Daily Archives: August 14, 2008

Adaptive reuse key to Phoenix’s diverse and unique history

[Source: Kimber Lanning, Local First Arizona, and David Cavazos, City of Phoenix, “My Turn” column, Arizona Republic] — The city of Phoenix has a plan to ensure our history will become part of our future, as vintage buildings are given new vitality through a process known as adaptive reuse.  This process instills a sense of character and diversity in our city -– a balance of modern construction and the modification of existing buildings.  The process also represents a commitment to future generations and provides jobs for today. 

During the last few years, we have witnessed tremendous growth in our city.  Partners including small business owners and entrepreneurs are major components to this growth.  In exchange for sweat equity, they are looking for a simplified path through the development process. 

It is easier to see why major projects such as the Phoenix Convention Center, CityScape, and Sheraton Downtown Phoenix (to name a few), are essential to economic growth and prosperity.  However, we all need to better realize the importance of the small adaptive reuse projects, including restaurants such as Fate, Cibo, Palette, and Roosevelt Tavern, and shops such as MADE Boutique.  These new businesses offer the influx of ASU and U of A students, convention visitors, and guests of the new Sheraton memorable experiences and places to frequent.

The positive benefits of adaptive reuse come with some challenges.  Bringing older buildings up to code to meet today’s fire, structural safety, and accessibility requirements can present a financial burden for small business owners.  At the end of the day, the adaptive reuse project must be financially feasible.  To this end, the City of Phoenix developed a pilot program to simplify the process of modifying older buildings for new purposes, while continuing to ensure the safety of all construction.  This program includes a comprehensive 10-item plan that includes defining life safety issues; allowing the routine use of the International Existing Building Code (which often reduces the scope and cost of modifications to the building); internal and external education programs; and evaluating “best practices” of other cities.  A task force comprised of senior staff from a number of city departments was formed to ensure all 10 items are achieved.  The task force also will conduct focus groups to ensure that we are including our diverse community in this plan.

At this stage in the evolution of downtown, city leaders recognize the need for the city to become a partner in the growth of new businesses, both large and small.  Now is the time to encourage business growth with over 750 new student residents moving downtown in August, and over 1,000 overnight guests daily coming to our new Sheraton and new light rail connecting downtown to other parts of the Valley.  The City is committed to streamlining and deregulating the development process for adaptive re-use and new in-fill development in our city’s core without compromising public safety.  Mayor Gordon and City Council are in strong support of this pilot program and will review the task force recommendations in the fall.

Restaurateur to open 3rd operation in downtown Phoenix vintage building

[Source: Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic] — Five years ago, people thought Johnny Chu was nuts to close down his successful Tempe restaurant and open one in downtown Phoenix.  “A lot of investors dropped out,” Chu said, including a member of his own family.  “My uncle tried to talk me out of it.”  But Chu’s investment in Phoenix’s city center has paid off.  And he has doubled down, opening two more spots within the same square mile.  “Downtown has grown faster than I expected it,” he said, touring his new place, Sens, an Asian tapas and sake bar that opens early next month.

Sens joins Chu’s original downtown Phoenix restaurant, Fate, and the outdoor martini bar adjacent to Fate called Next Door.  All three bring a much-needed pulse to the heart of the nation’s fifth-largest city.  “It’s been asleep for 22 years.  Up until 2005, nobody would be walking at night,” Chu said.  His wife, Linda, added, “They’d run.”

All three Chu restaurants have opened in what had been abandoned buildings. Fate took over a brick house along Fourth Street, just south of Roosevelt Street.  Next Door took the plywood off the windows at the house next door.  Sens takes a spot in what used to be a business plaza hidden behind thick wrought-iron gates.  They’re the kinds of buildings people pass every day, without a thought to their potential.  “You really don’t pay attention to the beauty,” Chu said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona part of “region on the brink”

[Source: “A Region on the Brink: the Southern Intermountain West,” Brian Krier, Next American City] — The Southern Intermountain West encompasses Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, a massive region facing a considerable population boom and a rapidly evolving economy, neither of which are expected to slow down in the next few decades.  According to the report, the Mountain megas’ population and job base could very well double by 2040, a rate that will drastically outpace the rest of the country.   The report concludes that growth in the region will have “tremendous implications for the built environment and regional construction activity,” estimating that the current housing stock will need to be nearly doubled and non-residential space would need to increased by a total of 9.4 billion square feet.  Future expenditures for this alone would push well into the trillions of dollars.

Geography will also continue to play a key role in the development of the region.  Because the federal government remains the region’s principal landowner, the policies that govern these areas have significant impact on what is leftover.  With much of the densely populated areas tucked neatly inside mountain ranges or sprung up from deserts, a number of quality of life issues have sprung up that need addressing: access to public transportation, reducing automobile dependence, and improving urban spaces.  All of these concerns, of course, pale in comparison to the most critical issue facing the West: water management.  As development continues throughout the West, water access and management may very well determine whether this current boom can be sustained.

In order to face these issues head-on, the report calls for a “new federal-state-mega partnership that will allow the region’s pivotal megapolitan areas to surmount their common challenges and assert their leadership in the nation and the world.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Idea of the Day: Commuting Alternatives

From time to time, we’ll throw out an “Idea of the Day” culled from sources here in Arizona and elsewhere.  The following idea, well actually several ideas, revolve around alternatives to driving in this new era of $4-plus gasoline.  The Arizona Republic article, “Employers work to ease commuting costs to offset gas prices,” by Betty Beard tells what it’s all about:

“High gas prices have done more than suck away consumers’ cash.  They also have led many bosses to approve four-day workweeks, telecommuting options, flexible schedules, and mass-transit subsidies.

Call it sticker shock.  This year’s pump prices stunned employers and employees alike into realizing that commuting alone to work could become prohibitively expensive for many workers.  Over time, consistently high gas prices could forever change how we work, experts believe.  Avondale has followed the State of Utah’s lead and switched to a four-day work week, and the State of Arizona is considering doing the same.  Other major employers, including Intel Corp., Salt River Project, APS, and the City of Phoenix, already offer public-transportation subsidies, flexible schedules, or telecommuting.

U-Haul also has about 500 employees working at home in sprawling metro Phoenix.  After this year’s run-up in gasoline prices to $4 or more a gallon, more companies are expected to institute similar programs.  If that happens, experts say, workplaces could change in ways unimaginable, with huge growth in home offices and telecommuting, fewer big-building headquarters, and less need for office parking garages, unless public transportation increases dramatically or vehicles become a lot more fuel-efficient.

Even though gasoline prices have come down somewhat, flexibility to help workers deal with gas prices, especially raising mileage reimbursement, has become the workplace perk of the year.  “It definitely has become a huge concern… as it centers around general satisfaction and ability to recruit and retain workers,” said Steve Williams, director of research for the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, VA.  “They (employers) realize that long-distance driving to work is past becoming a hassle.  It has now become an economic issue, and the companies are addressing it by giving employees options,” he said.

Alternatives, summarized below, are detailed in the full article here:

  • ‘Green Fridays’
  • Monthly stipends
  • Company perks
  • Transit options
  • Telecommuting”