Downtown is more than a grid system of streets and square miles. It is defined by something more. In this short series, new DPJ contributor, Colin Columna hones in on the five senses as his guide to explore what makes downtown Phoenix unique.
With our ears attuned to the nuanced sounds of downtown Phoenix, from the distinctive “ding ding” of an approaching light rail train, to the sounds of laughter from people on their bikes and a radio playing from the open window of a passing car, we begin. Our first stop on this downtown sensory tour is along Phoenix’s cultural highway, Central Avenue, at the intersection with Roosevelt Street. On the northwest corner stands the landmark Trinity Cathedral, spiritual home of the Episcopal congregation and secular home to the renowned Phoenix Chorale.
The Cathedral, completed in 1920, provides a graceful connection to Phoenix’s history, but visit during First Friday Art Walk and the space is filled with the sights and sounds of contemporary urban life. The Cathedral Center for the Arts provides the visual experience in the Olney Gallery and Phoenix Chorale’s Artistic Director Charles Bruffy conducts the surround sound of the Grammy Award winning ensemble during Open Rehearsals.
“I love our open rehearsals,” says Bruffy, “they allow us an opportunity to invite people who may be familiar with their own church choir but unfamiliar with what we do, to drop in and experience something new and hopefully surprising.”
At the center of downtown’s thriving Roosevelt art district, and easily accessible from Central and Roosevelt Metro Light Rail station, the free rehearsals add an element of accessibility to classical music while giving Phoenix Chorale serious “street cred.”
Bruffy explains the rehearsals allow for the audience to actively engage with the process. “Our singers have trained and perfected their gift and talent to sing from the heart. The casual atmosphere of open rehearsals allows us to not only sing but talk to our audience, answer questions, tell stories about the songs and tune their ears for the adventure of choral music. Our goal is make it possible for as many people to explore and enjoy the music and just as important to have fun.”
Choral music evolved from the earliest form of musical expression, telling stories through folk songs and devotional chants. Charles Bruffy plays a significant role in that evolution: appointed Artistic Director of the Phoenix Chorale in 1999, Artistic Director of the Kansas City Chorale since 1988, Chorus Director for the Kansas City Symphony Chorus since 2008 and an impressive list of other gigs around the country. His exhaustive schedule ensures that chorale music remain relevant and at the top of the charts.
Under his leadership the Phoenix Chorale and Kansas City Chorale have ten Grammy Award nominations and each garnered two Grammy Award wins. The latest Phoenix Chorale recording, Northern Lights, spent a lucky 13 weeks on the Billboard charts and of special significance to Bruffy, “We were named “Best Classical Vocal Album of the Year” on iTunes Best of 2012, how cool is that?”
Adding to the richness of the Chorale’s sound is the unique qualities of Trinity Cathedral. “Many of our concerts are performed in sacred spaces, like the Cathedral.” he says, “It may be that they are usually of older construction, of stone and hard acoustics that singers enjoy. But there is something very special that occurs when we perform in the sanctuary, a reverb is applied creating an added element to the performance, as if the voice is singing a duet.”
If location is everything, Bruffy believes he could not be luckier. “I love being in the ‘hood. Our city is so culturally rich and there are so many flavors and cuisines to sample downtown.
I can leave work, get to my apartment, go to one of my favorite places Cibo Urban Pizzeria for a meal and still make it to rehearsals on time.” After performances Bruffy is often spotted at a few of his other favorites, including St. Francis, Breadfruit and Hanny’s courtesy of the Light Rail.
The musical dynamo believes the trains add to downtown’s vitality, “When I see the light rail go by, listen to the tone of the bell, I hear the sound of a twenty-first century city.”
Asked to imagine a concert that captures the flavor of downtown Phoenix Bruffy quickly, and expertly, whipped up this selection and provided a few highlights:
“Phoenix” by Ola Gjeilo, the Chorale’s 2010 Composer in Residence.
“In the Beginning” by Aaron Copland. “This piece reminds me of the mythical bird, and our city’s namesake, the Phoenix, always able to surprise, evolve and reinvent itself.”
“Cloudburst” by Eric Whitacre
“Mountains” by Steven Chapman
“Anasazi Women” by Anne Kilstofte. “This piece is selected from our 2014/15 season, Desert Song concert. A musical celebration of the beautiful Southwest landscape in which we live.”
To sample more of the Phoenix Chorale visit their website: www.phoenixchorale.org or call 602-253-2224.
Photos courtesy of Phoenix Chorale
Last week, the City of Phoenix Community & Economic Development Department announced the results of the panel recommendation on proposals for the best use of the Barrister Building and adjoining property on the southeast corner of Central Ave. and Jefferson Street. Positioned just south of Cityscape and a block and a half west of US Airways Center, this key property sits along the proposed corridor for a light rail extension to south Phoenix and is a geographic linchpin between downtown and the warehouse district.
The Barrister Building, originally built in 1915 as the 125-room Jefferson Hotel, was famously featured in the opening scenes of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1960 film, Psycho (see the Phoenix sequence starting at 2:20. The Jefferson Hotel is featured at 2:50). Over the years, the now “Barrister” building was converted to office space. The City acquired the building in 1990 to use for office space and the Police Museum. It was registered as a Phoenix History property in 2005, and in 2010 the City relocated operations and prepared the building for long-term inactivity.
Because of the historic designation of the building and its pivotal location, there were three primary contexts that developers needed to consider in their proposals: historic preservation, public transit, and city plans and ordinances. Ultimately the development parameters included eight specific criteria, and four “additional considerations.” Complete details can be found in the full RFP.
The RFP for this property was issued on April 25, 2014 and the deadline for proposals was July 7. Three separate public meetings in May, and a final public meeting on June 27 enabled proposers to tour the property and City staff to answer questions and explain criteria. Ultimately, six eligible proposals were considered by the seven member review panel that included four City staff and three members of the public. It was heartening to see that several of the proposers were downtown neighbors: integral, local participants in the ongoing creation of a more vibrant downtown.
How are the panels for these RFP’s formed? “With the continued growth of our downtown neighborhoods and increased interest in city projects, the city has taken steps to increase the transparency of our process and involvement of community members over the last year,” CEDD staff explained. “In forming the evaluation panel, the city carefully considers several factors unique to each property and the adopted evaluation criteria for the RFP. For this RFP, the city staff on the panel included representatives of the departments that purchased and own the property, along with specialists in historic preservation and development.”
Panel members met three times to discuss how well each proposal met the criteria and the top three proposers were invited to present to the panel in person. This gave both the proposers and the panel members a chance to discuss the highest scoring proposals in greater depth. In the end, a consensus was reached and the panel recommended accepting the PB Bell/Davis Enterprises Collaboration proposal for an adaptive reuse renovation of the Barrister Building and the addition of two new buildings to create a residential/retail “urban composition” that combines historic preservation, residential density, walkability, and small business site opportunities with a practical, sustainable business model.
The PB Bell/Davis Enterprises Collaboration aligns two longtime, family-owned investment and development companies in Phoenix. Davis Enterprises has been investing and developing in Arizona since 1948 and is currently being managed by the third generation. Davis’ expertise is in retail and commercial office space, with the emphasis primarily on high density infill redevelopment and multi-tenant space. PB Bell Companies was founded by Phil Bell in the mid-70’s with a goal of becoming a leader in the multifamily acquisitions, development and property management industry. Similar to Davis, PB Bell has only acquired and developed real estate in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.
What are the next steps? Again, according to CEDD staff, “City staff will review the panel recommendation and begin negotiations with the developer. If mutually agreeable terms are reached, a Letter of Intent will be signed and those terms will be presented to City Council for approval. Council approval is typically a two-step process, going first to Subcommittee for approval, and then to a Formal Council meeting for a final approval.”
In cases like this, where the City owns the property and seeks proposals that best embody City development priorities, the RFP process is an excellent mechanism for getting diverse and engaged responses that address those priorities in detail. Some plans may be bold and dazzling, but leave critical questions unanswered, while others may seem less imaginative, but answer the criteria with specific and thorough detail. In the end, it is up to the panel to wade through the pros and cons of each proposal to arrive at a consensus that offers the best opportunity to achieve a workable, desirable project that will provide a long-term benefit to the area.
It’s a balancing act.
As Eric Johnson of CEDD puts it, “The city is looking for every project to be successful, especially when they involve city property through the RFP process. There are many variables that impact the viability of projects and, in the end, it is the proposers who must demonstrate the viability of their projects through the proposal process and balance the risk of the project based on the financial, commercial and real estate markets.”
We’ll keep our eyes on this project as it moves ahead through the process and keep you up-to-date on the progress of this important corner of downtown.
Details at a Glance:
Proposers (for specific details on each proposal, contact CEDD):
- Jefferson Hotel 1915, LLC (Michael Levine)
- PB Bell/Davis Enterprises Collaboration
- RED Development
- Crescent Bay Development Services, LLC
- Windsor Jefferson LLC (Equus)
- Ventra Group, LLC
- Craig Mavis, City of Phoenix, Planning and Development
- Jodey Elsner, City of Phoenix, Planning and Development/Historic Preservation
- Bradd Holcomb, Green Street Realty/Rosson House Board
- Jim McPherson, Evans Churchill Association
- Mark Roye, City of Phoenix, Public Works
- Molly Ryan Carson, Ryan Companies US, Inc.
- Robyn Sahid, City of Phoenix, Community & Economic Development
David Krietor has served as CEO of the newly-formed Downtown Phoenix, Inc. (“DPI”) since April 8, 2013. In that time, he has begun work with community stakeholders to develop the downtown we want. “Your Downtown” shares his thoughts and DPI’s progress with the downtown community and beyond. Read the other chats here.
I want you to mark your calendar for Tuesday, August 26, 5 to 7 p.m., at the Virginia G. Piper Auditorium, University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. It’s the premiere of RadiatePHX, a monthly networking event for business, community, and city leaders. Hosted by Downtown Phoenix, Inc. and Downtown Phoenix Journal, RadiatePHX provides a monthly opportunity to connect with a broad spectrum of downtown advocates, receive key updates from guest speakers on what’s happening in the city core, and learn how you can connect and contribute. RSVP here.
The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is seeking 5,000 volunteers to help out over a nearly two-week timeframe at various Super Bowl-related events, including Super Bowl Central in downtown Phoenix. If you have friends, family, or employees interested in helping to showcase our downtown (and I know you do), have them visit the Super Bowl Volunteer webpage.
This Could Be PHX, a website that promotes downtown businesses, launched PHX Coffee Culture last month to emphasize the city’s growing coffee movement, highlighting 13 coffee shops in central Phoenix. The project is a joint effort between Ryan Tempest and Quinn Whissen, co-founders of This Could Be PHX, and Jonathan Carroll, owner of Songbird Coffee & Tea House.
Turning Phoenix Green
According to the Arizona Republic, homes and businesses along light rail routes in Phoenix should save about $13 million a year on electricity bills from new energy-efficiency projects paid for by Energize Phoenix grants under the federal government’s 2009 stimulus program. But an audit released earlier this year showed that energy savings from upgrades, which included better lighting, shade screens, cooling systems, and duct repairs, were lower than predicted.
Progress is being made on the renovation of the 1931 Professional Building at 15 E. Monroe St. in downtown Phoenix. The project, renamed the Monroe Hilton Garden Inn, is now in the city permitting stage.
Several recent studies highlight how Arizonans and Phoenicians are becoming less reliant on a car-centric transportation system:
- Arizonans Driving Like It’s 1994, Streetsblog USA, July 23, 2014
- When Car-Loving Cities Start to Embrace Light Rail, Next City, July 15, 2014
- HUD Sustainable Communities Grantees Take a Healthy Path Toward Urban Development, National Prevention Strategy, July 1, 2014
- Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros, Smart Growth America, June 16, 2014
Snell & Wilmer LLP has renewed its lease for approximately 10 years at Arizona Center. A long-standing anchor tenant at the downtown development, Snell & Wilmer is the largest commercial law firm in metro Phoenix.
Buffalo Wild Wings is seeking a new restaurant location in central Phoenix, possibly downtown Phoenix, according to the Phoenix Business Journal.
College students and Millennials are driving the local multi-family housing market as younger demographics are pushing new apartment developments in central Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. Despite this trend, the Phoenix-area housing market is officially in a slump, according to a new report from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business.
According to the Wall Street Journal, as Millennials and other urban dwellers have children, their needs are changing. And cities, like Phoenix, want to hold on to them by becoming more “playable,” for both children and adults.
Parking meter changes in downtown Phoenix take effect next week. Hours that drivers have to pay to park are extended to seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., including holidays. How much drivers pay will vary depending on what area or “zone” they are located.
AZ + Africa
The Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, a six-week professional civic leadership training institute for 25 young African leaders, was recently concluded by the ASU College of Public Programs. Listen to Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College, and Al Kags, one of the ASU Fellows, recap the time spent in downtown Phoenix in this KJZZ Radio interview.
A $1 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation will enable ASU journalism students to produce daily coverage of business and economic issues for regional and national media outlets. The Reynolds Business Reporting Bureau will be located in a state-of-the-art newsroom at the Cronkite School on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.
The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program, in partnership with Friendly House and the ASU School of Film, Dance, and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, will receive a $100,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town grant. The funds will be used to create “Story Days,” a two-year series of story-based arts programs and events that explore the connections Phoenix residents have to their communities.
Congratulations to three young downtown advocates who received significant recognition this past month. Kimber Lanning (right), director of Local First Arizona, a small business owner, and member of the Downtown Phoenix, Inc. board of directors, has been named the recipient of the International Economic Development Council’s 2014 Citizen Leadership Award.
What do you think a flexible transportation future for Phoenix could be? Mayor Stanton wants to know.
The City of Phoenix announced this morning at the Downtown Phoenix Civic Space Park the launch of Talk Transportation – a public involvement process that will create recommendations for a citywide transportation plan for future routes for buses and light rail; maintenance and capital improvement needs for roads and streets; and a proposed funding mechanism.
The Citizens Committee on the Future of Phoenix Transportation was appointed on July 2. Public meetings will be held throughout the city over the next few months and talktransportation.org was launched to encourage everyone to join the conversation.
The initiative and planning process was introduced by Mayor Greg Stanton, and speakers and committee members included Councilwoman Thelda Williams, chair of the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee; Councilman Daniel Valenzuela; Councilwoman Kate Gallego; Mary Peters, the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation (and this committee’s chair); Kerwin Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce; and Phil Pangrazio, president and CEO of Arizona Bridge to Independent Living. For a complete list of committee members, check here.
Councilman Valenzuela stressed the economic development impact of the first 20-mile stretch of Metro Light Rail. “It cost 2.4 billion dollars, but has already created a seven billion dollar return…and it’s not just about catching a train to a game, it’s about catching life’s appointments: doctor visits, getting to work, laundry, grocery shopping.” He pointed out that many people in neighborhoods throughout the city either don’t have cars, or cannot drive for a variety of reasons. “It’s not okay for neighborhoods to be living without infrastructure.”
Councilwoman Gallegos thanked Mayor Stanton for his dedication, calling him “the transportation mayor.” She and the others reiterated the importance of multi-modal transportation options and bringing rail to people who choose not to drive, or cannot.
Join this conversation by signing up at talktransportation.org and voicing your ideas, and your vision of the city you want; participate in the community conversations as they are announced; and be a part of building a stronger, viable transportation future for Phoenix. We’ll keep you posted as community discussions are planned. The committee is expected to present their recommendations by the end of the year.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
CITY OF PHOENIX AND PHOENIX COMMUNITY ALLIANCE TEAM UP FOR “LIGHTS ON CENTRAL AVENUE” SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITY
The city of Phoenix and Phoenix Community Alliance have teamed up to encourage community sponsorships to continue “Lights on Central Avenue,” a Phoenix tradition of displaying lighted holiday decorations along Central Avenue, from Camelback Road to Baseline Avenue. During recent years, funding has diminished and community support is vital to continue this tradition.
“One of my favorite memories as a child is when my family would take my mother’s yellow station wagon and drive down Central Avenue to look at the holiday lights. Learning that the holiday lights may not be a possibility due to funding was heartbreaking. I am hopeful others in our community enjoy this tradition as much as I do and together we can keep this tradition alive,” said Councilman Michael Nowakowski, District 7.
Each sponsor will be recognized with a banner(s) featuring the organization/business name and logo to be displayed along Central Avenue, along with recognition in the city’s “At Your Service” newsletter, distributed via the city’s water bill, and on Councilman Nowakowski’s PHXTV show, among other recognition. Sponsorship opportunities cover specific portions of Central Avenue, and start at $1,800.
For more information on this sponsorship opportunity, please visit phoenix.gov/rfp and click on the “Lights on Central RFS” link. Statement of interest forms must be submitted no later than 2 p.m. Arizona time on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. For specific questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 602-262-7654. Question and answer deadline is 5 p.m. Aug. 8.
Photo courtesy of Jack London.