Category Archives: Business

Infill & Adaptive Reuse in Phoenix, June 26


The True Cost Of: Boycotting Arizona

Looking for Something Unique in Downtown Phoenix this Friday Night?

[Source: Habitat Metro]

Still thinking about what to do this Friday or Saturday evening?  Come visit Habitat Metro‘s new acquisition—the Lexington Hotel at Portland Street and Central Avenue.  And, check out our “pop-up” restaurant – Cycle.

In addition to great food and fun drinks, visit the studios of our in-residence artists – Kyle Jordre and Jenny Ignaszewski.  A whole new way to see First Fridays in Downtown Phoenix…tim sprague

What is Cycle:

Don’t Blink! Cycle is a new restaurant with an expiration date. New chefs, menus and food trucks will “cycle” through the short life of the restaurant. Cycle will only be open at the Lexington Hotel ’til Fall when the entire property undergoes a 6-month renovation.

When is it open?

Cycle’s grand opening will be held on First Friday, April 1, 2011. As usual, the chef, menu and drinks will be announced the week of via Twitter and Facebook. No peeking. We will surprise you.

What is a pop-up restaurant?

The first of it’s kind in Phoenix, Cycle is intentionally a short-lived restaurant with no resident chef. The menu rotates often with new chefs and food trucks on a regular basis. These mini-restaurants exists for only a handful of days, so don’t blink!

Who’s the chef?

Depends on the cycle! Cycle has scheduled the city’s top chefs and gourmet food trucks who will bring their short-lived menu to the restaurant. Check the website for full schedule.

What type of food?

Could be anything! Depends on the chef or food truck during that particular Cycle. Check the online schedule for menus and details for each night of service.

Price point?

Depends on the rotating chef’s menu. Always expect prices as casual as our space!

Where’s the schedule of chefs/menus/food trucks?

Online at, or on twitter @CyclePhoenix and on

What are the hours?

Check the online schedule for featured meals, chefs and food trucks. First Friday, April 1 and Saturday April 2, Happy Hour from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm – Dining from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.  Of course, the bar is open till 2:00 pm.

About the Lexington.

With construction beginning in Fall 2011, the Lexington Hotel will undergo a dramatic renovation, reopening in early 2012. The new hotel will become a cultural icon and hangout for Downtown Phoenix residents with dining, art galleries and events, also making it a world-class destination for travelers to “go where the locals go.”


Tim Sprague is Managing Member of Habitat Metro, LLC.  He is also member of the DVC Steering Committee.  Tim can be reached at

Learn How to Start A Food Truck at Upcoming Panel Discussion

[Source: PNT’s Chow Bella]

​These days, creative, recession-savvy entrepreneurs know that you don’t need the overhead of a restaurant to feed the masses — just put your biz on wheels and let hungry people come to you. Although the national food truck trend rolled into Phoenix a little later than in some cities, it’s definitely on the upswing now, with the Phoenix Street Food Coalition’s weekly Mobile Food Court at the Downtown Phoenix Market, as well as this weekend’s food truck presence at the annual Scottsdale Arts Festival.

How can you get rollin’ on your own food truck? Roosevelt Row’s Small Business Incubator Series, in conjunction with Local First AZ, is hosting a panel discussion with Georgie Parker of the Sunshine & Spice Food Truck, Jason Fimbrez, the Policy Director of the Phoenix Food Truck Coalition, and Brad and Kat Moore of Short Leash Dogs.


The discussion and Q&A takes place at 6:30 p.m. on March 29 at Modified Arts, 407 E. Roosevelt. Call Made Art Boutique to register (registration is free): 602-256-6233.

Downtown Phoenix’s Historic Barber Shop Popular Among ASU Students

[Via: Andrew Boven,]

A locally-owned barber shop in downtown Phoenix makes its mark by offering student discounts and classic service reminiscent of another time.

Downtown Phoenix parking lot considered for hotel site

[Source: Emily Gersema, The Arizona Republic]

Barron Collier Companies is investigating development ideas for a two-acre parcel that is now a parking lot at First and Washington streets.

Jay Thorne, a Barron Collier spokesman, said Hilton Worldwide officials are exploring the idea of building a hotel on the property, but nothing is firm at this point.

Before the recession hit, the site was earmarked for condominium towers.

It is near the massive downtown office and retail development CityScape.

Business leaders have said Phoenix could use more downtown hotels to accommodate an increase in visitor traffic tied to the Phoenix Convention Center’s recent expansion, a $600 million project that tripled the convention center’s space.

New hotels are coming. The Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold’s headquarters at Central Avenue and Van Buren Street shares space with a new Westin that will celebrate its grand opening on March 10.

Also, CityScape developer RED Development is building a $90 million boutique Palomar Hotel, which will be managed by Kimpton Hotels. The Palomar is expected to open in 2012.

RED Development gets Loan for Hotel in Downtown Phoenix

[Source: City of Phoenix Press Release]

Loan Approved for Downtown Construction Financing

The Phoenix Community Development and Investment Corporation (PCDIC) today announced that it has approved a $34.3 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) loan to RED Development that will bridge a financing gap for construction of the Kimpton Palomar Hotel at CityScape in downtown Phoenix. “CityScape is creating thousands of construction jobs, opening retail, restaurant, entertainment and office doors and attracting thousands of long-term sustainable jobs,” said Mayor Phil Gordon.  “This loan fills a financing gap that allows CityScape to deliver on a promise of sustainable jobs, future growth and expansion.”

The loan, from the NMTC program, provides below market rate commercial real estate loans to small businesses, developers and mission-focused nonprofits to encourage neighborhood revitalization and stabilization in qualified low- to moderate-income communities in Phoenix.  The Palomar loan utilized developer equity of $25.9 million to leverage $8.4 million in the NMTC structure.

“Prior to the CityScape development, this area was occupied by an outdated park and an underutilized surface parking lot with no landscaping and was generating zero jobs and zero tax revenue for the city,” said Councilman Michael Johnson.  “This public/private partnership enhances downtown Phoenix’s redevelopment and renaissance efforts, creates a sustainable tax revenue source and long-term jobs.”

“CityScape serves as the downtown link that provides a much needed amenity for Convention Center visitors and hotel guests looking for a convenient place to lodge, shop, dine and enjoy entertainment,” said City Manager David Cavazos.  “Conventioneers often told us that the downtown area lacked amenities within walking distance of their convention.  This PCDIC loan provides the financing needed to bring these components together, enhance our downtown and create new jobs.”

The Kimpton Palomar Hotel in downtown Phoenix is the second phase of the CityScape project, which represents a nearly $500 million investment in the downtown core.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of Phoenix Community Development and Investment Corporation,” said Mike Ebert, managing partner for CityScape developer RED Development.  “The PCDIC investment not only supports the CityScape project and the overall Phoenix economy, but it helps all of the other projects and investments that have been made downtown by the public and private sector.  They are terrific partners.”

“Projects like the Kimpton Palomar Hotel demonstrate our commitment to serve by creating jobs and revitalizing downtown, which is located in one of the poorest census tracts in Maricopa County. With our New Markets Tax Credit allocation, the PCDIC board is working with our investor partners to create economic opportunities for under-served communities in Phoenix by providing below market rate commercial real estate loans,” said Jerome Miller, deputy city manager and PCDIC chairman.

As part of the NMTC financing, RED committed a $1 million endowment for the benefit of low- to moderate-income students pursuing four-year degrees at accredited universities and incorporated Small Business Enterprise recruitment for construction subcontractors.

“Recovery strategies come in different shapes and sizes and PCDIC is pleased to play a role in the financing so we can help bring much needed jobs to Phoenix,” said Patricia Garcia Duarte, president and CEO, Neighborhood Housing Services of Phoenix, and PCDIC board member.

“CityScape represents the crown jewel of our ever improving downtown.  The fact that PCDIC could add to the success of this endeavor is a good feeling. I hope that we can continue to be associated with projects of this nature,” said Don Keuth, president and CEO, Phoenix Community Alliance, and PCDIC board member.

PCDIC has also utilized the NMTC program in providing financing to these community development projects in the Phoenix area:

  • Native American Connections, 4520 N. Central Ave., $6.1 million loan
  • Hacienda Skilled Nursing Center, 1402 E. South Mountain Road, $6 million loan
  • Arizona Bridge to Independent Living, 5025 E. Washington St., $16.5 million loan
  • YMCA, N. 3825 67th Ave., $6 million loan
  • Phoenix Rescue Mission, Changing Hands, 338 N. 15th Ave. $4 million loan

Other commercial redevelopment projects in Phoenix also financed through PCDIC and its NMTC program are:

  • Spectrum Mall, 1703 W. Bethany Home Road, $37.5 million
  • Clarendon Hotel, 410 W. Clarendon Ave., $4.2 million
  • Riverside Industrial Center (new Amazon center), 4950 W. Mohave St., $44.5 million

While the NMTC program supports a range of economic development strategies, the NMTC program is highly effective in attracting private sector investment to Phoenix’s NMTC Census Tracts, characterized by highly stressed demographics, including a poverty rate above 30 percent and/or family median income that is 60 percent or below the Phoenix Metropolitan Statistical Area’s median income.

To implement the NMTC program, the city created the nonprofit corporation, PCDIC, governed by a seven member board of directors.  In 2002, PCDIC received a $170 million NMTC allocation and in 2008 a $40 million allocation.  PCDIC created commercial real estate loan funds that have closed on 23 loans totaling $276.5 million, resulting in $370 million in private investment and creating 4,800 construction jobs and 3,611 long-term jobs.

PCDIC has $8 million of NMTC financing available for commercial real estate projects in the NMTC census tracts.  For information on obtaining a loan, contact 602-495-5247.

Downtown Phoenix is Fighting to Win HeatSync Labs

[Source: Sean Sweat, PhxDowntowner]

Opportunity Alert!

You may or may not have heard of Gangplank.  It’s “a group of connected individuals and small businesses [in downtown Chandler] creating an economy of innovation and creativity in the Valley [that] envisions a new economic engine comprised of collaboration and community.”   The small businesses that operate out of Gangplank are called “anchors”.  I won’t claim to be an expert on the group but, from what I do know, they are a hotbed for innovation, community development, and civic engagement.  Exactly what downtown Phoenix needs more of.

And I think we have a community that can be a wonderful home for such a thing.  So here’s the opportunity: One of Gangplank’s anchors, HeatSync Labs, is looking for a new home due to growth.  Myself and a few others have recently been trying to bring them here to downtown Phoenix.

HeatSync Labs is a non-profit hackerspace – a coworking facility that makes workspace, tools, equipment, and other resources available while creating a community of collaboration and learning-by-doing.  They work with software, electronics, and industrial equipment.  They also organize educational technology events and assist schools in science & engineering education.  This past Friday they just got a big plug from an adorable Ignite 9 speaker.

HeatSync Labs in action

HeatSync Labs is the kind of place that births entrepreneurs and innovators.  These guys create buzz, energy, and would add a brand new dimension to downtown Phoenix.  These kinds of people do things and affect change in ways that don’t always fit Corporate America’s myopic ROI requirements.    These are the people we need downtown.

Here’s just a few of the projects they have on theirroadmap:

  • Nearspace balloon
  • Wearable computing
  • Solar Concentrator
  • 3D printing & scanning
  • Open source night vision
  • Tesla Coil
  • Massive Trebuchet
  • “Junkyard” Battle Bots
  • and more!

HeatSync's nearspace balloon project

The more I learn about these guys, the more I like them.

They want to be along the light rail, and they want to be somewhere that can charge their creative batteries; a place with life and activities.  Mesa and Tempe are pursuing them – and we have to as well.  If downtown Phoenix is going to matter in 10 years, we have to fight for innovators and community contributors like HeatSync Labs.

Creative Commons

There are dozens of reasons why they would improve our downtown, but let me list out just a few:

  • We have lots of lawyers, students, bureaucrats, designers, and retail/restaurants, but no techies.
  • They generally use their space from 6pm-Midnight, which is when we need more people downtown.
  • They would contribute to downtown activities, community development, and hold events that would bring more people downtown.
  • It would be known that one of the best hands-on science education partners is based in Downtown Phoenix.  The collaborative opportunities with the Arizona Science Centeralone are intriguing.
  • As they grow, it would become known that Downtown Phoenix has Arizona’s premiere hackerspace (as opposed to Tempe or Mesa).

So them being here would help us, the residents, small business owners, and general believers of downtown.  They would bring the exact type of energy, intellectualism, ambition, and vision that our downtown needs, and assimilating them into our community will benefit us all.

We’ve found them a great space in downtown’s warehouse district which currently houses other small businesses, serves their very specific equipment needs, and provides them with a wealth of value-added industrial resources and event space opportunities.  It’s the best possible location for both their current and future needs — the kind of space that will fuel their imaginations and help them grow as innovators.  And we want that growth in Downtown Phoenix.

HeatSync having some fun with lasers

But there’s a but.  There’s always a but.

The downtown space, including the build-out, is slightly above their budget.  The Tempe and Mesa governments are in conversations with the non-profit HeatSync Labs, working to find them grants and funds to relocate to their cities.  We must do the same.  We need to write City Hall and encourage them to fight for Phoenix.

But in the absence of small business support from City Hall, we need to pull together as a community and make this happen.  Their move to downtown Phoenix would be a very visible move that would benefit us all in the long-run.  My goal is for Downtowners to raise $2,000 to make it possible for them to move here and give them an incentive to choose us over Tempe or Mesa.  If you will contribute something, even just $10, then please use the button below to email me your name and pledged amount [tax-deductible].  I will present the total pledges to their relocation committee in two weeks.

HeatSyncers' noses to the grindstone

To get things started, I hereby pledge $100. Please post any questions/comments below.

(Note that all HeatSync pictures came from their Flickr account.)

Downtown Phoenix business is purr-fect

[Source: Emily Gersema, The Arizona Republic]

Dave Seibert/The Arizona Repubic

Non-toxic toys, scratchers and climbing trees for cats are Kate Benjamin’s business – and now that sales from her Moderncat Studio on Grand Avenue and two Internet sites are soaring, she is directing a percentage of sales to local charities that help stray, feral or abandoned cats.

Benjamin recently started “Cat Charity of the Month,” in which a charity is named every month to receive 5 percent of her sales.

Her first Valley charities of choice were Altered Tails, Foothills Animal Rescue, the Foundation for Homeless Cats and the Arizona State University group, Mild Cats at ASU.

In addition, Benjamin launched a holiday give-a-thon, which will end before Christmas Day. Moderncat Web users can sign up to win a prize from one of her 21 sponsors.

Every sponsor provides two of each prize, so winners can keep one prize and donate the second to a charity.

“I love to give stuff away,” Benjamin said.

Within 18 months of opening Moderncat, Benjamin’s business is becoming popular. The blog on her website,, has 14,000 subscribers, and she said she draws 200,000 views per month.

“The studio business has just blown up,” Benjamin said. Internet “traffic has just been through the roof.”

Benjamin, 39, appears to have the gene for entrepreneurship. She was raised in Plattsburgh, N.Y., where her father was a restaurateur and her mother sold handmade crafts and gifts.

From them, she learned how to sew and develop product ideas.

“Selling Girl Scout cookies, it started from there,” she said. “I was always selling things.”

By age 18, Benjamin had a T-shirt design business, and sold jewelry and hair scrunchies at a booth in the Ithaca, N.Y., farmers market.

She went to Cornell University and graduated with a degree in design and environmental analysis with a focus on interior design. She was drawn to Phoenix because she wanted to work for a resort and, of course, for the weather.

After working for Valley resorts and for a website that sold children’s toys, Benjamin was inspired to launch her a toy business for cats.

Her nine felines – Ando, Dazzler, Flora, Mackenzie, McKinley, Ratso, Sherman, Simba and Theo – influence her craft.

Benjamin has designed and sells popular toys such as “Atomic Flyers” – merino-wool felt toys cut in shapes like snowflakes and moons that zoom and spin across hard floors.

Her Modkickers, also known as “Bunny Kickers,” are a huge hit with the cat community. They’re pillows and tubes of fabric stuffed with a little catnip – a toy that a cat can grip and kick with its hind legs.

She also sells cat trees and scratchers that are covered with carpet tiles that have no formaldehyde.

“This is all about cats,” Benjamin said.

Moody’s slashes bond rating for Downtown Phoenix Hotel Corp. (Sheraton)

[Source: Russ Wiles, The Arizona Republic]

A credit-rating agency has downgraded $350 million worth of bonds issued by the city-affiliated Downtown Phoenix Hotel Corp., reflecting a challenging debut for its Sheraton hotel near the convention center.

The downgrades by Moody’s Investors Service of New York won’t affect the entity’s payments on the bonds, which carry a fixed interest rate.

They also won’t add any pressure on general city finances, said Jeff DeWitt, Phoenix’s finance director, who said bondholders still will be paid in full.

The rating cuts affect three categories of bonds sold in 2005 to develop the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, which opened in October 2008:

  • The rating on $157 million worth of senior revenue bonds was cut to Ba1 from Baa3, with a negative outlook. That pushes the bonds into a lower-grade or “junk” status.
  • The ratings on $164 million of one series of subordinate revenue bonds and $29 million in a second series were both cut to A2 from A1, with a stable outlook.

The bonds were issued to build and furnish the hotel, located north of the convention center.

The two subordinate bonds have different provisions that provide added protection to bondholders from the city. This support derives from sports-facilities taxes, based on hotel and rental-car levies, that the city can apply if hotel revenues aren’t enough to make debt payments.

The three series are revenue bonds backed by cash flow from the hotel.

“They are separate from the city’s general credit,” DeWitt said.

The subordinate bonds are supported by sports-facilities taxes.

The downgrade on the senior bonds reflects lower-than-projected results for the hotel’s first two years of operation compared with what was envisioned when the bonds were sold in 2005.

“The occupancy rate and the average daily rate of the hotel fell significantly below expectations due to the economic conditions at the time of (the) hotel’s initial operating period,” Moody’s analysts wrote in a report. “The downgrade on the subordinate bonds reflects (the) city’s decreased sports-facility taxes.”

Moody’s expects the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel will continue to struggle over the next 12 to 18 months to boost its occupancy and pricing.

The hotel was just 49 percent full in 2009 compared with a national average of 55 percent. Occupancy at the Phoenix hotel is projected to climb to 56 percent in 2011.

According to Moody’s, the hotel’s 2011 budget assumes an average daily rate of $159 per room – well below the original $182 projection for the 2011-12 period.

DeWitt said the hotel continues to perform well but just not at the levels envisioned in 2005. He cited guest surveys ranking it among the top Sheratons in the nation.

“The hotel opened in a difficult recession,” he said. “I’m confident it will do well when the economy recovers.”

Moody’s noted that the city’s sports-facilities taxes declined in 2009 and earlier in 2010, although they have started to recover more recently.