Blog Archives

Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix sells for $136.5 million

[Source: Phoenix Business Journal]

The Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix.

The Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix was sold for $136.5 million to Commonwealth REIT (NYSE:CWH) in Newton, Mass. The deal closed March 4.

The sale likely is the largest real estate transaction in the state since the start of the Great Recession in 2008.

CB Richard Ellis in Phoenix, Chicago and Los Angeles represented the seller, General Growth Properties. Commonwealth represented itself, according to Bob Young, senior vice president for CB Richard Ellis in Phoenix.

“It’s a great property and these people, I think, will make it even better,” Young said.

Located at the northeast corner of 3rd and Van Buren streets, the Arizona Center sits on 16 acres. It includes three parking structures, open space, retail shops and restaurants, a movie theater and two office towers.

One 20-story tower is 100 percent leased by Arizona Public Service. The second 19-story tower is 88 percent leased to several tenants including the Snell & Wilmer law firm and Pinnacle West Capital.

General Growth sold the Arizona Center as part of its Chapter 11 reorganization plan.

“They are mostly a mall company and they were selling their non-core properties,” Young said.

Commonwealth owns several properties in Phoenix, including the Anasazi Plaza I and II near Paradise Valley Mall, Regents Centre in Tempe and 8 South 84th Street, an industrial warehouse in Tolleson.

Almost Famous Short Film Festival in Downtown Phoenix on Feb. 18

[Source: DowntownPhoenix.com]

Maybe you can’t be an overnight sensation, but here’s your chance to be Almost Famous in 48 hours!

A3F_IMG_1847All you have to do is take a theme, a prop, a line of dialogue and 48 hours and you could be the grand prize winner of the 7th Annual 48 Hour Short Film Challenge!  Hey, this is how James Cameron did it, so why not you? Even if you don’t win, just participating is going to be a blast!

Jae Staats, Founder and Executive Director of the Almost Famous Film Festival, says this year’s event is looking to be the best ever with the winners of the comedy and drama categories receiving $500 dollars each.

The 48-hour challenge requires teams to make a 1-5 minute film based on a theme, prop and a line of dialogue dictated by Staats and his fellow organizers.  The guidelines will be revealed on Friday, Feb. 18 at the kickoff party at Majerle’s Sports Grill in Downtown Phoenix from 5-7 p.m. The contest is open to all ages and free to attend.

Teams have exactly two days (yes, that’s 48 hours) to choose their locations, gather their cast and crew, write their scripts, shoot and edit their films, and then turn in a completed movie by the 48-hour deadline.

So, how do you get started?  Just fill out the entry form and cough up $40 bucks, but do it now as it goes up to $50 on Jan 18.  Remember, fame is just around the corner and Almost Famous for everybody; you don’t have to be a polished filmmaker to participate.  The 48-hour challenge requires only actors, location sites, volunteers and lots of enthusiasm, so everyone qualifies.

The deadline is firm and Staats says entrants have come flying though the door at the last minute with their work still on their laptops, in a wheelbarrow, and even in pieces in a suitcase.

After the films are turned in, a panel of judges watch and score the moves to create a Top 20 list.  These films are then screened before a sold-out audience at AMC 24 at Arizona Center on March 3 with an awards program following the screening.

Staats says that having a festival like this in our own backyard is an opportunity to show what Phoenix is all about.  We have talent, creative genius and a wonderful community that the world needs to see and this is one of the best ways to get the real people of Phoenix in the spotlight!!

For all the details visit www.thea3f.net or call 602-295-3147.

Tips for Enjoying Fall In Downtown Phoenix

[Source: downtownphoenix.com]

Here it is, the moment we’ve all waited for: the first double-digit temps. Feel free to abandon the a/c and head outside to enjoy Downtown’s balmy fall nights.

Start with drinks at the newly opened ReBar on Roosevelt, which has a big outdoor patio and a nice vibe for relaxing with friends.

Rose&CrownWEBOther options include The Rose and Crown, where you can sip a Guinness on the always-popular porch or lawn; Steve’s Greenhouse Grill, where the misters keep you extra-comfortable; and Seamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, which has patio seating and a Publican who really knows his liquor. Ask him to recommend something from the pub’s big selection of draught beer and Irish whisky.

Where can you go from there? Head to Coach & Willie’s for wood-fired pizza on the inviting patio, complete with waterfall, or relax outside at Majerle’s and munch on classic American fare.

Of course, as you probably know, one of Downtown’s most eye-catching outdoor settings is the Arizona Center. Both Sam’s Café and My Big Fat Greek Restaurant face the Center’s gorgeous gardens, water features and cozy benches for canoodling.

Want more that’s outdoor? Sip a White Mocha coffee on the patio at Fair Trade Café, then walk a few steps to Civic Space Park and its green lawns. Relax under the stars while you feel sorry – just briefly –  for the rest of the country, which will soon be dealing with rain and snow.

It’s good to be a Phoenician.

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The changing face of downtown Phoenix

[Source: Salvador Rodriguez, Downtown Devil]

The Devil's Den. Photo credit: Downtown Devil

A new lounge for Taylor Place residents is the first in a series of recent additions to downtown Phoenix this semester.

Devil’s Den, located on the first floor of Taylor Place along East Taylor Street, includes a pool and ping-pong table, large screen televisions and game consoles and is open until 1 a.m. every day.

With the development of the remaining retail space on the first floor of Taylor Place, the addition of CityScape and various other changes throughout downtown Phoenix, new restaurants and other businesses will begin offering their services to students downtown.

“The college experience is not just limited to getting an education, making new friends or joining a club,” said Georgeana Montoya, downtown campus dean of students, in a statement. “I believe the college experience means trying everything that life has to offer, which includes exploring your surroundings, opening yourself up to new ideas and opportunities and getting a taste of the local culture.”

Along with the new businesses opening this semester—which include the now open Nobuo at Teeter House, an Asian-style teahouse on North Sixth and East Monroe streets, and Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge, set to open this Friday in CityScape—the existing restaurants El Portal and Hsin have begun accepting Maroon and Gold Dollars this semester.

The large investments made in the area over the past years—the Downtown campus, light rail, Sheraton hotel and others—have made downtown Phoenix an opportune market for businesses, said David Roderique, president of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

“Even with the economy being as bad as it is … all these things have created a much stronger market down there,” Roderique said. “That’s attracted the interest of a lot of folks that want to take advantage of that.”

Over the summer, however, the Downtown campus lost the Sbarro pizzeria on the first floor of the Walter Cronkite School and the Uno Chicago Grill located in the Arizona Center—though plans are already set for Brick Pizzeria and Wine Bar to take its spot.

“Even in good times, there is a pretty significant turnover in restaurants—it just happens,” Roderique said. “What we’re happy about is that in general the places that have closed have been replaced pretty quickly.”

Marcus Jones, a nonprofit leadership and management sophomore and staff member of the Devil’s Den, said he thinks the influx of businesses will benefit students by providing job opportunities and making the downtown Phoenix area livelier.

“It’s just more places for us to go hang out,” he said. “There’s always something going on here. It’s a great campus to be on now.”

Contact the reporter at salvador.rodriguez@asu.edu

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Choir teacher suspended after taking students to downtown Phoenix “Hooters”

[Source: eCanada Now] — In Phoenix, Arizona, a Paradise Valley High School choir teacher has been put on paid leave after taking her class to Hooters for lunch.  According to Judi Willis, a spokeswoman for the district school board, Mary Segall took her class to a Hooters resautrant after a performance at Arizona Center last week.  Segall said that Hooters, a restaurant known for hiring women with large breasts, was the only restaurant in the area capable of handling such a large group.

Segall, 23, took 40 students to the controversial restaurant, The Arizona Republic reported.  “We believe that there are many venues for lunch for a large group of people in the downtown Phoenix area,” Willis said.  “There could have been a choice that might have been more appropriate, given that it was a school-day event with a school employee in charge.”

The Hooters website says its restaurants aim to provide “a unique, entertaining dining experience… delivered by attractive, vivacious Hooters Girls.”

Segal traveled to Washington in January with the school’s choir and strings group to perform at one of President Barack Obama’s inaugural events, “History in the Making: A Dream and a Change Inaugural Ball.”

Property tax exemptions may be next battle in Arizona subsidy war

Collier Center, downtown Phoenix (Photo: HooverDam, Skyscraper Forum)

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — The next shoe to drop in the legal fight over special tax breaks and subsidies for developers could be over the 100 percent tax exemptions ponied up for high-profile projects such as ASU SkySong in Scottsdale and enjoyed by professional sports teams.  That action could come after the Arizona Supreme Court decides whether a $97 million tax break for the CityNorth mixed-use development in northeast Phoenix is constitutional under state law.  A judgment in that case isn’t expected before the end of the year, but those opposed to developer subsidies already are strategizing for future battles.

The first is a lawsuit expected to be filed over government property lease excise taxes, or GPLETs.  These funding mechanisms allow government entities that own land to lease it back to private developers and businesses, which then pay lower-than-normal property taxes.  The Goldwater Institute and Arizona Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, said they plan to file suit to do away with GPLETs.

Cheuvront wants to sue to try to stop the tax breaks.  Clint Bolick, attorney for the Goldwater Institute, said the conservative think tank also is looking at other tax arrangements to determine whether they are legal.  “We’re just beginning to burrow deeply into GPLETs,” Bolick said.  “To the extent that lease rates are below market after tax benefits are taken into consideration, it may represent an illegal subsidy, and also may violate equal protection of the law if similarly situated tenants are paying more in private buildings.”

As that case works its way through the courts, the same skeptics want to go after entities including SkySong, the Arizona Cardinals, the Phoenix Suns, and the Arizona Diamondbacks, which pay no property taxes because they lease their facilities from city or county governments.  None of those arrangements are considered GPLETs, though that mechanism has been used extensively for downtown Phoenix developments including the Colliers Center, Arizona Center, and Renaissance office towers.  The new Cancer Treatment Centers of America hospital in Goodyear also is a GPLET.

Real estate developers and business interests say striking down the CityNorth subsidy, GPLETs or other tax incentives would discourage investments and economic development.  [Note: Read the full article at Property tax exemptions may be next battle in Arizona subsidy war.]

A growing appetite for downtown Phoenix dining

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Sens, Downtown Phoenix (photo source: Cam Riley)

[Source: Howard Seftel and Megan Finnerty, Arizona Republic] — Looking past the current economic downturn, optimistic restaurateurs believe downtown Phoenix is poised to compete in the next few years with Scottsdale as a dining destination.  The momentum has been jump-started by a group of independent chefs and entrepreneurs who believe in the area’s potential.  They, in turn, have inspired a fresh wave of high-profile names with big plans to rush in and stake a downtown claim.

New arrivals say downtown Phoenix has reached a tipping point, energized in part by light rail and the Arizona State University campus.  But some warn that the Valley has seen this sort of hopeful restaurant hype fail to live up to its promise before, pointing to troubles on Mill Avenue in Tempe and developments such as downtown Phoenix’s Arizona Center and the Mercado that never flourished.  Others think downtown’s residential core is still not strong enough to support a restaurant community.

Meanwhile, CityScape is accelerating the downtown dining buzz.  Fifteen restaurants are planned for the sprawling residential, commercial and retail complex set to open in 2010.  Developers are targeting local chefs in hopes of complementing the fledgling dining scene, not squashing it.  Although downtown had seen scattered individual successes in the past, like the wood-fired pizza at Pizzeria Bianco and classy comfort food of Matt’s Big Breakfast, their popularity didn’t create a movement.  Winning national acclaim meant they became just as much tourist destinations as local joints.  Now, however, chefs and restaurant owners are relocating from other parts of the Valley or opening additional locations.

Metro light rail, ASU’s downtown campus, the Downtown Phoenix Public Market and new residents are creating buzz for the area, they say.  “It’s the spot to be,” said Linda Nguyen, whose bustling, 4-month-old Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen offers Japanese fare.  She considered Tempe and Scottsdale before opening in a space on East McKinley Street.  [Note: Read the full article at A growing appetite for downtown Phoenix dining]

Arizona Center owners says business is up

null[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Throngs of tourists and a neighborhood building spree have helped turn things around at Arizona Center, a 19-year-old outdoor mall that was a pioneering downtown Phoenix redevelopment project.

There are questions about the mall’s future.  In April, Arizona Center’s parent company, General Growth Properties Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  But for now, “it’s absolutely business as usual” for mall customers and shop owners, said mall General Manager Chris Bilotto.  In media reports, analysts have speculated that some of General Growth’s 200-plus malls could be sold.

While shop owners wait for news on the bankruptcy case, they are enjoying a boost from the mall’s new neighbors: the Phoenix Convention Center, which finished a $600 million expansion last winter, and the 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel that opened last fall.   Since January, the convention center has hosted 44 events with more than 233,175 visitors, a convention center spokeswoman said.  In 2008, the center had 49 conventions and 122,625 attendees.  That foot traffic has kept Arizona Center cash registers ringing and has helped to reduce the effect of the economic downturn, shop owners say.   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix sees fall in crime reports

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The number of reported crimes in downtown Phoenix has plummeted more than 50 percent since 1999, and it dropped nearly 10 percent from 2007 to 2008, police statistics show. The drop is the result of old-fashioned police work, a national decrease in crime, and a downtown building spree that has transformed the neighborhood, police and other experts say.

Phoenix is in good company.  Several major U.S. cities, including New York and Philadelphia, have turned once-seedy downtown neighborhoods into tourist areas. But an expert says that even the most successful downtowns must always be mindful about public perceptions about safety.

The city has come a long way since strolling prostitutes were a familiar sight downtown decades ago.  And it’s gotten much safer during the last few years, too, gallery owner Greg Esser said. When Esser and his wife opened the Eye Lounge art space eight years ago, they were afraid to leave the door unlocked during business hours.  Now, they don’t worry about crime much. “Instead of open-air drug deals, there are strollers and joggers and a lot more people on the street,” Esser said.

Since 1990, downtown Phoenix has gained the Arizona Center shopping mall, two sports arenas, a larger convention center, a slew of condo projects, more art galleries, and an ASU campus, said David Roderique, president and CEO of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership. Now Diamondbacks fans linger in neighborhood eateries long after the ninth inning and convention attendees feel at ease roaming downtown streets.  “As we put more activities and businesses downtown that have later hours, we create more comfort zones,” Roderique said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Viewpoint: Central Phoenix, the good, bad, and ugly

[Source: Jon Talton, Rogue Columnist blog] — Because I know the fragile self-esteem of Phoenicians is at stake, let me begin my observations about the state of the center city with the good stuff.  I smelled the orange blossoms — even stepping out into one of ugliest urban spaces anywhere, the pedestrian loading zone at Sky Harbor.  Many of the Midwestern transplants dislike the scent, which makes me dislike some of them even more.  But this small, fleeting thing reminds me of my often magical city that is gone forever.

Some of the projects begun under former Mayor Skip Rimsza and spearheaded by people like former Deputy City Manager Sheryl Sculley, retired Deputy City Manager Jack Tevlin and Ed Zuercher, now a deputy city manager, have turned out quite well.  As I wrote before, the starter light-rail line is great.  Now lots of places are clamoring for LRT; the trick will be to avoid using light rail when commuter rail would be more efficient.  A metro area the size of Phoenix needs both.  The Convention Center is such a startlingly attractive set of buildings that you wonder if the design was approved by mistake, given Phoenix’s ability to erect such ugliness.  The ASU downtown campus, Mayor Gordon’s signature accomplishment, is more of a reality, and thus will be more difficult for the Legislature to destroy.  The lovely oasis of Arizona Center remains, shady and cool.

Read on if you want to know “the rest of the story,” as the late Paul Harvey would say.

Much of the center city looks as if it has been cleaned up after repeated carpet bombing by the Allies in World War II.  There’s just nothing there.  It’s staggering to see the cleared land along Van Buren, Washington and Jefferson in what was to be Mayor Gordon’s “Opportunity Corridor.”  Other vacant lots proliferate around the Central Corridor.  City Hall seems to have learned nothing from its clear cutting of the neighborhoods between 7th Avenue and the state capitol during the 1980s.

This is problematic for many reasons.  First is what’s lost.  One would never know that Phoenix in 1950 was as densely populated as Seattle is today.  Buildings, many average but many with architectural value, crowded along every street.  For example, the district between 7th Avenue and the capitol had many Victorian houses and apartments from the territorial and 1920s era.  Van Buren and east McDowell, to give just two examples, sported commercial strips with the buildings right up to the sidewalk.  Downtown and the warehouse district were dense with interesting, durable, and in some cases priceless buildings.  Now all gone.  [Note: To read the full blog entry, click here.]