Daily Archives: August 31, 2008

Phoenix’s small arts groups make First Friday authentic

Four years ago, Downtown Voices Coalition issued its report, “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown.”  In the slideshow above, in recognition of First Friday this coming Friday, we highlight arts-oriented businesses and organizations along Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue, and the Warehouse District.  The report’s section on Arts and Culture recommended the following:

  • The City should create a task force, including downtown artists, to research opportunities and ways to preserve and nurture existing arts uses downtown and explore realistic approaches to funding sources, zoning issues, building codes, live/work space, etc. and their implementation.   STATUS: Significant progress with the creation of the Downtown Artists Issues Task Force (2005); initiation of the Artists Storefront Program; creation of the Arts, Culture, and Small Business Overlay; and current work of another task force focused on adaptive reuse. 
  • The arts need to be recognized and respected as the small businesses they are, and assisted in accessing services available to small businesses, or have programs tailored specifically to their needs.  STATUS: Work in progress as groups like Local First Arizona, RadiatePhoenix, Phoenix Downtown Market, Downtown Voices Coalition, Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue Merchants Association, and SoDo continue to state the case for local authenticity.
  • The City should take advantage of piggyback marketing opportunities, acknowledging the opportunities associated with monthly First Fridays and annual Art Detour.  STATUS: Work in progress as numerous parties, including the City of Phoenix, Downtown Phoenix Partnership, Maricopa Partnership for Arts and Culture, and ASU Downtown, work to reinvigorate marketing of downtown Phoenix.

If you know of other positive things going on, please let us know.

Mortgages Ltd. empire is built, then crumbles

[Source: Catherine Reagor and Andrew Johnson, Arizona Republic] — Mortgages Ltd. has gone in less than two years from being Arizona’s largest private commercial real-estate lender to a company plunged into bankruptcy following the suicide of its CEO, Scott Coles.  Along with questions raised by the suicide, Mortgages Ltd.’s dramatic fall raises the business question of why a firm holding $900 million in high-interest commercial loans suddenly had to borrow money to stay afloat.  Some borrowers and investors have wondered whether illegal investment practices, a Ponzi scheme, or bad record keeping could have played a role.

The Arizona Republic has tracked the arc of Mortgages Ltd.’s financial plummet through months of interviews, court testimony, and thousands of documents.  The company’s undoing was the result of heavy investment in a falling market, investors pulling out, and a shortfall of cash.  The collapse has cut off payments to thousands of panicked investors and stalled several of the Valley’s biggest commercial projects.  

The Metro LoftsThe problems started quietly.  In early 2006, as metropolitan Phoenix’s housing market showed early signs of slowing, Coles continued to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into residential developments, which included Chandler’s first high-rise and a tower on Phoenix’s Central Avenue that would have rivaled the state’s tallest skyscraper (rendering at right).  A year later, the Valley’s housing market was clearly in a downturn: A glut of new homes with no buyers.  Falling home prices.  Struggling home builders.

Coles did not slow down.  He put almost $50 million into Chateaux on Central’s brownstone mansions in central Phoenix and committed to more than $150 million for the high-end high-rises at Centerpoint in Tempe’s Mill Avenue district.   “I can’t figure out how Mortgages Ltd. decided to fund the condo projects it did when it did,” said Eric Brown, founder of the Artisan Lofts in Phoenix and an analyst with national real-estate consultants Robert Charles Lesser & Co.  “The timing was bad for most new housing developments.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

No political party discussing American West population explosion

[Source: Froma Harrop, Houston Chronicle and reprinted in the Arizona Republic] — There’s a burning concern in the American West — almost an obsession — that Democrats did not touch in their convention here.  Nor will Republicans in St. Paul.  It is the U.S. population explosion.  The West is feeling the brunt of it, as flowing lava of housing developments and big-box crudscapes claim its cherished open spaces — and increasingly scarce water supplies.  The U.S. Census Bureau now expects America’s population to top 400 million by 2039, far earlier than previously forecast.  The 300-million mark was hit only two years ago, so if this prediction is correct, the headcount will have soared by 100 million people in 33 short years.

America’s fastest-growing region has been and will continue to be the Intermountain West.  Its megalopolises — centered on Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City — are set to add 13 million people by 2040, according to a Brookings Institution study.  This would be a doubling of their population.  Hyper-growth still brings out happy talk in some circles.  The Brookings report looks at the population forecasts for the urban corridor on the eastern face of the Rockies, spreading from Colorado into Wyoming, and enthuses, “Such projections point to a huge opportunity for the Front Range to improve on the current level of prosperity.”  There are challenges, it says, but they can be met — and you can almost hear local hearts breaking — by new roads, bigger airports, more office parks.

And where oh where are they going to find water?  Every county in Colorado was declared a federal drought disaster area in 2002, when the population stood at 4.5 million.  It is expected to approach 8 million by 2035.  As former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm notes, the region is so dry that you can still see the wagon wheel trails laid down in the 1840s.  “This is an area that plans to add 13 million people?” Lamm said to me.  “Crazy.”  [Note: To read the full opinion piece, click here.]