of recognizable, but upgraded assets: expanded patio seating, including a larger patio in front and one on the Portland Avenue side; trees, planters and mounted heaters; a 25-seat bar, in a cool hexagonal shape that will make it easier for people to see and talk with one another; and bright new everything.
“We’ve opened up the space,” said Howard. “It’s going to look so fresh, new, updated. Everything will be brand new – all the furniture, lighting, equipment in the kitchen, bar, everything.” He continues, “There will be so many cool things. We’re taking all of the fun elements of FEZ and just upgrading them.” They’re using all local, small business, and independent trades for the remodel and construction. To create the fresh vibrant look of the new location they are working with artist, architect, and designer Rocco Menaguale, of Rocco Designs. Additionally, Menaguale is creating a fine art ceiling sculpture for the bar area. Local furniture designer Levi Christiansen is creating a community dining table
“People have come to us for 10 years for what they know and what they love,” said Howard. “Our menu will always have the same good, wonderful, unique, consistent items, but we’re going to expand it a bit. We’re adding more brunch items and a few more entrée pieces. But basically it’s the same menu, same great staff, same great atmosphere.”
Howard knows that accessibility is one of the keys to their success and will continue to be key in the new location, which will build on FEZ’s reputation as a fun destination and a great place to hang. In addition to the easy biking, walking, and light rail access to the restaurant, there will be plenty of parking. The garage just behind the new location has 70 free parking spaces, and there is parking all along Portland on the greenbelt.
“You have to know who’s coming downtown,” said Howard. “It’s not suburbia. People who come downtown like eclectic, not-high-end concepts. They like the idea that they can eat there every day; that it’s reliable, consistent, affordable, more accessible.”
So FEZ fans, start spreading the word. FEZ will not close in its current location until the end of the year, and the new location opens on January 2, so there will be no lapse in getting your FEZ fix.
If you go:
What: FEZ in their new location, 4,00 sf restaurant, plus 68-seat expanded patio
Where: 105 W. Portland. Next to the Roosevelt light rail station.
When: Opening day is January 2 (the current location will remain open through the end of this year)
Hours: 11:00 am to midnight every night
Parking: 70 free parking spots in the garage and street spots on Portland Ave.
Renderings by Rocco Designs. Courtesy of FEZ.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
The annual Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood Home Tour by the Roosevelt Action Association will feature many historic properties from Phoenix’s first suburb (beyond the Phoenix city limits). The Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood is a modern name for a series of neighborhoods that grew North of the city between 1893 and 1930. It spans from McDowell to Van Buren and from Central Ave to 7th Avenue. Learn about early Phoenix life by taking a rare glimpse into the history and architecture of Historic Roosevelt’s homes. Explore turn-of-the-century architecture (Bungalows, Neoclassical, Tudor, Period Revival and Southwest Vernacular Homes).
The tour takes place on Sunday, November 9th, from 11am to 4pm and will include guided tours by hip historian Marshall Shore. Enjoy eating, playing and living (for the day) in the Phoenix’s mixed use & close to everything community.
Proceeds from the Home Tour support the work of the Roosevelt Action Association’s mission to preserve the neighborhood’s unique historic character. Tickets cost $15 per person (advance $12 per person) for the Home Tour. Please visit http://www.rooseveltneighborhood.org/ for updates and full details.
When: Sunday, November 9, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Where: Throughout Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood (McDowell to Van Buren, Central Avenue to 7th Avenue)
Cost: $15 per person ($12 in advance). Get tickets and full details.
Images provided by Roosevelt Action Association
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
PORTLAND ON THE PARK DEVELOPMENT PROJECT IS FULL STEAM AHEAD
Downtown Sales Office Opening on November 6
WHO: Portland on the Park, the highly anticipated sister property to Downtown’s award winning Portland Place, is searching for those that are ready to make Downtown Phoenix their home. The energy, sophistication and culture of the urban area are attracting people of all ages and backgrounds.
WHAT: The sales office for Portland on the Park is opening and ready to virtually tour guests and prospective buyers through the property, floor plans, amenities and social spaces. Pre-sale contracts will be accepted at office opening.
WHEN: Beginning Thursday, November 6, the sales office will be open daily with the following hours: Monday – Saturday: 10am to 6pm Sunday: 11:30am to 5pm
WHERE: The sales office is located directly off of the light rail stop at Roosevelt / Central Avenue at 107 N. Central Ave, Suite 3, Phoenix, AZ 85004
PROPERTY DETAILS: Portland on the Park is a Downtown Phoenix urban living project that is situated between the three-acre Portland Park and the 32-acre Margaret T. Hance Park along Central Avenue. Once completed in mid-2016, the property will have a total of 170 condominiums and true lofts in 3 structures: four-, 12-, and 14-story towers. In addition, a five- story parking garage will be available for resident and guest parking. Home sizes range from 745 square feet to 2,381 square feet with 21 thoughtful and efficient floor plans. Prices begin in the low $200,000s with penthouse suites available under $1 million.
Community spaces will underscore the urban living that blends work and play as well as social aspects of life. The first floor 7,200 square foot commercial space will house a coffee shop, wine bar and restaurant providing a social space for residents and the Roosevelt neighborhood. A resort-like pool will be on the ground level with an open-air gathering spot on top of the 14- story tower. A state-of-the-art workout facility will also be available for resident use.
SALES INFORMATION: For more information on the condominium and true loft homes, visit: PortlandParkCondos.com or call designated broker David Newcombe, Habitat Urban, LLC at 602.277.8500.