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Aaron Kimberlin’s ‘Willo Wonder’ Gets National Attention

Aaron’s Distinctive Guest House

Each year, the  home design website Apartment Therapy invites readers from around the world to submit photos of their beautiful small spaces under 1000 square feet. This year, Phoenix architect (and DVC friend), Aaron Kimberlin‘s 416 sf. Willo guest house (where he lives) was accepted in the Tiny (sub 600 sq.ft.) category of Apartment Therapy’s 7th Annual Smallest Coolest Home Contest.

Small Cool Phoenix—Aaron's Willow Wonder 1

Here’s what Aaron had to say in his entry:

What I Love About My Home

I love the fact that even though my guest house is only a little over 400 square feet, I was able to maximize the space into 5 distinct useable areas that really contribute to the design of the space as a whole.

Biggest Challenge in Furnishing My Home

Finding pieces that complemented each other color and design wise.

Please got to the Apartment Therapy site and vote for Aaron’s ‘Willo Wonder!” It would be great to prove to the world that within our sprawling metropolis there are some small cool oases.

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Historic buildings in downtown Phoenix struggle to survive

[By Evie Carpenter, Downtown Devil]

Phoenix may be young in comparison to the old, Gothic mainstays of the East coast, but as venerable buildings like the Ramada Inn continue to be razed, many community activists are trying to reignite an appreciation for historic preservation in the nation’s fifth largest city.

The Hotel San Carlos has been in continuous operation since 1928. A building must be over 50 years old and meet other requirements to be added to the Phoenix Property Register and designated as historic. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

“Phoenix in general needs to be more aware of its history,” said Phoenix policy and research analyst, urbanist and blogger Yuri Artibise:

I think the buildings provide a sense of place, they provide what’s kind of called a city’s DNA.

Robert Melikian, a historic preservationist and author of “Vanishing Phoenix,” said that preserving a city’s old buildings helps add character to an otherwise bland concrete jungle.

Historical buildings “give you a sense of personal identity to the local area. Otherwise, there’d be just the same high-rise buildings in every downtown,” said Melikian, who also co-owns downtown’s Hotel San Carlos, which has been in continuous operation since 1928. “They show that we are all connected — they’re a link to the past. They’re time machines that show us what was important in the old days.”

In order to raise awareness of the threats to historical buildings in the Phoenix area, a group of neighborhood leaders formed the Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition, said G.G. George, president of Encanto Citizens Association and vice president of the coalition. Last year the coalition compiled a list of threatened historic buildings called the 2010 Most enDangered Dozen.

Donna Reiner, who acted as the chair of the enDangered Dozen Committee, said the coalition made the list to highlight buildings specifically in Phoenix, rather than building in Arizona or nationwide.

The buildings we chose “didn’t have to be on the historic, city or national register,” Reiner said. “It was more (an issue) of who had built it, who had lived in it, what was its connection to history.”

Reiner added that the physical condition of the building, its owners and whether the building was in foreclosure were also considered when choosing the Dozen. Neglect is one of the main reasons that a building becomes endangered, she said.

Artibise and Reiner said they agree that some may not view the buildings they chose as historic because they are not as old as historic buildings in cities on the East coast. Compared to those cities, however, Phoenix is much younger –- not yet 150 years old.

“You hear a lot people say, ‘Well, they’re not that old. It’s not like we’re tearing down 200-year-old buildings. They’re only like 50 years old,’” Artibise said:

But, you know, you need something to be 50 years old before it gets to be 100 years old.

A building must be over 50 years old and meet other “standards for integrity and historical significance” to be added to the Phoenix Property Register and designated as historic, according to the city’s Historic Preservation Office website. However, residential owners can designate their own neighborhoods as historic within the guidelines set by the city of Phoenix, Melikian said.

George said she has been in her historic home, located in the Encanto neighborhood, for 41 years. The neighborhood has been on the national register of historic neighborhoods since 1984.

Phoenix has 34 other residential historic districts, according to the city’s Historic Preservation Office’s website.

Although Melikian said that Phoenix has had success in preserving historic residential areas, he is unhappy with the efforts made to preserve historical commercial buildings.

“Commercial (historical preservation) is almost non-existent in (Phoenix’s) historic preservation,” he said:

It’s pretty much up to the community-minded owner whether they want to save the building or not. There’s nothing the city can do to stop them from tearing down a building.

Melikian suggested the city allow the public to designate a commercial building as historic rather than letting the owner of the building make the decision.

“We give too much authority to the owner, and we have a very weak preservation ordinance,” he said.

Nonetheless, Reiner said she thinks the city and groups like the Phoenix Historic Neighborhood Coalition “do a really good job of promoting historic preservation and explaining why it’s good.”

Both Reiner and Melikian mentioned that they believe Proposition 207, which passed in 2006, hinders historic preservation as well. The proposition, also known as the Private Property Rights Protection Act, states that the government may take private property as long as they offer “just compensation” to the owner of the property. Compensation may occur if an owner sees his or her property value decrease due to “the enactment of a land use law,” which includes historic overlay, according to

“People would misguidedly say that a historic overlay means I can’t do anything to my property, which is not true,” Reiner said:

If you are in a historic district and you do have historic overlay, your property values will remain more constant than if you don’t.

However, Melikian said that Proposition 207 scares the government away from designating properties as historic in order to avoid lawsuits.

“The government is paralyzed by Prop. 207 … but the government can’t designate anything historic because then they are going to be sued by people saying that they diminished the value of their property,” he said.

Despite the potential impediments of Prop. 207, if a building is designated as historic the owner will often renovate it to make it more practical. The city’s award-winning Adaptive Reuse Program was created in 2008 to support property owners who wish to modify their building for a new purpose.

“Some of these buildings, especially the older homes, were built for a specific purpose in a specific time, and times have changed so I think you can adapt,” Artibise said. “I think you need to work with what you have and use that as a starting point as opposed to destroying everything and starting from scratch.”

Melikian listed a variety of different uses for an adapted historic building and said that the reused building could become a novelty.

“History sells — it’s great,” Melikian said:

People love to go to historical buildings, restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops, coffee shops. That’s the greatest thing — a historic building with a new use.

For many buildings in the downtown Phoenix area, though, the adaptive reuse program came too late.

Melikian said he wished the Fleming building on First Avenue and Washington Street was still standing, observing that it had “lasted almost 100 years but could have lasted another 100” and that it held the first elevator in the territory.

“It could have been a museum for youngsters to see what it was like in the 1890s and that was torn down for a high rise,” he said. “That building could have been used as a gateway, like a grand entrance to the high rise … now it’s just a nice high rise, same as in a dozen other cities.”

In the 1984 Historic Phoenix Commercial Properties Survey approximately 143 historic commercial buildings had lasted from about the 1920s to 1984, but 55 buildings have been knocked down in the last 25 years, Melikian said.

“It’s a terrible shame that no one cares about,” he said.

George described historic preservation as holding on to Phoenix’s past, which becomes vital when looking toward the city’s future.

“If we lose our history, we lose anything, any way to make decisions in the future,” she said:

We need to know what happened in the past to help us make comprehensive and intelligent decisions in the future.

Contact the reporter at

Paisley Violin Town has Spots for Rent on Downtown Phoenix’s Grand Ave

[Source: Jackalope Ranch, Phoenix New Times]

For Rent: Paisley Violin Town Spots

Photo courtesy of Liliana Gomez (via Phoenix New Times)

Have you resolved to get yourself some space in 2011? Take note: Paisley Violin Town is looking for renters.

Two little spots behind the coffee house/cafe/art gallery on Grand Avenue are available immediately, and open for everything and anything from one-on-one flamenco lessons to a non-profit’s HQ to a craft shop, according to the leasors.

Current tenants include: BeHeaded Salon (hair); Wicked Wear (custom-made clothing and alterations); Liliana Gomez’s Dragonfly Boutique (local designer clothing); Greg Robinson’s Lazy Lab Art Studio and Hugo Medina’s gallery and artist space.

The space is 275 sq feet and rent is $500 per month. Each cottage has original hard wood flooring and a bathroom. Wireless access and water is included. 6-month lease agreement at least. No deposit is required.

For more details contact Gina at 602-254-7843.

Historical Downtown Phoenix freight depot gets new life


Once a hub of commerce, a long-empty 1929 railway building in Phoenix is switching to a new track as county offices 

Photograph: Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic

A historical rail depot that once was a thriving hub of Phoenix commerce is getting a top-to-bottom fix-up and a second chance at life as county offices.

Maricopa County is spending nearly $4 million to restore and renovate the Santa Fe Freight Depot at Fifth Avenue and Jackson Street for use by the Assessor’s Office. The county already owned the building, but it had become a dusty graveyard for broken chairs, old tables, copier parts and other county castoffs.

“That’s what happens when you have an empty space in a big city,” said Jim Brignall, president of Brignall Construction Co. of Phoenix, the contractor doing the renovation. “People find it and utilize it for their own uses. But it will be a nice corner. It will remind people of what it was.”

The depot opened in 1929 and for years was a key shipment point for goods moving to and from Phoenix by railroad. Merchandise headed for department stores was collected there. A tunnel connected the depot to the ice-storage building nearby so the big blocks of ice that kept food fresh could be shuttled between buildings. The tunnel is still there and was used in the renovation to route a sewer line.

The assessor is closing four outlying offices around the Valley and will consolidate them in the renovated depot, scheduled to open in April. The county says it will save $700,000 to $800,000 a year in lease money it pays on the satellite offices without having to lay off the people who work in them. Sixty to 70 of the assessor’s more than 320 employees will be based at the depot. One of the satellites will be converted for use by another county department.

“We need every one of those positions,” Assessor Keith Russell said. “This is one-time money to fix this as opposed to annual money that gets spent every year, year in and year out, on those rents. In these tough economic times that’s always a big plus, to be able to put some money towards people as opposed to buildings.”

The depot has been vacant since the mid-’60s. Dick Carr, the depot project manager for the county, said the county has owned the depot for about 10 years. The 15,000-square-foot depot was scheduled for demolition in the early 2000s as part of a county construction project but was spared when preservationists objected. A parking garage sits just a few feet south of the depot.

The building is made of poured concrete reinforced with steel, making for what Carr said it is a very sturdy structure. A layer of asbestos was dug out of the floor, and lead paint and lead-encased wiring were removed.

“It was an environmental disaster zone,” Carr said.

The building’s exterior is on Phoenix’s historical register and will be restored to its original look. Roll-up loading doors will be replaced with windows. The wood bumpers attached to the building, gouged by truck bumpers and brittle from decades of weather, will be replaced. The Santa Fe logos will remain. The renovated depot also will meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green-building standards.

The depot will house the assessor’s geographic information systems, fees processing, exemptions and residential property-valuation appeals. Even though the interior will be new, the railroad theme will be echoed. The county says it will borrow railroad artifacts, such things as old maps and railway guides from the Arizona Railway Museum, duplicate them and display them inside.

Patte Thornton, the project’s architect, described the depot as an industrial building with Art Deco touches. Thornton, of Arrington Watkins Architects of Phoenix, said the building’s original drawings are being used to guide the work.

She said one of the biggest jobs will be restoring the concrete face of the building’s east side.

“That building’s been abused,” she said. “Nobody ever considered re-use of it.”

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Get your Tickets for Grand Ave’s ReDapt Tour in Downtown Phoenix

The 2nd Annual Grand Avenue Festival will be held this Saturday, September 25, 2010! For those who missed last year’s events, it is a day full of art, music, fashion, and more that celebrates the vibrant culture of the Lower Grand Avenue arts & small business district.

Re-Dapt Tour

A central part of the Festival are the morning’s Adaptive Reuse,  aka Re-Dapt Tours. These special walking tours highlight some of the most interesting adaptive re-use projects on lower Grand Avenue.

Over the last 16 years new uses have been popping up in the Lower Grand Avenue district (from Van Buren to the 1-10 Freeway overpass) with many buildings reverting from industrial uses back to the original small retail and office uses that once lined this important connector to Wickenburg, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and points west. An influential factor in this renaissance has been the many innovative commercial adaptive re-use projects in the neighborhood: new owners have preserved parts of the existing vintage structures while making modern conversions that allow for more practicality in today’s world, including a myriad of hybrid uses.

Adaptive re-use of commercial buildings in older commercial districts is an important factor in creating true neighborhood sustainability. Many small, entrepreneurial businesses are attracted to the character these older structures lend to a neighborhood – and rents are usually more affordable than brand new construction can offer. The Re-Dapt Tours during the Grand Avenue Festival focus on celebrating the unique history of Grand Avenue, as well as the wonderful adaptive re-use projects in the neighborhood.

This year the Re-Dapt Tours will include La Luz Del Mundo Church, the Gonzalez Heating and Cooling buildings, The Oasis Motel and future home of The Grand Oasis multi-use project, the Rodriguez Boxing Gym corner, and the Grandevelt Complex, home to Kooky Krafts Shop, The Bikini Lounge, Sweets & Beats, and The Trunk Space.  Click ‘more’ below for  descriptions of these buildings.

Each tour is led by an expert Phoenix historian who will reveal the past uses of these unique buildings and the history of how Grand Avenue developed into a major transportation corridor to points west.

Tours will begin at 8:00 am, 9:00 am, and 10:00 am and last approximately two hours. Tours will start at the Rodriguez Boxing Gym at the corner of Roosevelt and 15th Ave. (map) All tours will include the same five buildings.

Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased in advance at Sapna Cafe, Paisley Violin Cafe, Kooky Krafts Shop, and Sweets & Beats, or online by clicking HERE. Tickets can also be purchased the morning of the festival starting at 7:30 am at Kooky Krafts Shop, 1500 W Grand Ave.

2010 Re-Dapt Tour Stops

Read the rest of this entry

Should We Save Downtown Phoenix’s Historic Knipe House?

The City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission will meet to discuss the fate of the city-owned and fire-damaged Leighton G. Knipe House along Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. Commission members and staff of the Historic Preservation Office and Community & Economic Development Department (who control the site) will:

  1. Review the report findings and recommendations of local architect Bob Graham,
  2. Ask for public comment, and
  3. Discuss the feasibility and/or appropriateness of using Historic Preservation Bond funds (and other available funding) to make the needed repairs.

Fixing the fire damage, complete with new roof, is in the $100,000 range. Much more money is required to rehabilitate the structure (which would have had to be expended anyway). Options:

  1. Reconstruct the fire damage,
  2. Weather-tight the building,
  3. Hold on until the economy recovers and seek an adaptive reuse partner, or
  4. Demolish it due to cost.

Even before the recent fire (allegedly arson), the ca. 1909 Knipe House was listed on the Phoenix Historic Neighborhood Coalition‘s Most EnDangered Dozen Historic Places List. It can be rehabilitated and brought back to life to add vitality to Phoenix’s Roosevelt Arts District. Otherwise, it’ll be another empty lot.

Interested individuals are welcome to attend the meeting or submit comments and ideas in advance. To do the latter, contact Barbara Stocklin, Historic Preservation Officer, City of Phoenix, at 602-262-7468 or


Date: September 20
Time: 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Location: 125 W. Washington St.
Facebook: link

Background Links:

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Ramada Inn in downtown Phoenix is days from demolition

Read the Downtown Voices Coalition’s position on the demolition of the hotel here and here.

There will be a public hearing to allow a use permit for an interim parking lot on the site this Thursday, August 12, at 9:00 am. It will be held at Phoenix City Hall, 200 W. Washington St. 1st Floor, Assembly Room C.  More information can be found here.  A meeting agenda has been posted here.

[Source: Emily Gersema in the Arizona Republic]

Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

Workers have been stripping recyclable items such as doors and wiring from the 175-room Ramada Inn at First and Taylor streets in downtown Phoenix to prepare the site for a parking lot.

A Phoenix group of concerned residents and business leaders, Downtown Voices Coalition, tried for several months to stop the demolition, arguing the hotel, once known as the Sahara Motor Inn, was a historic site and should be preserved.

City Manager David Cavazos has said the demolition is a done deal. Crews demolished part of the motel in May.

DEMOLITION: Jeremy Legg, Phoenix economic development program manager, said this phase costs about $700,000. Workers will begin razing the remaining buildings later this month.

PARKING: Legg said after the site is razed, workers will turn it into a parking lot, which could be opened to handle overflow from the nearby Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

NEXT STEP: Within two or three years, Arizona State University hopes to expand its downtown Phoenix campus to include a new building at the site for a new College of Law. The state budget crisis has forced ASU to wait for funding.

City of Phoenix Building Department seeks to enhance services, programs to promote development

[Source: City of Phoenix] — Recommendations from the City of Phoenix Development Services Ad Hoc Task Force have been approved by the Mayor and City Council to enhance services and expand programs to promote development during this down economy.  “We are reaching out our hands to small business owners and developers,” said Mayor Phil Gordon.  “Our goal is to make development processes in Phoenix the most customer friendly in the country.”

Action items include:

  • Code changes to make it easier for developers to complete stalled projects;
  • A self-certification program for building plan review;
  • Expanding the Adaptive Reuse Program, created to streamline the process of modifying older buildings for new business uses, to include buildings up to 100,000 square feet and “big box” retail spaces;
  • Adopt a 24-point action plan to improve consistency among inspectors; and
  • The creation of a development coordination committee made up of executives from all departments involved in development.

“This represents our commitment to continue improving and simplifying the development process while ensuring the safety of all construction,” said Mark Leonard, director, Development Services Department.

City of Phoenix cuts red tape to spur renovations, adaptive reuse

[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] — Green is in.  So is encouraging new business.  Through its adaptive reuse program, Phoenix’s Development Services Department is recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to creating new business opportunities.  The year-old program, which streamlines the process of modifying older buildings for new business uses, recently won a first-place Crescordia Award in this year’s Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Awards.

Denée McKinley, a Development Services administrator, said the program assists business owners who want to bring new life to historic or established areas of the city.  Of the approximately 30 businesses that started the process, 17 have opened their doors, including the Tuck Shop.  The program applies to buildings smaller than 5,000 square feet and older than 25 years but may expand to buildings up to 10,000 square feet and built prior to 2000.

Before the program, it was too expensive for small-business owners to meet current city-code requirements, McKinley said.  She said the office heard time and again that it was less expensive to tear a building down and build new than update a historic building.  “We wanted to keep the character of the neighborhoods,” McKinley said.  “We didn’t want to lose that.”

Applicants must meet zoning, safety and quality development requirements, but the city speeds up the processing, saving applicants time and money.  “We’ve looked at it more of a remodel than a change of use,” McKinley said.  “The fire department did a code change that if it’s 1,500 square feet or less and met access criteria, they didn’t have to put in sprinklers.  Most of our customers found that to be a very big help to them financially.”  [Note: To read the full article, visit City of Phoenix cuts red tape to spur renovations, adaptive reuse.]

Viewpoint: downtown Phoenix businesses finally scoring

[Source: Arizona Republic editorial board] — A bit more than a year ago, downtown Phoenix business owners wondered out loud where all the Arizona State University students were.  There may have been more than 8,000 registered for classes downtown, they said, but they weren’t showing up in their shops and restaurants.  One year later… check that concern.  Parts of downtown, particularly the region north of the downtown ASU campus, are being overrun with Sun Devils.  Or perhaps it is simply young people in general. Whoever these kids are, they are beginning to swarm throughout central Phoenix in impressive numbers at last.

The most notable demonstration of the blossoming of the central city continues to be the First Friday events, of course.  On Nov. 5, the city closed off East Roosevelt from North Central Avenue to Seventh Street to traffic for the first time, allowing the throngs of attendees to overflow the streets without fear of automobiles.

The growing First Friday crowds and the widening ASU footprint have attracted entrepreneurs like Kyle Simone and Jeff Mann to open shops like their Phoenicia Association, a combination men’s clothier and art gallery.  The youth traffic persuaded restaurateur Wade Moises to open the popular PastaBAR at First Street and Pierce Street, in the same building with Sens Asian Tapas and the now popular Irish bar Turf.  [Note: Read the full article at Viewpoint: downtown Phoenix businesses finally scoring.]