Daily Archives: November 26, 2008

ASU freshman creates new downtown Phoenix book club

[Source: Arizona State University] — ASU freshman Emily Timm used to read to avoid her two younger brothers on long road trips.  Now she reads several a books a month out of pure joy.  Timm wants to bring that joy to Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus by creating a monthly book club.  “Books are a bit of an escape and a way to unwind during the semester,” Timm said, a 19-year-old freshman enrolled in Barrett The Honors College and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  “A book club is also a good way to meet people, make new friends and learn more about ourselves and each other.”

The Downtown Phoenix Book Club will hold its first meeting at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 10 at the Starbucks lounge inside of Taylor Place, 120 E. Taylor St.  The meeting is open to the public.  For more information about the book club, call Emily Timm at (480) 239-9267 or e-mail her[Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Judge OKs Mortgages Ltd. deal for Tempe, but not downtown Phoenix, developer

[Source: Andrew Johnson, Arizona Republic] — A judge approved part of a settlement Tuesday between Mortgages Ltd. and a real-estate developer that had threatened to sue the bankrupt lending firm for shorting it $100 million in constructing financing.  The ruling answered a few questions about Mortgages Ltd.’s authority to negotiate deals that could affect the position of its 2,700 investors, who were the Phoenix-based company’s primary funding source.  In an oral ruling, Judge Randolph Haines granted Mortgages Ltd.’s proposal to revise terms for a loan that KML Development obtained to build a high-rise condo tower at the northwest corner of University Drive and Ash Avenue in downtown Tempe.  KML’s loan was supposed to be for $130 million.  Mortgages Ltd. has admitted to funding only $30.3 million of the amount.  Under the settlement, the outstanding principal due on that loan is reduced to $14.9 million.  That is because the difference was never funded to the borrower.  The settlement also allows for a five-year window within which development can commence.  Project plans discussed in court call for high-end student housing to be built at the site.

However, Haines rejected portions of the settlement that would have revised repayment terms for two other loans worth a combined $13.1 million that KML borrowed to buy land in downtown Phoenix.  One of those loans, worth $7 million, was to buy land in downtown Phoenix at Roosevelt and Third streets.  The other loan, for $6.1 million, was to acquire nearby land for a mixed-use project.  Allowing such a settlement would have been unfair to investors in those two loans, which Mortgages Ltd. fully funded and are now due for repayment, Haines said.

Investors fronted Mortgages Ltd. about $925 million to make loans to mostly commercial real-estate developers prior to the firm’s involuntary bankruptcy filing in June.  Their rights have been a focal point throughout the case.  Attorneys for some investors opposed the settlement.  They argued that the agreements investors signed when giving money to Mortgages Ltd. do not give them the right to change terms of a loan without investors’ consent.  Haines, however, said that even if investors withheld their consent for Mortgages Ltd. to alter deals, as some of have tried to do, that does not mean they were withholding Mortgages Ltd.’s right to continuing making decisions regarding loan terms for the other investors the company acted as an agent for.

Mortgages Ltd. is currently trying to negotiate settlements with other borrowers.  Among them are the developer of the stalled Centerpoint condo towers in downtown Tempe and the developer of the stalled Hotel Monroe project in downtown Phoenix.

Sustainability, environmental ethics topic of 2009 month-long institute in Prescott

As part of the 2009 centennial celebrating the 100th anniversary of ecologist Aldo Leopold’s arrival in the Southwest, Arizona State University’s Institute for Humanities Research will host a month-long institute for college and university faculty who teach Leopold, environmental ethics, sustainability, eco-criticism, environmental history, ecology, and related studies.  Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the institute will be held in Prescott, AZ, June 22 to July 17, 2009.  Up to 25 participants will be accepted, and each visiting scholar will receive a $3,200 stipend to cover transportation and lodging. 

A goal of the institute is to help faculty develop new lines of research and curricula by examining “A Sand County Almanac” and Leopold’s other writings from a variety of disciplinary perspectives — history, ecology, literature, and philosophy, for example.  The core faculty members include some of the nation’s most respected Leopold scholars, among them J. Baird Callicott, Susan Flader, Curt Meine, Julianne Lutz Newton, and Scott Russell Sanders.  For information, click here or call the institute’s co-director Dan Shilling at 602-300-6694.

Phoenix Civic Space artist talks about her “Sky Bloom” project

Janet Echelman

Janet Echelman

[Source: Stephanie Dembowski, Special for the Republic] — “Her secret is patience” is the title of the unfinished art piece suspended in the air across the street from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication/PBS Eight building on Central and Taylor downtown.  The artist, Janet Echelman, spoke to students and guests about the piece as a part of the Journalism “Cronkite Week” last week alongside Paul Deeb, who designed the 78-foot light sculpture in the school’s stairwell.

“Patience” is actually no secret at all, as the $2.4 million project started in spring of 2007 and has seen little activity in recent months.  Echleman said she was “asked not to speak about the piece until it was unveiled.”  She said that could be as soon as January.  The 100-foot-wide, 100-foot-tall Sky Bloom sparked both praise and curiosity when the Phoenix City Council approved the public art for the Downtown Civic Space Park.  Three steel towers and two steel rings will support the sculpture.  But the sculpture’s netting, designed to resemble a saguaro flower, has yet to be installed.  And for observers — pro and con — the netting is what generated the hoopla in the first place.  Some said it looked like a jellyfish; some, like a mushroom.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

City of Phoenix slashing 1,200 jobs

Phoenix City Hall

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said the city is eliminating 1,200 positions next fiscal year, part of its effort to slash the budget by $250 million because of the ailing economy and a drop off in tax collections.  It was the first time the mayor had acknowledged how many jobs would be axed from the $1.2 billion budget.  Most of those staffing cuts will be through attrition.  The mayor also said he and staffers in his office will voluntarily work one day each month without pay — and he will be asking every city employee to do the same.  And Gordon will meet with labor unions to request that employees forego pay raises for one year to avoid layoffs.

The grim outlook came during a news conference where Gordon rolled out a three-point plan — Phoenix Work Projects Advancement — to help the city regain firm financial footing.  In addition to budget cuts, the plan calls for the development of new revenue sources as well as requesting state and federal funding for local public works projects.  Those infrastructure projects would create construction, engineering and other jobs, generate tax revenue, and provide an instant boost to the economy, Gordon said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Metro Phoenix residents remain split over cost, effects of light rail

Light rail in downtown Phoenix (Nick Oza, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Glen Creno, Arizona Republic] — The Valley’s about-to-open light-rail system has people taking sides.  Some complain that the $1.4 billion Metro light rail is a waste of money.  Others are practically counting the days until the Dec. 27 launch.  Those who get riled say the money would be better spent on freeways.  Others say it will deliver crime along with passengers.   Enthusiastic backers say it’s a missing piece of a transportation system too dependent on driving.  It will attack congestion as people ride rather than drive to work, school, or entertainment spots. 

Put Robert Munoz of Mesa in the split-opinion category.  He lives near the end of the line and has some worries that the system will transport criminals to his neighborhood.  But he also likes the idea of walking to a train and riding to Chase Field.  “If my son and I get a couple of tickets, we can hit the Diamondbacks game,” Munoz said.  “We don’t have to worry about driving, traffic or parking.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]