Daily Archives: June 22, 2009

Downtown Phoenix tower projects vie for renters amid tough commercial market

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Amid today’s cutthroat real-estate market, Jim Fijan drifts off to sleep thinking of ways to rent more office space in a 27-story tower in downtown Phoenix’s CityScape complex.  Brad Anderson starts checking his e-mail at dawn.  The early start helps him find tenants for One Central Park East, a 26-story office building a few blocks away from CityScape.  Anderson and Fijan work for the same company, CB Richard Ellis.  Although the good-natured co-workers say that they don’t see each other as rivals, each leads a highly competitive team of brokers who are essentially chasing the same pool of possible tenants.

It’s not uncommon for a large firm to represent clients in the same neighborhood, but the matchup between CityScape and One Central Park East underscores how the strong renter’s market has affected commercial real estate in Phoenix.

The two projects will inject more than 1 million square feet of office space into a downtown market where layoffs have created a glut of empty cubicles.   The $175 million One Central Park East glass tower stands at Central Avenue and Van Buren Street.  CityScape’s shiny tower near First and Washington streets will be nestled in a $900 million, three-block complex that will have shops, restaurants and a hotel.

They have more in common than proximity.  They have sweeping views of the Valley, are of similar size and are close to light-rail stops.  Tenants would be a few minutes’ walk from downtown shops, restaurants, and the Phoenix Convention Center.   And both projects were planned during rosier times, when high-end office space, classified as Class A in the real- estate world, was in high demand downtown.  Now, that’s not the case.  [Note: To read the full article and online comments, click here.]

Viewpoint: Court consolidation to downtown Phoenix benefits everybody

[Source: Barbara Rodriguez Mundell, Maricopa County Superior Court presiding judge, Special for the Republic] — In our ongoing effort to improve safety and efficiency, Maricopa County Superior Court is moving five criminal-trial judges from the Southeast Regional Court Center in Mesa to downtown Phoenix.  The first of the five criminal-trial judges will move to the downtown court complex in July.   Plans are under way to relocate the four remaining Southeast criminal divisions this winter, most likely in December.

Story.jpgMaricopa County’s master space plan includes a goal to centralize criminal trials near the county jail.  Voters have twice endorsed downtown criminal-court consolidation in 1998 and again in 2002.  One of the authorized uses of the voter-approved jail excise tax, as set out in the Arizona Revised Statutes and the election publicity pamphlets, is “consolidating criminal divisions of the Superior Court in the county to a common location.”

The tough economic times have forced the court to take a hard look at ways to maximize our limited resources to continue to deliver jury trials in a timely manner.  Our budget and staff continue to shrink, while caseloads continue to grow.  Centralizing criminal trials will make more efficient use of staff to cover court duties without having to pay for outside contractor services.

This move will also benefit victims, police officers, witnesses and jurors.  If numerous trials are ready to go on the same day, we will have more backup criminal judges to handle overflow cases on the day scheduled for trial.  Witnesses and potential jurors will no longer be inconvenienced by having to wait until another date for trial or make wasted trips to the courthouse.  These measures are not only a better way of doing business: They will also save tax dollars.  [Note: To read the full op-ed piece, click here.]

View Malls R Us documentary, 6/30, downtown Phoenix

mallsrus_poster

For more information, click here.

Viewpoint: Downtown Phoenix’s Jackson Street lost its artists long ago

[The following “letter to the editor” was written by Steve Weiss, Steering Committee Chair of Downtown Voices Coalition, in response to the Arizona Republic’s June 10, 2009 editorial on the Jackson Street Entertainment District.  Since the letter hasn’t been printed in the Republic, we’re reprinting it here.]

There are many issues to debate regarding the proposed Jackson Street Entertainment District: the loss of historic preservation on the last surviving contiguous areas of the Warehouse District, the impact on residents South of Jackson Street, or even whether a created Entertainment District can achieve the financial and sales tax success the developers and city officials hope for.  The debate can rage back and forth on these issues.

But there is one glaring fact that disputes your editorial, where you say “Even now the area is drawing artists’ studios and clubs.”

The artists were forced out of Jackson Street long ago, first by the America West Arena (now US Airways Center) and then by Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field).  What was once an area inhabited by live/work studios and galleries seeking large spaces with cheap rent is now priced for speculation or geared towards the ethereal sports fan.  The one exception is the eternally struggling Icehouse, way West of the proposed development.  No city help seems forthcoming to the last true artspace on Jackson.

As in all big cities, the gentrification of the downtown, first made cool by the artists, will be left to those who can afford “attainable” housing or “themed” entertainment.  A House of Blues club is no match for the authenticity of The Rhythm Room, as an example.

If the developers who seek to make Jackson Street interesting once again are wise enough, they will create incentives for affordable (not just attainable) live/work artist spaces and the kind of hospitable and distinct food, music and art venues that thrive in the less structured and less pricey environments of Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Street.  Look to those streets to find the remaining downtown artists and artspaces.

Steve Weiss
Steering Committee Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition