Monthly Archives: February 2010

2,000 U.S. Census jobs still remain in Maricopa County

[Source: Austen Sherman, Arizona Republic] — Opportunity still remains for those interested in applying for one of the more than 2,000 remaining U.S. Census jobs in Maricopa County.  Lorene Georgianni, director of recruiting for the census’ downtown Phoenix office, said the number of applicants has been lower than expected so far for a total of 8,000 census positions.  The five census offices in the county are coming up short of their recruiting goals despite an Arizona unemployment rate of 9.1 percent in December.

Among the reasons: Potential applicants have been deterred by concerns about losing unemployment benefits while working for the census on such a temporary basis.  Others have applied who are not permanent citizens, which is a requirement for employment.  Al Nieto, local census office manager for Phoenix, said that as long as the state Department of Public Safety is made aware of the temporary status of the job, benefits only will be suspended until the census is complete.

The work is simple, and the pay is good, as workers will receive between $11.25 and $16.50 per hour.  To apply, those interested should call 1-866-861-2010. Callers will be asked to enter their ZIP code and directed to the office in their area.  Applicants then schedule an appointment that usually lasts around two hours.

At the appointment, applicants will be asked to fill out an application and an I-9 form, as well as complete a 30-minute, 28-question exam.  The test has five parts: Clerical skills, reading skills, number skills, evaluating alternatives, and organizational skills.  It is a general-knowledge exam and applicants know their score before they leave.  If they are unhappy with their score, they are given the opportunity to re-test  Once all is completed each applicant is run through an FBI background check before they are officially declared eligible.  Job offers will be made beginning at the end of March.

Potential applicants can prepare themselves at http://www.2010censusjobs.gov, where there is a practice exam to give them an idea of what to expect.  The majority of available jobs are part-time, with a few being full-time.  However, all jobs are temporary, lasting only while the census is being conducted.

Most of the jobs will be in two positions.  Enumerators are expected to go out in to the field to follow up on those homes who do not return their form.  Clerks work in the office supporting those out in the field.  There are also a limited number of jobs as recruiting assistants and as crew leaders, who are in charge of the enumerators.  Vangent Inc., is also looking to hire about 300 part-time employees to help with the census. The company has contracted with Lockheed Martin to perform data collection, and its Southwest facility is expected to process 40 percent of the forms.  Employees will help staff a hotline for anyone who has census questions.  Applications for Vangent Inc. can be completed online at http://www.vangent.com.

1931 bank building in downtown Phoenix headed for foreclosure

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — A downtown Phoenix 1931 bank building that was entangled in Mortgages Ltd.’s collapse appears headed for foreclosure.  The 12-story Professional Building at 15 E. Monroe Street is scheduled to be auctioned on April 20, according to a notice of trustee sale filed at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.  The notice is the first step in the foreclosure process.  Thirteen investors are owed $76.5 million, according to the notice.  The largest share is owed to a court-appointed entity that is managing the remainder of lender Mortgages Ltd.’s assets.

Phoenix-based Mortgages Ltd., helmed by the late Scott Coles, was once considered Arizona’s largest private commercial lender.  The firm ran into trouble when the real estate market crashed, the firm couldn’t raise new capital from investors and couldn’t meet some of its loan obligations.  When Mortgages Ltd. went bankrupt, developer Grace Communities was transforming the former home of Valley National Bank into an upscale 150-room boutique hotel called Hotel Monroe.  Construction stopped and the partially-renovated building sits empty near Central Avenue and Monroe Street.

MALLS R US returns Feb. 28, Phoenix Art Museum

MALLS R US: A contemplative investigation on mall culture and effect by Helene Klodawsky

  • Date: Sunday, February 28, 2010
  • Time: 1 p.m. (doors at 12:30 p.m.)
  • Place: Whiteman Hall, Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central Ave., Phoenix AZ 85004
  • Free Admission (ask for pass at front desk)
  • Film introduction by Kimber Lanning, Director, Local First Arizona

MALLS R US discusses the psychological appeal of malls to consumers, how architects design their environments to combine consumerism with nature and spectacle, how suburban shopping centers impart social values, and how malls are transforming the traditional notions of community, social space and human interaction.

As entertaining as it is informative, MALLS R US offers a trip to the mall like no other, reveling in their architectural splendor as consumerist paradises but also showing how the social dynamism they represent can be a destructive force, one that confuses the good life with the world of goods.  And yes Arizona, you will recognize several local sites.

Co-presented by No Festival Required; sponsored by CityCircles

Oakville Grocery to open downtown Phoenix CityScape store

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — A posh specialty-food store inspired by California’s wine country plans to open a second Arizona location.  Oakville Grocery Co. will open a shop in downtown Phoenix’s CityScape project, company officials announced Monday.

It will replace another proposed CityScape store, AJ’s Fine Foods.  AJ’s parent company, Chandler-based Bashas’ Supermarkets Inc., sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year.

Oakville is slated to open this September in a 9,300-square-foot space near Jefferson Street and Central Avenue.  In December, the company opened a shop at 15015 N. Scottsdale Road in the Scottsdale Quarter, an outdoor shopping center.  Oakville is selective about where it opens stores, said the firm’s regional general manager, Barbara Henderson, and it wanted to be in downtown Phoenix.

CityScape is a $900 million cluster of shops, offices and restaurants bordered by First Avenue, Second Street, Washington Street and Jefferson Street. [Note: Read the full article at Oakville Grocery to open downtown Phoenix CityScape store.]

Downtown Phoenix Journal Weekly Recap

[Source: Si Robins, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — I’ve been thinking about seeing beloved members of the Downtown community leave town recently, and it had me realizing the bonds that we create in our daily lives in Downtown Phoenix, whether they be direct or indirect. This weekend we celebrated Natalie Morris‘ departure at the Urban Grocery and Wine Bar with a food and wine affair that would make any neighborhood envious. While there, I realized how many of us see each other regularly in these parts, and it’s always disheartening when one of the flock leaves the nest.

The same was almost the case in this week’s Suns Spot post.  As trivial as it may seem, Suns fans have been entertained at US Airways Center by Amar’e Stoudemire for seven years.  When intense trade rumors reached a boiling point last week (despite 11th hour discussions, Stoudemire remained a Sun, to the delight of most Suns fans), Chris Coffel examined the mark Stoudemire’s entrepreneurship has impacted Phoenix and how it would change (with some hilarious would-be results). Luckily, we won’t be seeing Taylor Griffin’s OK BBQ anytime soon.

ASU researcher outlines strategies to curb urban heat island (downtown Phoenix cited)

[Source: EurekaAlert] — Protect yourself from the summer sun is good advice to children who want to play outside on a hot summer day and it is good advice to cities as a way to mitigate the phenomenon known as urban heat island.  For children, a hat, long sleeves and sun block provide protection.  For cities, it might be canopies, additives to construction materials and smarter use of landscaping that helps protect it from the sun, said Harvey Bryan, an ASU professor of architecture.  Bryan presented several possible strategies a city could use to help it fight urban heat island (UHI) in a presentation he made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in San Diego, Feb. 18 – 22.  Bryan’s presentation, “Digital Simulations and Zoning Codes: To Mitigate Urban Heat Island,” was presented on Feb. 21 in a session on Urban Design and Energy Demand: Transforming Cities for an Eco-Energy Future.

Urban heat island is a phenomenon experienced by large cities, especially those located in desert areas, where the constant heat of the day is absorbed by the buildings, pavement and concrete.  The result is a rise in nighttime low temperature for a city’s core from the stored heat of the day.  The higher nighttime temperatures mean more cooling is required for residents’ comfort, resulting in increased power demand and potentially more greenhouse gases emitted.  Phoenix, where summer nighttime temperatures often do not go below 90 F, is a classic example of the UHI, Bryan said.

Citing work he participated in about a year ago – with Daniel Hoffman, an ASU professor of architecture and Akram Rosheidat, an ASU doctoral student – which focused on ways of improving pedestrian comfort in downtown Phoenix, Bryan outlined several methods a city can employ that will help alleviate the UHI.  Shade, not surprisingly, is one of the prime tools.  “Canopies to shade streets and sidewalks keep the concrete and asphalt cooler,” Bryan explained.  “Interestingly, sidewalks in downtown Phoenix during the early 1900s were canopied.”

Bryan said another key aspect is being smart on material choices for the canopies.  “In addition to shading devices, color and thermal properties are also important considerations,” Bryan said.  “Lighter colors are best for any surface in the Valley. You also have to consider the heat capacity of the materials – denser material will absorb heat during the day and are slow at re-emitting at night.”

In areas that cannot be canopied, Bryan said material additives use could play an important role.  Phoenix, for example, has a large number of parking lots and streets that constantly absorb daytime heat. “Introducing additives, like crumb rubber to asphalt and concrete, are ways of reducing heat capacity at the surface and making for a better nighttime profile,” he said.  “The important part is to look at materials performance more than just during the daytime.  We need a 24-hour profile to see how materials absorb heat during the day and how they emit it during the evening.  We then look for materials that are reflective during the day and highly emitting during the evening.”

All of this points to modeling as an important tool in mitigating UHI.   “It comes down to how we model the downtown and how we look at various scenarios with different materials using models that accurately simulate the radiative phenomena,” Bryan explained.  “Most cities have never used such powerful tools to find solutions to UHI.”

Proposed tax zones could benefit Phoenix Coyotes and Suns arenas

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — A measure put forward at the Arizona Legislature would allow the city of Glendale to create a special tax district to help the Phoenix Coyotes and Jobing.com Arena.  The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Phoenix, also could allow the city of Phoenix to establish a similar tax zone around US Airways Center downtown, where the Phoenix Suns play.

House Bill 2193 would allow Arizona cities to create special tax districts around enclosed, city-owned sports arenas.  Sales tax revenue collected within two miles of those venues would be earmarked for use by the arenas and for public infrastructure within their zones.  The cities also could issue bonds against the money to finance projects and the sports complexes’ operations.

Weiers said earlier this week the bill is aimed at helping the Coyotes hockey team stay in the Valley.  The Coyotes are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and have lost more than $300 million since moving to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996.   The team currently is owned by the National Hockey League…

The bill would exclude University of Phoenix Stadium from a Glendale tax zone, Weiers said, because the measure limits the taxing districts to areas around enclosed arenas owned by Arizona cities.  That could allow a tax zone in downtown Phoenix, as US Airways Center is owned by the city of Phoenix.  But Chase Field and the Phoenix Convention Center would not be included in that tax zone.  [Note: Read the full article at Proposed tax zones could benefit Phoenix Coyotes and Suns arenas.]

City agrees to buy/raze downtown Phoenix Ramada Inn for ASU expansion

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The same week that Phoenix leaders imposed a 2 percent food tax to prevent layoffs and painful cuts to city services, City Council members agreed to spend $6 million to buy a vacant motel so Arizona State University can expand its downtown campus.  The city plans to buy the old Ramada Inn at 401 N. First Street with $5 million left over from a 2006 city bond that was enacted largely to help construct ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus, plus roughly $1.3 million from the city-owned Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel’s capital improvement fund.

The city and the motel property’s owner, Phoenix-based City Centre LLC, have not finalized the sale but hope to before it is due to be sold at a foreclosure auction on March 2.  The city has been eying the property for years but was put off by the price, which was once as high as $30 million.  Now, it wants to buy the property before it goes to auction, where it may lose it to another buyer.  Records show City Centre owes its lender $5.2 million.  Until ASU officials decide what to do with the site, Phoenix plans to raze the motel and build an overflow parking lot with up to 250 spaces for the Sheraton.

The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved the deal Feb 3. The city-controlled hotel board approved the transaction on Friday.  “I felt this was a good purchase for the city at this time,” said Councilman Bill Gates.  “The city could acquire property important to downtown and important to the ASU campus.”  But a taxpayer advocacy group said the city should at the very least use the extra money to pay off debt already incurred for the campus.   Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona Tax Research Association, said the hotel purchase also highlights government tactics to spend money on projects not specifically approved by voters.

Buying the Ramada Inn was not specified in the spending plan detailed on the city’s Web site and to the media in the days leading up to the bond vote, city officials acknowledge.  But it was part of early plans for the campus, city officials said.  The vote gave the city permission to borrow $220 million to build various ASU facilities.  The city sells bonds to raise money, which it pays off with property taxes. But the taxpayer group concedes the city’s deal still is legal because the property fits within ballot language for long-term plans for the campus.  [Note: Read the full article at City agrees to buy/raze downtown Phoenix Ramada Inn for ASU expansion.]

Baseline Haiku: South Mountain Flower Garden

One of the last flower growers of Japanese descent on Baseline Road, where in the old days of Phoenix you could know it was spring by driving Baseline and seeing row upon row of flowers.  Development encroaches in the film; in reality it closed several years ago and soon will be housed over.