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.

New nursing college building opens in downtown Phoenix

ASU College of Nursing and Health Innovation, downtown Phoenix (Photo: ASU)

[Source: Arizona State University] — The College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University dedicated its new building today at a time it is experiencing the most significant changes in its 52-year history.  Change has impacted every part of the college — faculty and staff, leadership, curriculum, name, strategic mission, and facilities.  “Change is inevitable everywhere today, and without change, there is no innovation,” Dean Bernadette Melnyk said.  “Most people fear change, but not here at ASU.  We see change as a huge opportunity for innovation and building strength.  Our recent changes mark the dawn of a new era for our college and multiply opportunities for students, faculty and staff.”

An impressive new five story 84,000 square foot building is the most visible of the changes in the college.  Construction of the building was completed in only 16 months in time to open for fall semester.  “This expansion provides the best facilities we have ever had and helps facilitate the integration of new programs into our college,” said Dean Melnyk.  “The additional building provides much needed space to continue to offer the highest quality of educational programs and the most cutting-edge research to guide best practices, as well as the opportunity to continue to launch innovative initiatives that will improve the health of Arizona residents.” 

The ASU dean praised the City, general contractor DPR Construction, architectural firm SmithGroup, and the ASU implementation team for working together to build a signature building on budget and on schedule.  The City of Phoenix and ASU partnered to build the campus and the new nursing building as part of a city bond issue that voters passed in 2006. 

Serving as the northern gateway to the new ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus, the glass and copper structure includes a 200-seat auditorium, classrooms, student facilities, and faculty office and research space.  The building includes several sustainable elements and outside public spaces that provide shaded green areas with a water feature.  As a part of ASU’s restructuring in the spring of 2009, several health-related programs of the former School of Applied Arts and Sciences at the Polytechnic Campus were merged into the ASU nursing college.  The Exercise and Wellness, Nutrition, and Health Sciences programs became part of the college.  [Note: Read the full article at New nursing college building opens in downtown Phoenix.]

City of Phoenix bond program on track with low interest rate

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Moody’s Investors Service recently lowered Phoenix’s ratings outlook from “stable” to “negative,” but city officials said it didn’t hurt the city’s ability to sell hundreds of millions of dollars of bonds to pay for parks, fire stations, library expansions, and other projects.  The city this month sold $350 million in general-obligation bonds, authorized in 2006, and refinanced an additional $117 million in bond debt, both at 3.37 percent, a rate that is near historic lows for government borrowing.  Phoenix previously had been repaying that debt at a rate of about 4.5 percent.

Officials said the refinancing saves Phoenix taxpayers about $11.5 million over 25 years.  The bonds are paid back through secondary property taxes.  “The low interest rates help keep our 2006 bond program on track,” said Interim Finance Director Jeff DeWitt.  “It’s really cheap to borrow for governments right now, and that made this deal very attractive to the city.”

Both Standard & Poor’s Financial Services and Moody’s recently gave Phoenix the highest bond rating given the municipalities, AAA for S&P and Aa1 for Moody’s.   But Moody’s revised the city’s outlook to negative because of the city’s falling sales-tax revenue and ongoing budget woes.  The credit-ratings agency also said the regional economy’s reliance on the housing sector posed financial challenges for Phoenix.  “If the economy turns around, our outlook could improve to stable,” DeWitt said.

In March 2006, Phoenix voters approved an $878 million bond program to revitalize neighborhoods, preserve historic buildings, improve streets and other infrastructure, and boost arts and cultural programs.   About $270 million in 2006 bonds remain to be sold.  [Note: Read the full article at City of Phoenix bond program on track with low interest rate.]

Enjoy a sneak peek of the new ASU College of Nursing & Health Innovation


Mark Kranz of SmithGroup, project architect, explaining the building to tour-goers (Photo source: Steve Weiss)

Last Monday, members of the Downtown Voices Coalition Steering Committee and City of Phoenix staff were given a tour of the new ASU College of Nursing and Health Innovation building in downtown Phoenix. Click here for a “behind the scenes” look at the building’s interior, courtesy of photographer Steve Weiss.

ASU’s downtown Phoenix nursing building finishing construction

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — It may seem like a strange time to wrap up construction for a $39 million addition to ASU’s nursing school in downtown Phoenix.  Faced with university-wide budget cuts, the College of Nursing & Health Innovation plans to cut admissions by 26 percent this fall.  The Legislature is working on a fiscal 2010 budget that is likely to include more higher-education cuts.  And many expect that there will be future belt-tightening at Arizona State University.  But a critical need for space makes the new copper-covered building at 550 N. Third St. necessary, said Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the nursing school.  The building is scheduled to open in August. “We have found ways to move some exciting things forward,” Melnyk said as she watched crews paint walls and prep the building’s floors for tile and carpet.  “There are some silver linings.”

The nursing school will admit fewer students this fall, but that won’t solve the space crunch downtown, university officials say.  At the 3-year-old campus, classrooms are shared by several departments, and those rooms are near capacity, officials said.  Plus, ASU plans to add other units, such as exercise, nutrition and public health programs, to the nursing school.  The nursing school’s existing building at 500 N. Third St. doesn’t have classrooms or enough offices or places for students to gather, the dean added.

The new building sits at an intersection where many drivers enter the downtown campus.  The community wanted a building that has presence, said lead design architect Mark Kranz of SmithGroup, the firm that worked on the project. A fire staircase that faces Third and Fillmore streets will be enclosed in frosted glass and will glow at night, he said.  The building has a copper skin — a nod to Arizona’s mining roots — that won’t turn green because there is less moisture in Valley air than in other climates, Kranz said.  “It will wear, just like a penny in your pocket,” he said. Over the next few weeks, glass will go up on the outside staircase, said Peter Berg of DPR Construction Inc. Most of the work has shifted to inside the building, he said.

The project was funded by two types of city bonds.  Nearly $30 million came from a package of city bond projects approved by voters in 2006. Later, when the city and ASU decided to increase the size of the building, Phoenix covered the $10 million in additional costs using excise tax bonds.  The excise tax bonds were specially designated for construction.  They could not be used to fund jobs or programs at ASU or Phoenix. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Another feature of downtown Phoenix’s Civic Space is historic A.E. England Building

While much of the hubbub of downtown Phoenix’s Civic Space focused on Janet Echelman’s public art piece, “Her Secret is Patience,” another important feature of the park is the historic A.E. England Building.   Thanks to the 2006 Historic Preservation Bond Committee, Phoenix residents who voted for the 2006 Bond Program, local preservation advocates, the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and Commission, and Mayor Gordon and City Council, the building was spared from the wrecking ball (yes, it was threatened at one point).

The interior renovation is not quite done.  While you’re waiting for it to be completed and the “grand opening” later this spring, sit back and read about its history, courtesy of the staff at the Historic Preservation Office:

Locally prominent builder Clinton Campbell constructed the A.E. England Motors, Inc./Electrical Equipment Co. building in 1926.   The Spanish Renaissance Revival style building features three large storefront windows with ornate cast concrete window surrounds and decorative course molding along the roof parapet.  Six original bow-string wood trusses, sandwiched between new laminated beams, support the roof structure.

Originally an automotive dealership, A.E. England sold autos from the Hudson Motor Car Co. (1909-1954) and its less expensive Essex brand.   Cars were featured prominently in the building’s large display windows.   Central Avenue north of Van Buren Street became Phoenix’s first “auto row,” lined with Cadillac, Studebaker, Ford, and DeSoto dealerships well into the 1960s.

England left the auto sales business sometime in the early 1930s.   The Electrical Equipment Co., purveyors of radios, batteries, and Kelvinator refrigerators, occupied the building for the next twenty-five years.   The company’s “Gold Room,” decorated with gold drapes, gold walls and gold wicker furniture, provided an optimal radio listening experience for prospective buyers.  Five Atwater-Kent cabinet radios were on display, ready for demonstration by company salesmen.

The Electrical Equipment Co., along with The Arizona Republican (now The Arizona Republic) newspaper, owned the KTAR radio station.   Initially called KFAD and founded in 1922, KTAR was the first radio station in Arizona.   The Electrical Equipment Co. provided the equipment for the radio station which was originally located in the Heard Building at 112 N. Central Avenue.

In its later years, the A.E. England Motors Co., Inc./Electrical Equipment Co. building hosted a stationery store and an art gallery.   The building’s north wall, which was originally a party wall with another building, now consists largely of glass storefront panels in-filled between the original concrete columns.  The building was listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 2006 and rehabilitated by the City of Phoenix in 2008-2009 as part of the downtown Phoenix Civic Space.

ASU budget cuts may hurt suburbs, but help downtown Phoenix

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — State budget cuts have evoked plenty of misery these days at Arizona State University — except at the downtown Phoenix campus. ASU is axing programs, limiting freshman admissions, furloughing workers, and telling some departments to turn off their coffee makers in response to $88 million in state budget cuts.  ASU President Michael Crow has said more cuts could force the school to shut down its East and West Valley campuses and double tuition.

But the school’s campus in downtown Phoenix is growing as ASU moves programs there from ASU Polytechnic and ASU West.  The downtown campus is funded through a $223 million bond program approved by city of Phoenix voters in 2006 and so is largely immune to state budget issues.  ASU is moving its nursing, nutrition, education, and social work degree programs downtown, as well as some administrative offices from ASU West and Polytechnic.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

1902 Dining Hall next rehab project at Steele Indian School Park

Dining Hall, Steele Indian School Park (photo: phxpma)

[Source: Barbara Stocklin, City of Phoenix] — Exterior abatement work is currently underway on the 1902 Dining Hall at Steele Indian School Park.  Lead paint from the exterior brick and wood surfaces are currently being removed using hand tools (to ensure that the soft historic brick is not damaged).  The exterior rehabilitation project includes roof repair and replacement, exterior brick repairs, window and door restoration, and other miscellaneous exterior work items.  Additional funds are needed to address the interiors and for the building to accommodate a new use.

The exterior rehabilitation project, funded with 2006 Historic Preservation Bond funds and Native American gaming monies, is slated to be completed in late spring 2009. Brycon, the contractor for Dining Hall, is also set to begin work within the next few weeks on the exterior rehabilitation of the adjacent 1932 Grammar School/Band Building.  [Note: For more information about the city’s historic preservation program, click here.]

Grand opening set for Phoenix Steele Indian School Park’s restored Memorial Hall

Memorial Hall built in 1922 as it is todayThe city of Phoenix will celebrate the grand opening of the newly restored Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park on Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m.  Memorial Hall is one of three buildings remaining at the park from the Phoenix Indian School, a federally run school for Native Americans that previously occupied the site of the park.  The grand opening celebration will open with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6 p.m., followed by self-guided tours from 6:45 to 7:15 and performances by the Phoenix Boys Choir, Phoenix Chorale, and other local musicians at 7:30 that will showcase the hall’s acoustics.  All events are free and open to the public.

After its opening, Memorial Hall will be available for rent as a space for musical performances, special arts presentations, and community meetings.  Originally designed as a musical performance space, the Hall is uniquely suited for choral and musical presentations.  Detailed facility and rental information is available online on the Arts, Culture, and History page of the Parks and Recreation Department website.  The Hall’s renovation recently earned the Valley Forward Crescordia Award for Historic Preservation for 2008.

Memorial Hall, a two-story Mission Revival style building, was constructed in 1922.  The school used it for general assemblies, graduation ceremonies, and theatrical activities.  In the 1930s, students began carving their names in the red brick outside the main entrance, a tradition that students continued over the ensuing decades.  Because the buildings red brick exterior was preserved, those carved names are still visible.  To this day, former students of the school return to the site to find the names they carved decades earlier.

During rehabilitation, the original building fabric was restored to preserve as much of the structure as possible and reduce the need for new materials and increased landfill waste. The original maple floor was refinished and reinstalled, most of the windows were rehabilitated rather than replaced, saving the original wood that was used to make them in 1922, and the standards for the chairs on the balcony level were all reused in the restoration of the seating.  Although many of the tin ceiling panels had been damaged when heating and air conditioning duct work was put in place after the 1940s, many of the stunning ceiling tiles were salvaged in the restoration.  Great care was taken in planning the new heating, cooling, and ventilation system for the building.  A central plant was installed, ductwork was concealed under the crawlspace and in the attic to minimize detrimental effects to the historic character, and insulation was added under the floor and in the attic to improve energy efficiency.  New electrical and plumbing systems were designed with energy efficient lighting, low flow fixtures, and state of the art control systems to reduce long term energy consumption.  The restoration cost just under $5 million, 75% of which came from 2001 and 2006 bonds. The remaining funding came from grants from the National Park Service and the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Possible renovations, demolition in Phoenix Warehouse District

[Source: Barbara Stocklin, City of Phoenix] — The fate of three properties in Phoenix’s historic Warehouse District was discussed among city Historic Preservation staff and others in early October; two possible renovations and one possible demolition.  Details below:

Historic Preservation staff met with prospective buyers of a vacant warehouse at 515 E. Grant Street on October 3.  Development Services, Downtown Development, and Office of Customer Advocacy staff also attended.  The buyers are the Stanley Sausage Company, which owns a facility at 2201 E. McDowell Road, but is looking to upgrade to a larger building.  The warehouse at 515 E. Grant Street is not listed on either the Phoenix Historic Property Register or the National Register of Historic Places, but is considered eligible for listing; it was built in 1946 for the General Sales Company, was designed by the architectural firm of Lescher & Mahoney and constructed by Del Webb.  Representatives of the Stanley Sausage Company indicated that, if they were to purchase the property, they would likely pursue historic designation for the building and request a grant from the City’s Historic Preservation Bond.  They are also looking at sites outside of Phoenix to relocate their facilities.

The Historic Preservation Office received a Warehouse and Threatened Building Program grant application from Dudley Ventures (James Howard Jr.) to rehabilitate the one-story 1930 Arizona Hardware Supply Company Warehouse at 22 E. Jackson Street.  Because the warehouse’s front façade had previously been stuccoed and the front raised parapet removed, the Historic Preservation Office originally did not consider the building eligible for listing on the Phoenix Historic Property Register, a pre-requisite to apply for a city historic preservation grant.  The owner has since removed the stucco from the brick, has provided plans indicating how the salvaged brick from the front parapet can be reinstalled, and has provided architectural drawings demonstrating how the building can be returned to its historic condition and appearance.  The vacant 6,600 square foot warehouse will be adaptively used for office use by the owner.  The $121,000 grant request will be considered by the Historic Preservation Commission at their October 20, 2008, meeting.  The building would need to be listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register prior to expending any bond dollars for the grant, if the grant application is approved by City Council.

Michael Levine, owner of Phoenix Seed and Feed Warehouse, 411 S. 2nd Street, filled a demolition application for the historic warehouse due to difficulties with his lender.  Because the property is historically designated, the building cannot be demolished until the one-year stay of demolition expires, and the demolition is subject to an approved replacement plan on the site.