Monthly Archives: May 2008

State senators host June 3 public forum on mortgage crisis

Arizona State Senate Democrats will host a public informational forum addressing the mortgage crisis in Arizona on Tuesday, June 3, 2008 from 4-6 p.m. at the State Capitol Executive Tower 2nd Floor Conference Room.  “While the legislature is waiting for a budget, the Democrats feel that we could make use of the time to address vital issues that impact Arizonans.  The mortgage crisis impacts all of Arizona’s families, neighborhoods, and communities, but the perception is that it only involves the immediate family.  In actuality, the impact on the entire community is quite substantial,” said Sen. Marsha Arzberger (D-Willcox), Senate Minority Leader.

One major innovation in mortgage fraud schemes includes home equity theft, which was labeled the “Latest Scam on the Block” by the FBI this March.  In some cases, the unscrupulous entity will locate homes going into foreclosure and make promises to the current owner that if the owner refinances the home that they will be able to keep their home.  Instead, the mortgage rescue company purchases the home with a stolen identity or “straw buyer,” keeps the money from the loan, never makes payments on it, and then takes over what was once your home.  “Numerous Arizonans call or come by on a daily basis telling their stories and asking for help to combat the mortgage crisis.  Now, when Arizona ranks third highest in the nation in foreclosures, we should be building bridges for people to get the help they need while establishing clear consequences for fraudulent practices aimed at vulnerable individuals and take steps to help prevent this in the future,” said Sen. Debbie McCune Davis (D-Phoenix), Ranking Democratic Member of the Senate Financial Institutions, Insurance, and Retirement Committee.

Representatives from the Department of Financial Institutions, Arizona Department of Housing, Arizona Bankers Association, Arizona Appraiser’s Association, and Arizona Realtors Association have been invited to report on what types of activity are being witnessed in the marketplace during the first part of the informational forum.  The second part will be open for members of the public to share their stories about their experiences.  The Executive Tower is located at 1700 W. Washington accessible through 19th Avenue. There is public parking immediately to the west of the Tower.  For security purposes, attendees would need to be in the doors by 5 p.m.

Central/Camelback developer has month to convince neighbors

[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — A Phoenix developer has another month to persuade neighbors that his plans for 400-foot buildings at Central Avenue and Camelback Road are sound.  Reid Butler received a continuance for the project.  It will come up for the third time before a subcommittee of the Alhambra Village Planning Committee on June 17, and to the full planning committee a week later.

Planner Marc Thornton said neighborhood groups around the vacant site “have expressed concerns rather than support” for the project, which includes some of the tallest buildings in the city.  Butler’s proposed development would go up on the southwestern side of what village planner Thornton calls “a signature corner.”  The city’s light-rail line cuts across the site, and three buildings would be erected on the northern side of the rail line.

Plans call for 1,000 residential units, 300 hotel rooms, and retail and office space designed to tie in to the city’s transit system.  The site was approved for a height of 250 feet two years ago, and Thornton said the planning department tends to think 250 feet would be appropriate for the area.

2nd tallest downtown Phoenix building sold

[Source: Dees Stribling, Commercial Property News] — Pacific Office Properties Trust, Inc. has bought the 370,400-square-foot U.S. Bank Center complex in Phoenix.  The 31-story office structure is the second-tallest building in Arizona, after the Chase Tower, and the deal also includes a separate seven-level structure with additional parking and ground-floor retail space.

Besides the bank of the same name, U.S. Bank Center’s major tenants include Jacobs Engineering Group, a major architectural and engineering firm, and Valley Metro Rail, which is overseeing the city’s new light rail transit project.  Consistent with its co-investment strategy, Pacific Office will co-own the U.S. Bank Center in partnership with an institutional co-investor.  No price was released for the building, but in 2006 the Shidler Group bought it for about $66.3 million.

Help Phoenix’s homeless stay cool this summer

When the temperatures soar and the hot summer days are upon us, many homeless people who live on the streets do not have their basic needs met.  The city of Phoenix requests people to donate the following items — unopened water bottles, sunscreen, new underwear, white socks, white T-shirts, and pre-packaged snack items such as individually wrapped cookies and crackers — that will be distributed to the homeless.  Click here for more information.

Downtown McKinley School to be renovated

[Source: Deborah Dillon, City of Phoenix] — At its May 28, 2008 meeting, the Phoenix City Council approved two small specialty high school grants from the 2006 Capital Improvement Program Bond funding totaling more than $5.7 million.  The grants awarded to Phoenix Union High School and Paradise Valley districts will be used to develop a small specialty high school in each school district.  “The educational opportunities provided by these grants will build a stronger, more educated workforce that will help Phoenix continue to build its knowledge economy,” said Mayor Phil Gordon.

Phoenix Union will establish a Medical Sciences School on the Bioscience High School campus that will focus on the foundational skills and knowledge to support advanced college course-taking and career development in the medical fields of nursing, veterinary science, epidemiology, and medical practice.  The school district plans to use its $2,447,340 grant to renovate the existing historic McKinley building at McKinley and 6th Street and share cafeteria and common spaces with the Bioscience High School…

3TV shows snippets of Downtown Phoenix happenings

3TV reporter Beverly Kidd gives an overview of major downtown Phoenix sites and developments.

Give your feedback on the City’s Downtown Phoenix Plan

The City of Phoenix Planning Department staff re-write of the Downtown Phoenix Plan is available online.  This document was given to the Planning Commission on May 14 and represents a major re-write of the Public Review draft presented to the Planning Commission in January by the project consultant.  City staff has “tweaked” the text, replaced a number of the images, and continues to add more images and maps.

Your questions, comments, and opinions are welcome!  Give your feedback before June 9, 2008 to Dean Brennan, Principal Planner, Planning Department, City of Phoenix, at 602-262-4499 or e-mail.

Staff continues to work on the Form-Based Code and is now conducting meetings with stakeholders in each of the Character Areas identified in the Plan.  The Code will go to the Planning Commission and City Council this fall.

Why is there so much bad design, 2004 DV report wonders?

Excerpt from Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown,” August 2004: “During the past two decades, many large scale projects in downtown Phoenix have been on a fast track, not leaving sufficient time for a thoughtful and well developed planning process.  Any truly thoughtful planning process should take the necessary time to develop well-designed projects that will sustain over the long-term.  We should acknowledge, and learn from, the mistakes that have been made with the fast-track approach we have taken in designing many of our major — and not particularly successful — downtown developments.  Our motto should be: Plan Slowly; Build Quickly.”

New blog fosters communication & cooperation south of downtown

A new blog, SoDo Phoenix, has been set up to facilitate communication and cooperation between businesses and organizations of three distinct neighborhoods on the south side of downtown Phoenix, namely the Warehouse District, Central Park, and Grant Park.  An additional goal of the blog is to educate the public on the residential, dining, employment, and recreational opportunities in the area.

Locally owned businesses add authenticity says 2004 DV report

Scroll your mouse over each photograph for commentary from the Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown report of August 2004. 

In the chapter on Locally Owned Business, the report states: “The city of Phoenix is facing an unprecedented surge in growth, and city leaders are working hard to make a livable downtown that will sustain the addition of 15,000 new ASU students plus 1,800 faculty and staff, the employees of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and massive additions to housing and retail space.  In Phoenix, we still have the opportunity to keep our downtown unique and thriving, a combination vital to our quality of life and sense of place.  Many people across the country are feeling a sense of loss in their communities due to the homogenization of their downtown corridors.  The disappearance of local businesses is palpable and real.  It is time to consider the real loss a community experiences when it loses its local business base, and choose instead to invest in our local economy, cultivate consumer choice, encourage cultural diversity, and ensure that our hometown maintains its own unique character.

From Barnstable, Mass., to Austin, Texas, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Fullerton, California, communities are becoming politically active and rejecting the hollow promises the chain stores offer.  Local business is a critical part of the social fabric of any community and helps to build tradition, pride and commitment.  We can move towards becoming another bland, commercialized, and divided town where gated communities, private security services, and chain stores are prominent features.  Or we can remain unique, beautiful, and open to new cultural expressions through the encouragement and development of our local business community.”