Blog Archives

Viewpoint: Keep Phoenix’s Historic Preservation Program autonomous and strong

[Source: Arizona Preservation Foundation] — The Arizona Preservation Foundation Board of Directors urges the continuation of an autonomous, community-focused Historic Preservation Program for the City of Phoenix. Without such a strong program and city commitment to preservation, the landmarks pictured in the slide show above would have been demolished or severely compromised.

In addition, Phoenix’s 35 residential historic districts would NOT have historic preservation protection nor would be revitalized and active to the extent they are today. Without the stability of these urban neighborhoods, Phoenix’s central city revitalization would be severely deterred.

Phoenix voters would NOT have invested over $25 million in the city’s unique Historic Preservation Bond Program which has rehabilitated literally hundreds of historic buildings and sites in central Phoenix.

The nationally-acclaimed ethnic heritage surveys of Phoenix’s Asian, Black, and Latino communities would NOT have been completed.

When all is said and done, historic preservation is sustainable “green” development, and development without a historic preservation element is not sustainable.

Downtown Voices Coalition reviews its past, looks to the future

On Saturday, January 16, over 75 individuals interested and involved in downtown Phoenix participated in the Downtown Voices Coalition “Moving Forward” strategic planning session at the historic A.E. England Building.  The information and ideas garnered from the group will help Downtown Voices update its August 2004 report, “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown,” and prioritize issues and projects for the future.  The information will also be useful for others (individually or organizationally) to review and use in their own efforts to improve downtown Phoenix.  Stay tuned for details.  At any time, you’re welcome to communicate your questions, comments, concerns, and ideas via e-mail, or by attending Downtown Voices’ monthly meetings.

The Downtown Voices Steering Committee sincerely thanks the following individuals and organizations for sponsoring this event.

  • Arizona Preservation Foundation
  • Arizona State University
  • Butler Housing/Roosevelt Commons
  • Candid Landscapes
  • City of Phoenix
  • Downtown Phoenix Journal
  • Fair Trade Coffee
  • Fresh Gourmet to Go
  • Get Consensus, LLC
  • Habitat Metro
  • Impact Printing
  • Kooky Krafts Shop
  • Local First Arizona
  • John Saccoman
  • Matthew Tomb

Thanks also to Suad Mahmuljin for taking photos of the day’s activities.

Phoenix’s Franklin School wins state preservation award

The non-profit Arizona Preservation Foundation and the State Historic Preservation Office, in conjunction with the Governor’s Office, announced the winners of the 2008 Governor’s Heritage Preservation Honor Awards at a luncheon ceremony at the Sixth Annual Statewide Historic Preservation Partnership Conference, “Preservation on the Line.”  Each year, 10 awards are given to individuals, businesses, organizations, and projects in recognition of outstanding achievements in preserving Arizona’s prehistoric and historic patrimony.  This year’s Honor Award winners are:

  • Brunenkant Bakery Building, Florence
  • Central Commercial Company Building, Kingman
  • City of Glendale’s Department of Planning
  • Curley School, Ajo (Grand Award)
  • Franklin Police and Fire High School, Phoenix
  • James A. Walsh Federal Building, Tucson
  • McCullough-Price House Restoration, Chandler
  • Noel Stowe, Arizona State University
  • Santa Cruz County Courthouse, Nogales
  • Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Affairs Office

A panel of judges representing the fields of archaeology, architecture, history, and preservation, as well as a representative from the Governor’s Office, selected the winners from nominations submitted from across the state.  Click here for more details and photos of this year’s award recipients.  To view past Honor Award recipients, click here.

What are Phoenix’s most endangered historic places?

Sun Mercantile Building in downtown Phoenix, listed on the 2006 Most Endangered Historic Places List.[Source: Arizona Preservation Foundation] — The Arizona Preservation Foundation is accepting nominations for its 2008 list of Arizona’s Most Endangered Historic Places.  Compiled by preservation professionals and historians, the list identifies critically endangered properties of major historical or archaeological significance to the state.  Properties selected for the Most Endangered Historic Places list will receive the Foundation’s assistance in developing support to remove the threat. 

To nominate online and for complete details, click hereThe deadline is June 5, 2008.  Supporting documentation must also be received by the deadline to: Arizona Preservation Foundation, P.O. Box 13492, Phoenix, AZ 85002.  Support materials include clippings, correspondence, and photographs.

The Foundation’s 2007 list is comprised of Arizona State University Historic Properties, Tempe; Buckhorn Baths, Mesa; Camp Naco, Naco; Empire Ranch, Las Cienegas National Conservation Area; Glendale Tract Community Center, Glendale; Havasu Hotel, Seligman; Kerr Cultural Center, Scottsdale; Kingman Multiple Resources, Kingman; Maple Ash Neighborhood, Tempe; Marist College, Tucson; Old U.S. 80 Bridge (Gillespie Dam Bridge), Arlington; Sage Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, Ganado; San Ysidro Ranch Ruins, Yuma; Second Pinal County Courthouse, Florence; Valley National Bank, 44th Street & Camelback Road, Phoenix; and White Gates House, Phoenix.

The Foundation’s 2006 list is comprised of the Adamsville Ruins, Coolidge; Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, Tucson; First Baptist Church, Phoenix; Fisher Memorial Home, Casa Grande; Geronimo Station, Geronimo; Meehan/Gaar House, Casa Grande; Mesa Grande Ruins, Mesa; Mountain View Black Officers Club, Sierra Vista; Peter T. Robertson Residence, Yuma; Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, Casa Grande; and Sun Mercantile Building, Phoenix.

Green buildings & sustainable development are different says Rypkema

To a crowd of 150 — including Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs — Donovan Rypkema, Principal of Place Economics and well-known speaker on preservation issues, addressed “The Role of Preservation in Sustainable Development” at a National Preservation Month event on May 6 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix.

Rypkema corrected the popular notion that green buildings and sustainable development are synonyms — they are not.  He was complimentary of Phoenix, especially commending four organizations and people that “get it” — as in understanding how preservation adds to the vitality of any community and makes economic (and sustainable) good sense.

This event was sponsored by the Capitol Mall Association in Phoenix with support from the Arizona Preservation Foundation, Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, Arizona Department of Commerce Main Street Program, and City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office.

Groups appeal Phoenix City Council’s Sun Merc decision

[Source: Save SunMerc Coalition] — On Friday, January 13, 2006, in order to preserve their right as citizens and associations to litigate and provide reasonable notice of their continuing claims and legal theories, a motion was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court by the following groups: Arizona Asian American Association, Arizona Asian American Museum Foundation, Arizona Preservation Foundation, Capitol Mall Association, Chinese United Association of Greater Phoenix, Downtown Voices Coalition, Garfield Neighborhood Association, NAILEM, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, Oakland University Park Neighborhood Association, Ong Ko Met Family Association, Organization of Chinese Americans (Phoenix Chapter), and Story Preservation Association.  Other groups are considering joining the appeal.  The groups’ sole concern is with the historic Sun Mercantile Building, not the W Hotel or adjacent new construction condominium.  All parties want, advocate, and work for a vibrant, 24/7 downtown -– a downtown that looks to the future, but respects its heritage.

Legal counsel carefully researched and reviewed the Sun Mercantile Building issue.  The appeal of the City Council’s decision is based on the following arguments:

  1. There is no credible evidence in the record supporting the City Council’s reversal of the decisions by its own Historic Preservation Commission and Historic Preservation Officer.
  2. The City Council’s decision is contrary to law.  It directly contradicts the Phoenix Historic Preservation Ordinance and applicable state and federal historic preservation statutes, regulations, and rules.
  3. The City Council was obligated to review the decisions by the Historic Preservation Commission and Historic Preservation Officer as a quasi-judicial body, not as a legislative body.  By approving the 11-story addition to the top of the Sun Mercantile Building the Council acted legislatively as opposed to quasi-judicially, thereby exceeding its legal authority and jurisdiction and abusing its discretion in approving a dramatic change to the Sun Mercantile Building.
  4. The City Council effectively removed the Historic Preservation zoning from the property (if left in place this action will likely result in the Sun Mercantile Building being removed from the National Register of Historic Places and/or the Arizona historic register) without adhering to the Phoenix Zoning Ordinance and proper notification process.
  5. The City Council’s approval of the 11-story tower atop the Sun Mercantile Building is contrary to the Conservation, Rehabilitation, and Redevelopment Element of the City of Phoenix General Plan.  The illegal zoning change effected by the approval of the 11-story tower is inconsistent with the Phoenix General Plan.

The groups have requested a temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, and/or permanent injunction that would prohibit the City and City Council from taking any further action in regard to redevelopment of the Sun Mercantile Building as approved by the Council on December 14, 2005.

Council decides on Chinatown Building, Asian Museum

Phoenix City Council at its December 14, 2005 hearing sided primarily with the real estate developer and ignored most of the pleas of the Chinese- and Asian-American and historic preservation communities to preserve the historic 1920s Chinatown Sun Mercantile Building and set aside 4,500 square feet of space for a history museum.  The council allowed the developer to build 11-stories of condominiums through and above the Sun Merc.  In addition, in hopes of pleasing the Chinese- and Asian-American communities, it required the developer to set aside 1,000 square feet of space inside the Sun Merc and 1,000 square feet of space outside the Sun Merc for exhibits and displays for museum use, and required the developer to donate $75,000 over two years to the newly created Arizona Asian American Museum Foundation.

Rally, Lion Dance.  The day began with a rally outside next to the council chambers by supporters of saving the Sun Merc.  Over 100 supporters attended the rally where a pair of traditional Chinese lion dancers performed to bring good luck to and drive away evil spirits from the city council hearing.  Supporters held up signs in English, Chinese, and other Asian languages to save the Sun Merc and for an Asian museum.  They were heard chanting “save Sun Merc, save Sun Merc, save Sun Merc.”  It was quite a scene, with television, radio and newspaper reporters present to record the moment.  Barry Wong, Chairman of the Save SunMerc Coalition, gave remarks energizing supporters in advance of the council’s hearing.

Council Hearing: Community Leaders Speak.  The City Council started its hearing at 5 p.m. to address the Sun Merc matter.  By way of background, the luxury hotel and condominium developer had appealed the prior decision of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission that favored the historic preservation and Asian American communities.  The Commission required the developer to remove from its plans the 11-stories above the Sun Merc and that at least 4,500 square feet of space be reserved for use by the Asian American community for history museum use.  Nearly 200 supporters of saving the Sun Merc and setting aside space for an Asian American museum attended the hearing, mostly Chinese- and Asian-Americans.  Also, 30-some members of the Chinese Senior Citizens Association, led by its president, Mr. Wen, made a special trip to attend the hearing.  This issue, for the first time, galvanized the Chinese- and Asian-American communities to attend and protest their city government elected leaders to take action in support of their community.

After city staff and the developer’s representatives spoke, Barry Wong was called up by the mayor to testify and make an opening statement on behalf of the Save SunMerc Coalition, followed by Jim McPherson, President of the Arizona Preservation Foundation.

The public was later given the opportunity to comment as well.  Many Chinese- and Asian-American community leaders stepped forward to speak, including Dr. Pearl Tang, wife of the late Hon. Thomas Tang, former Phoenix Vice Mayor and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the Ninth Circuit; Eddie Yue, President, Chinese United Association of Greater Phoenix; Eva Li, president, OCA/Phoenix Chapter; Arif Kazmi, President, Arizona Asian American Association; Annie White, Overseas Chinese Woman’s Club; John Tang, past president, Chinese United Association; Doris Ong, member, Board of Trustees, Phoenix Art Museum; and Virginia Chang, President, Desert Jade Woman’s Club.

Decision, Future Action.  After nearly three hours of testimony, the city council discussed the issue and rendered its decision.  After the decision was announced, the developer still would not commit to the 1,000 square feet designated for inside the Sun Merc and wanted the council to place more restrictions on how the Arizona Asian American Museum Foundation could use the developer-required donation of money.  Supporters of Sun Merc in the audience were disappointed with the council’s decision, then booed and groaned upon hearing the offensive, non-committal statement from the developer.  The Save SunMerc Coalition will meet with their legal advisors to decide whether to appeal the council’s decision to court.

Save SunMerc Coalition was formed and has been working daily since early October 2005, in conjunction with the Arizona Preservation Foundation and other historic preservation groups, to preserve Sun Merc and secure space for a museum.  Core members of the Coalition are Barry Wong, Eddie Yue, John Tang, Dr. Pearl Tang, Arif Kazmi, Doris Ong, Lani Wo, past president, Chinese United Association, Arnold Wo and Chantri Sukpon Beck, President, Thai-American Friendship Organization.