It may not be immediately visible to the casual eye, but there is a diverse cross section of people and organizations who are busy creating a thriving root system to support long-term urban livability in Phoenix.
They work both independently and in collaboration to create a sustainable urban landscape that thrives on walkable neighborhoods; entrepreneurial local businesses; an arts and culture suffused environment; innovative mixed-use development, and access to healthcare. Over the next several months, DPJ will take a closer look at the people and projects that are transforming downtown Phoenix into a sustainable 21st century city.
Consider Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC) a primary root. Through its partnerships, SCC is making progress in areas as wide-ranging as housing, community development, public health and transportation. Because of the success of this unique collaborative, the Living Cities Network, a Washington, D.C.-based philanthropic collaborative of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions, met in Phoenix last week for the very first time to learn more about the innovative work being accomplished by SCC locally.
The Sustainable Communities Collaborative is a unique non-profit partnership of thirty-five entities powered by a $20 million fund privately financed by the Raza Development Fund and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Included in the collaborative are lenders; city officials from Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa and their staffs; financial institutions; local foundations; public health professionals; built environment professionals; private businesses; and community groups. Through the fund, the SCC mission is to create an economic catalyst for Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe connected to development along the METRO Light Rail, which means putting into place critical pieces, including underlying policies and tangible outcomes, to complete the sustainability puzzle.
Shannon Scutari, SCC’s co-founder and director explains the significant role for the collaborative as “keeping the conversation going.”
“It’s our job to help connect the dots,” Scutari said. “We break down the development process into easily consumable bite-size steps that create positive outcomes for everyone involved.”
“SCC,” she continues, “provides the glue between builders, city officials and staff, the developers and the neighborhood groups.”
To be truly sustainable, SCC members know that urban growth has to move beyond suburban sprawl, boom-and-bust models to a new paradigm that embraces infill development; increased density with mixed-use development and mixed income housing; access to public transportation; community healthcare; locally-spawned, entrepreneurial businesses; and the incorporation of the arts at every level of public life.
“This is one of the hardest landscapes to get funding in place,” said Scutari. “It has to be multi-faceted to get off the ground.”
“If it wasn’t for the collaborative members doing all the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting – the foundational work – we wouldn’t stand a chance in being attractive to companies, investors and developers who are looking at the Phoenix core as a place to invest in innovative ways.” said Scutari.
SCC Members participate on steering committees focused on policy areas that are most important for redefining urban vibrancy: housing, public health, community development, financial tools, and transportation. Scutari points out the importance of “setting the table” to make this new paradigm effective, saying, “It’s about turning public policy into public action.”
Scutari praises Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s work in making the SCC successful. “A tremendous amount of credit should go to the City of Phoenix and Mayor Stanton for making infill, adaptive reuse and transit-oriented development a priority. The mayor has been a real leader in this space.”
She also notes that Metro Light Rail has provided an unprecedented opportunity for Mayor Stanton, Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, and Mayor Mark Mitchell of Tempe and their staffs to collaborate across city lines in ways that maximize resources and create a winning outcome for each community. Listen to their comments in the video below.
SCC and others who are creating a new vision for a livable, sustainable Phoenix are just beginning to make a difference through the development of projects like The Newton at Camelback Rd. and Third Ave. and Union at Roosevelt at 1st Ave. and Roosevelt St., to name just a few.
Additionally, SCC has been involved with innovative partnerships with SeedSpot, Co+Hoots and LocalFirst to support commercial ventures connected to the light rail line that will attract and create jobs and economic opportunities. And while the impacts are only just beginning to be felt, the relationships being developed are creating a strong root system of trust and success that bodes well for the future of our urban core.
Native American Connections (NAC) could not have picked a better day for their ceremonial “Top Out Celebration.”
Urban Living on 2nd Avenue (“UL2″) welcomed its first visitors this morning, which happens to be Bike to Work and School Day. The residential project is located at 650 North 2nd Ave. (southwest corner of 2nd Ave. and McKinley), just a block away from METRO Light Rail.
With this in mind, perhaps the most significant statistic cited during the proceedings was that future UL2 residents will not need a car because of its proximity to light rail, thereby saving residents over ten thousand dollars each year in transportation costs.
So, let’s see… A transit-friendly location in a good neighborhood? Check. A “trail blazing” nonprofit as developer? Check. Affordable, quality, rental housing in the heart of downtown Phoenix? Check and…check.
Let’s call this a win for downtown Phoenix.
Construction began in September 2012 and is scheduled to complete in December 2013.
At last! Today was the day we got official word on the mysterious goings-on at the old Beef Eaters building at 3rd Ave. and Camelback Road.
Rumors have abounded and well over 100 people, including families from the neighborhood, business people, bankers, builders and just plain folks, gathered at 10 a.m. this morning to celebrate the plans to revitalize the site. The excitement was palpable on everyone’s smiling faces.
From 1961 through 2006, Beef Eaters was a central gathering place for Phoenicians to share meals, celebrate special events, and craft the business deals that shaped our Valley. When owner Jay Newton died in 2006, the restaurant shut its doors and the building sat empty. Now adaptive reuse developers Venue Projects have stepped up with a remarkable vision to bring the site back to life.
Central Phoenix-based Venue Projects principle Lorenzo Perez told the crowd of Venue’s dedication to finding and adapting buildings with history, a story to tell, and a strong sense of place. Jon Kitchell, another principle with Venue added, “We’re salvage hounds and love finding materials worthy of putting back into place, like black leather booths and the Queen Creek adobe bricks of this place.”
Working with John Douglas Architects, they’ll be uncovering the bones of the building and incorporating the treasures they discover back into the new uses for the site.
“Jay Newton’s Beef Eaters legacy will continue with a new interpretation of his iconic gathering place,” said Kitchell. To honor the past, the new complex will be called The Newton.
The Newton is co-owned by Venue Projects and two of the three businesses that will comprise the site. Co-owners include the nationally renowned, independent, community-based bookstore, Changing Hands, which will open its second Valley location at the site; and Justin and Michelle Beckett, current owners of Beckett’s Table, who will open a new neighborhood restaurant concept at The Newton. The third occupant will be The Lively Hood, a co-working space for creative professionals. Construction has begun and the goal is to reopen on November 1.
These three businesses will continue Jay Newton’s Beef Eaters legacy. Located just across the street from the light rail station, the bookstore, restaurant and co-working space will be active community gathering spaces that energize the neighborhood and encourage people to work together.
Shannon Scutari of Sustainable Communities Collaborative summed up the thrill experienced by everyone gathered when she referenced an old African proverb. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others. This place,” said Scutari, “is going to be about going it with others.”
In downtown Phoenix, our affinity for refashioning the old into new is evident on every street. An old house becomes a new bar, and the classic charm creates something that a new building could never quite capture. It’s part of the city’s unique flavor.
And so, in the sweeping renaissance of our downtown area, add the DeSoto building on Roosevelt and Central to your list of new favorite places. Business owners hoping to create something new in a classic space are quivering with anticipation.
Formally C.P. Stephens DeSoto Motorcars, the DeSoto building is experiencing a long-awaited rebirth at the hands of a new owner and a historically minded architect.
Built in 1928, it was the original home of the DeSoto car dealership, but has housed an array of car companies, motorcycle shops, stores and agencies since, finally turning into a warehouse of sorts. A recent foreclosure sale put it on the market, and ultimately into the hands of the bank. From there, it became a tough sell to prospective buyers due to the age, and less-than-pristine structural status of the classic building.
But after Washington-based developer Ken Cook expressed interest, he asked Bob Graham of Phoenix-based Motley Design Group to take a look. It was Graham’s opinion that the building could be restored.
“Most people went in there … and they ran away screaming,” Graham said. “Most prospective buyers were trying to buy it purely for the land value, but Ken came in with the idea to keep the original building intact, and renovate the space to house new tenants.”
Cook made an offer to the bank, and began the process of restoring the original building with Graham’s help. The restoration became a very involved project, due both to the repairs that were needed and the commitment to maintaining the historical integrity of the space.
“Ken, as the owner, obviously is the driving force. But we designed the project for him, using all sorts of incentives to try to make the project work,” Graham said.
“We were able to get a City of Phoenix building grant from the Historic Preservation Department, and we are also using historic preservation tax credits from the federal government. Basically, any way we can figure out to sweeten the pot and make the project work. As we got into it, we found the details of what the history of the building was, and we’re really trying to leverage that history as being a really big selling point.”
In a twist of fate for a building that was created to sell cars, Graham said he hopes that tenants will exploit the location’s nearness to the Roosevelt light rail stop, and draw traffic from the busy transportation connection. They will have to, as the space only feature 11 parking spots as current plans stand.
“We need tenants that are going to be able to capitalize on light rail, pedestrians, ASU students, whoever. So if they’re appealing to that crowd, then I think it will be fine. We’re not looking for typical suburban use that people will drive for.”
Graham noted that while the exterior renovation will be done within the next two months, the interior renovation would not begin until tenants are secured. The building will house between one and five tenants comfortably, and they are planning on customizing the interior design depending on the needs and final number of tenants.
While the history of this particular building is garnering more attention than a typical restoration project, for Motley Design Group, restoration is their bread and butter. The company is one of the few architectural firms in Phoenix that focuses on historic preservation projects.
“Historic preservation is kind of my specialty. Not many architectural firms around town do it, because, well, we don’t have that much old stuff compared to other cities,” Graham said.
“I think most people like old buildings. The reason that we have so many new buildings in Phoenix is because we’ve torn down most of the old ones. From a developer’s standpoint, it’s a lot riskier to do a historic project than just to build a new one.
“But in this case, I can’t imagine that the end product would be seen by the public as being a nicer thing if it were a brand new building.”
For more information on the DeSoto Building project and tenant leasing options, visit the site.
The Grand Avenue Arts and Small Business District is home to an eclectic, and very diverse, mix of the arts, small commercial enterprises, retail, industrial, affordable housing projects, social services, and historic residential.
Over the last several years, newcomers to the area have purchased the vintage commercial buildings along this diagonal strip into downtown to preserve the historic architecture or to create interesting adaptive re-use projects that are a combination of the new and the old. Hurt by the downturn, the Avenue is coming back to life with a variety of new small businesses, projects currently under renovation, streetscape planning, murals, and other arts and community related activities.
Have your own idea for a creative business or space? Check out the availability on Grand:
The Historic OS Stapley Hardware Store Buildings
The current owner is restoring these beautiful red brick buildings to their original 1920s appearance by removing interior plaster, exposing original painted signs, sandblasting interior trusses, and re-installing large storefront windows.
Location: 747 W. Grand Avenue
Space: up to 5-6,000 sq. ft. increments
Rate: Call for info
Contact: Kevin Lange, Cushman & Wakefield 602-253-7900
The Groove On Grand
In the heart of the Grand Avenue Arts and small Business District. These buildings have all been renovated for a variety of retail, art studio, and office type small businesses. It has nice outdoor seating area, a small outdoor stage, and good exposure and visibility along Lower Grand Avenue. The patio that has the beginnings of a lovely desert oasis. Owners will help build out kitchen for right, experienced bar/bistro tenant.
Henry’s Market Corner
Built in the 1920′s as a Piggly Wiggly market, the Market Corner has been purchased by a new owner who is preparing to renovate the exterior. The owner is looking for a restaurant or a neighborhood market, art studio, furniture store, or office tenant and is willing to negotiate on limited interior improvements for the right person.
Work spaces, one small theater space, art studios, small retail/office, co-working space, etc. are available in a variety of sizes and price ranges. All spaces are in vintage buildings in the Lower Grand Avenue Arts and Small Business District.
Location: 1023 Grand, 1022 Grand, 1301 Grand, and 711 N. 15th Avenue
Space: Varies, call for info
Rate: 55 cents – 75 cents a sq. ft.
Contact: Beatrice or Tony at 602-391-4016
Oasis on Grand (corner commercial space)
A prime corner of the Oasis on Grand complex at Grand, Roosevelt and 15th Avenue. Looking for community friendly tenants and open to tenants who want to co-exist with several shared uses such as bar/bistro, small retail/office, gallery, etc. Owner willing to help with TI for an experienced bistro/bar tenant.
Oasis on Grand (Live/Work)
Artist live/work space in a beautifully remodeled Mid-century Modern motel building, with interior parking and leisure area. Or can be used for small galleries.