Monthly Archives: January 2008

Arizona’s Housing Trust Fund targeted for cuts

Fund sweeps are now being discussed by Arizona legislators and a sweep of Arizona’s Housing Trust Fund is being seriously considered.  According to advocates for the HTF, Republicans and Democrats are looking at some sort of large hit, beyond what the Governor has proposed ($6.5 million in FY08).  Republicans want to sweep near the full $55 million and Democrats are looking at some sort of alternate option beyond the Governor’s proposal, which would still have a great impact on the HTF.  Either option would be detrimental to the future of the HTF over the next two years.

Calls or e-mails to legislative leadership (Republican and Democrat) would be helpful. Legislators need to be able to put a face to these funds.  Explain how the HTF has helped a legislator’s district would be very helpful…as would how a cut might hurt their district. Points to reiterate with legislators include:

  • A $55.5 million sweep would freeze any new HTF commitments for the rest of this fiscal year, all of FY2009, and would severely cut into the program’s funding for FY2010.
  • A $55 million cut — which is an amount equal to half of the agency’s budget — would directly affect over 25,000 low and moderate Arizonans through the loss of housing programs and services.
  • The Arizona Housing Finance Authority, which relies on support from the HTF, will not be able to issue $64 million in mortgage revenue bonds already planned for this coming calendar year.  This translates into over 500 first time homebuyers who will not be assisted into homeownership at a time when assistance in this arena is critical to putting homeowners back into vacant homes.
  • Mortgage foreclosure counseling — which is so crucial a need right now — will stop.
  • The neediest populations in Arizona — victims of domestic violence and our homeless populations — will be severely underserved and in most cases requests for assistance to keep shelters open and operating will have to be denied.
  • There will no funds available for any new shelter development.
  • Eviction and foreclosure prevention, which assists over 6,000 households annually from becoming homeless, will cease, which will ultimately cost the State untold millions through the Department of Economic Security as persons seek assistance through this agency.
  • Development of new affordable rental and homeownership units for the neediest populations will grind to an abrupt halt.
  • The economic impact on the loss of $55 million in HTF should not be overlooked. Such a sweep would result in a total economic loss of almost $270 million (REMI economic analysis) to the state, including: 3,600 jobs will be lost or not created, over $91 million in wages and salaries will be lost, and over $18 million in state and local tax revenues will not be generated.

For more information, contact Teresa Brice, Executive Director, LISC/Phoenix.

Stardust Center joins ASU’s College of Design

ASU logoThe ASU Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family, with a mission to improve the growth of quality affordable homes and sustainable communities, is moving from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs to the College of Design.  There it will work in partnership with related departments: the Herberger Center for Design Research, the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, and the Planning and Design Academy.

The Stardust Center has been involved in two major demonstration homes on the Navajo Reservation (2005) and in the town of Guadalupe (2006).  At the end of October, it was selected as the recipient of a $20,000 Urban Land Institute Community Action Grant along with Local Initiatives Support Coalition to develop a presentation toolkit and campaign strategy to engage local residents, business groups, community organizations, and civic leaders in discussions about challenges presented by the population growth of metropolitan Phoenix, as well as realistic solutions and designs for building sustainable, affordable, and healthy neighborhoods.

The Stardust Center’s associate director for design, Daniel Glenn, is working with Chicanos por la Causa on a 47-unit subdivision under construction that uses structural insulated panels, a construction system that speeds on-site construction and creates a highly insulated home that reduces cooling and heating requirements.  This project will be the first “Green Communities” project in Arizona.

The Stardust Center will continue to be located at the ASU Mercado in downtown Phoenix and is searching for a new director.  Sherry Ahrentzen is interim director.  Click here for more information.

Nowakowski gives residents chance to voice concerns

Phoenix Council Member Michael Nowakowski[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] — McDowell Road bounds five central Phoenix historic districts and representatives of those neighborhoods have told new District 7 City Councilman Michael Nowakowski that improving and revitalizing the thoroughfare is a priority.  And Nowakowski is listening. Nowakowski on Saturday morning staged a meet-and-greet at Encanto Park Club House.  “How can we best serve you all?,” Nowakowski asked about 40 guests.  “How can we bring the District 7 office back to your neighborhoods?”

Resident leaders from Willo, Encanto-Palmcroft, Fairview Place, Coronado, Roosevelt, and Los Olivos shared their concerns and praised Nowakowski’s goal to give a voice back to the people.  Revitalization results have varied in the downtown area, with some neighborhoods just starting to see success, those in attendance said.  Some expressed feeling hampered by gentrification, land speculators, or a city agenda that doesn’t take residents’ wishes and concerns into consideration.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Plans revised for downtown ASU nursing building

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — It’s not on the books yet, but a plan to make downtown Phoenix an oasis of shade and inviting streets is already packing a punch.  The first hit: Arizona State University’s $30 million expansion of the College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation.  Phoenix and ASU are sharing the cost of the building. Neighborhood and business leaders complained that early drawings showed a five-story building had little shade, a blank wall and a design that “turned its back” on the street.  Because it sits at Fillmore and Third streets, the building should look like a “gateway” into the campus, they argued. 

After a week of pressure, ASU is retooling the outside of the building.  The city plans to break ground in March.  “They want us to be a leader of good design,” said Ron McCoy, the university architect overseeing the project. ” This got a lot more attention because of the draft and pending adoption of the Urban Form Project, which does a lot of things that we agree with.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here. To read Richard deUriarte’s “Quick Hit” on the matter, click here.  To read Kathleen Ingley’s “Quick Hit” on the matter, click here.]

Downtown Voices statement on ASU College of Nursing design

Frank Dolasinski
Zoning Administrator
City of Phoenix
200 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Dear Mr. Dolasinski:

The Downtown Voices Coalition had representation at the variance hearing on January 10 regarding the ASU School of Nursing, ZA-997-07.  However, we did not learn about the hearing, and the variances being requested, until the morning of the meeting.  We are in the process of scheduling a meeting with the architect and ASU regarding some of our concerns.

Because this project was described as the “gateway” to the campus by the architectural team, and is a key component of the campus and informs how it will connect with the rest of downtown, we would like to see some changes to the current request for variances.

As you are aware, the current Urban Form Project, which is steadily making its way through the city approval process, is geared toward making downtown more pedestrian friendly with an emphasis on shade, connectivity, pedestrian-oriented features, and other “green,” sustainable features.  The Urban Form directive is intended to fix some of the design problems that have hurt the walkability of our downtown, some of which have resulted from developers and architects being able to repeatedly vary out of important shade, window and other pedestrian friendly features.

The ZA-997-07 variances being requested are based on current city standards; it’s interesting to note that the city will eventually be requesting more stringent requirements through the Urban Form recommendations (for instance, 60 percent window coverage instead of the currently required 30 percent).

Since this project is publicly funded, and ASU’s stated goal is to promote “green” building practices, we think this building presents an opportunity to set an example, for not only other construction downtown, but to other builders and architects who might be hired for future campus buildings.  The Connected Oasis is an important component of the Urban Form plan, and without adequate shade and shade structures to act as connectors between important destinations, the Connected Oasis concept will be severely compromised.  We would like to see the following in regard to the variances being currently requested:

There should be a major entryway at the corner of Fillmore and 3rd Street, not only creating a gateway to the campus but connectivity to the surrounding non-campus businesses, thoroughfares, and the rest of downtown.  Where the staircase is shown today on the 3rd Street side, the rather hidden entry could create some real security and safety concerns for students.  By locating a major entryway at the corner, you can create a hub of activity that energizes this side of the building and creates the “gateway” ASU states is their goal with this building.  There might also be an opportunity to create a breezeway that connects the interior courtyard with the Fillmore side of the building, helping to break up the mega-block feel of that street face.

We believe the currently required 30 percent window coverage on the 3rd Street face creates an opportunity for the building to be outward looking versus inward looking (and as a matter of fact would prefer to see coverage that reflects the 60 percent the Urban Form is proposing).  The 3rd Street side of the building, without adequate window coverage (or perhaps an inset area for a mural, recessed info boxes, or other visual opportunities) will create a bleak stretch of wall that will add to security concerns. More features along this wall would help to activate the street on this side.  As examples, this could be an opportunity for built-in informational kiosks to help promote downtown events to the student population, or create an opportunity for a mural designed and implemented by ASU fine art majors.  We would like to see these features in addition to the currently required window coverage.

There is not adequate shade along 3rd Street — we would like to see more trees planted along this stretch if indeed the overhang is going to be reduced.  Also, there is no shade at the corner of 3rd and Fillmore.  Because there is a bus stop located at that corner, we would like to see some kind of free standing shade structure for the bus stop area.

Thanks you for your consideration of our concerns before making your determination on these variances.

Best Regards,

Steve Weiss, Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition

ASU initiates Urban & Metropolitan Studies program

Click on the graphic to enlarge the text. Now recruiting for Spring and Fall 2008. Details at http://spa.asu.edu/urban

News and views about ASU’s downtown campus

In this know99 Television segment, Dr. Mernoy Harrison, Vice President and Executive Vice Provost of ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus, talks about ASU’s downtown growth, expansion, and future plans.

And the Real Estate Industrial Complex thought he was gone

Former Arizona Republic columnist, Jon Talton.From the Great Northwest, former Arizona Republic columnist Jon Talton keeps writing about Phoenix (among other topics) from his new blog, “Rogue Columnist.”

City leaders say livelier downtown Phoenix on horizon

Downtown Phoenix Sheraton rendering[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Every city has a few crown jewels, but in 2008, Phoenix plans to pile on the razzle-dazzle.  Several downtown projects, which are expected to wrap up this year, could have huge influence on the heart of the city, insiders say.  The list includes light rail, Arizona State University’s journalism school, the expanded Phoenix Convention Center, the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, and 44 Monroe, the tallest residential building in the state.  “I see 2008 as the first wave of the perfect storm,” said Terry Madeksza, director of operations for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, a group of downtown merchants and landowners.  That’s because each project will help lure thousands of visitors and full-time residents, she said.  The 2008 projects also represent a staggering public investment.  The light-rail line, the Sheraton hotel and the convention center expansion represent more than $2 billion in public financing.

Next year will also bring huge milestones for downtown development.  For instance, the first phase of CityScape — a $900 million cluster of shops, offices, high-rise dwelling and hotels — is scheduled to open in 2009 and another high-rise condo tower, Omega, would be in the midst of construction.  “At the end of 2008, we won’t be finished,” said John Chan, the city’s downtown-development director.  This year’s projects “will carry that momentum beyond.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Quote of the Day

“We too often neglect what’s already here for what’s shiny and new.   We get back to it eventually…but sometimes it takes us a little too long and there’s unnecessary decline in the interim.”  City of Phoenix Council Member Maria Baier during her January 2, 2008 swearing-in ceremony remarks about the need to pay more attention to the city’s established neighborhoods