Daily Archives: August 6, 2008

Midtown Phoenix high-rise project being “revamped”

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Banks are shying away from most high-rise condo proposals these days — even if the pitch comes from an overseas developer.  One Phoenix, a proposed 921-unit project on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and McDowell Road, is having a tough time getting financing, said Yon Minei, VP of planning for AI-BSR LLC.  Instead of breaking ground on the 375-foot complex this year, as the developer had planned, AI-BSR LLC is exploring new mixed-use options for the site, Minei said.  The alternatives could include offices, a hotel, or apartments.  Nothing is final yet, Minei said.  The firm decided to revamp the project instead of waiting for the Valley housing market to recover because that could have delayed construction for five years, he said.

[Editor’s Note: This photo was taken around 5 p.m. earlier this week.  It’s 1st Avenue, north of McDowell Rd., on the “back-side” of the proposed project.  Whatever project is built, traffic mitigation alternatives need to be explored as this small feeder street is already backed up during peak times.]

Grand Ave.’s Paper Heart may beat again

Walt Lockley)[Source: Barbara Stocklin, City of Phoenix] — Representatives of the city’s Historic Preservation Office, Development Services Department, and Office of Customer Advocacy met with Martin Lerma, owner of 750 Grand Avenue, to discuss rehabilitation plans for his property.  The property, most recently the Paper Heart Gallery, was built in 1954-55 as an automobile dealership for Quebedeaux Chevrolet.

Designed by Los Angeles architect Victor Gruen and Phoenix architect Ralph Haver, the building is an excellent example of mid-century modern commercial architecture, although several alterations through the years have adversely affected its historic character.  Mr. Lerma plans to reverse the alterations to return the building to its original character for use as a hair salon and wine bar.  He will seek historic designation and will apply for a city’ demonstration project grant to help fund the work.

Idea of the Day: Car-Sharing

From time to time, we’ll throw out an “Idea of the Day” culled from sources here in Arizona and elsewhere. The following idea was highlighted in an August 5, 2008 Arizona Republic article, “Car-sharing service now in downtown Phoenix,” by Kerry Fehr-Snyder.  Here’s what it’s all about:

The Valley’s only car-sharing program expanded to Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus Monday.  Zipcar has been operating exclusively at ASU’s main campus in Tempe since November, when it bought competitor Flexcar.  That company brought the service to ASU’s main campus in September.  Zipcar is moving one of its vehicles, a four-door Toyota Yaris sedan, from its 10-car fleet in Tempe to the downtown Phoenix campus, as classes for the 2008-09 academic year start Monday.  ASU is the only Zipcar location in Arizona.  The company launched in 2000 at Central Square in Cambridge, MA, halfway between MIT and Harvard with a dozen green Volkswagen Beetles.  “It started out with very early adopters who gave community and environmental reason for wanting to use the service,” said company spokeswoman Kristina Kennedy.  “Now it’s really hitting the mainstream.”

Zipcar has partnered with dozens of universities, including Georgetown, Columbia, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago.  Its network includes more than 5,000 vehicles in 50 U.S. cities plus the United Kingdom.  The service is aimed at students, faculty and staff who either don’t own a car or don’t want to bring one to campus but want short-term use of a vehicle.  The company charges university members who are at least 18 years old a membership fee of $35 per year plus $9 per hour or $66 per day to use a car.  That compares with a daily rental rate of about $70 a day for a similar vehicle with a car-rental company.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix mayor, Light Rail CEO answer questions from businesses

[Source: Ron Sanzone, Arizona Republic] — Though generally supportive of light rail, business leaders still have lingering questions about service and construction.  At a monthly downtown coffee Tuesday hosted by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, about 150 business leaders expressed both support and concern for the $1.4 billion project.  It is to bring the first 20 miles of light rail to the Valley later this year.  The project has generated support from public transportation advocates, as well as criticism from business owners who complain that their bottom line has been hurt by construction near their shops and offices.

Members of the largely supportive audience asked Gordon and Metro light rail CEO Rick Simonetta why the train was not running directly to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and why roads have been blocked for light-rail work when none was being done.  Gordon and Simonetta said that the trains are not going to the airport because people using light rail to travel to work would not want to suffer the hassle of additional stops at Sky Harbor.  They also said that light rail plans to build a light-rail station near the airport with a connecting people mover. 

Concerning construction, the mayor and CEO conceded that because of the size of the project, officials had made some errors and a few of the inconveniences that have made business owners and residents grumble were avoidable.  Gordon said that the city has learned which contractors are good and which are not.  “We have learned some things,” Simonetta said.  “We need to be much more accessible…we’re going to be out of your way very soon.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Renovation begins on 1926 A.E. England Building downtown

[Source: Barbara Stocklin, City of Phoenix] — Renovation to the 1926 A.E. England Motor Car Company on the Phoenix Civic Space property has begun.  Abatement work is almost complete on the interior, south side of the building, and asbestos-laden roof (now removed).

The photo at left, looking west from the front door on Central Avenue, shows the interior first floor’s wood trusses with new glue lam beams bolted onto either side of the trusses’ bottom chord.  The original bottom horizontal member is sandwiched between two new members, but all original components of the trusses remain (done to give the roof more structural capacity).

The photo at right, looks north at workers rebuilding and repairing the north parapet wall (once shared by an adjacent building, now demolished).  Masons are using salvaged bricks from the site, matching the original pattern of brick.