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Phoenix officials fail to close deal on Circles building

[Source: Emily Gersema, The Arizona Republic]

The easy-to-spot Circles building on Central Avenue originally was a Studebaker dealership. (Emily Gersema/The Arizona Republic)

Phoenix officials have crossed off the landmark Circles Discs & Tapes building from the list of possible new headquarters for the Arizona Opera because the building’s owners have failed to respond to the city’s requests for further testing on the site.

The downtown midcentury-design building, easily recognizable with its large curved windows, sits on a property that has underground tanks that probably stored fuel when the property was a car dealership, said Jane Morris, acting executive assistant to City Manager David Cavazos.

“When we did the environmental study, no one knew that there were tanks there,” Morris said. During a site visit in January, “we saw a vendor pumping stuff out of the tanks.”

She said city staff asked to do environmental testing on the tanks after seeing that. But the property owners, Leonard and Angela Singer, have not responded to the city’s request, prompting the city staff to search for another possible site for the opera’s offices.

The Singers could not be reached for comment.

“It is not known at this time if the Circles building could be back as an option,” Morris said.

The city has been trying to help the Arizona Opera staff find a new headquarters since 2006, when officials had promised the non-profit opera company the city would pay up to $3.2 million in voter-approved bonds to buy, renovate and lease a building to the opera.

Arizona Opera’s current offices are at 4600 N. 12th St. in Phoenix and 350 N. Mountain Ave. in Tucson.

Organization leaders have said they want to save money by consolidating the offices to operate in one location.

Circles Discs & Tapes history

• 1947: The midcentury-design building was constructed. Designed by architect W.Z. Smith, the building housed Stewart Motor Co. The car dealership was owned and operated by businessmen and brothers Jack and Spencer Stewart. The men sold Studebakers. Passers-by could always see one spinning slowly on a turntable.

• 1972: Angela and Leonard Singer bought the building and opened Circles Discs & Tapes. The store became a hot spot for music lovers.

• 2005: The Singers considered but then rejected applying for historic status to preserve the building. The Phoenix Historic Preservation Office worked out an agreement with the Singers: The city would create a historic-preservation-overlay zone for the property on condition that the Singers would give the city the first right to buy the property if it was put on the market.

• 2010: The Singers closed the store. Internet music purchases had surged, bumping record stores such as Circles out of business.

Source: Phoenix Historic Preservation Office, Arizona Republic archives

Downtown Phoenix fixture, Circles Discs & Tapes, closing

Circles Discs & Tapes (Photo:

[Source: Tim Vetscher, ABC15 News] — A Valley landmark is going out of business after nearly four decades in downtown Phoenix.  The owners of Circles Discs and Tapes, at the corner of Central Avenue and McKinley, recently announced they’re calling it quits.  “We have people come in all the time and say they’ve been coming here for 30 to 40 years,” said Circles employee Zak Sofaly.  But on Sunday night, less than a week before Christmas, Circles only had one customer from 5 to 6 p.m.  Workers say they’ve had too many nights like that lately.

So after 38 years, the owners have decided to close the doors for good.  “For a lot of people who grew up here, it definitely has a special place in their hearts,” added Sofaly, who is also a drummer in the band, Incite.  “They’re really sad to see it go.”

It seems the popularity of digital downloads proved to be Circles’ downfall. CD sales are a fraction of what they used to be thanks to services like iTunes.  “It’s sad,” said Steve Zimmerman, owner of Revolver Records, just up the street from Circles.  “They were one of the big stores for a long, long time.”

Circles employees say the addition of light rail and an overall down economy was just too much to overcome.  “Being a resident, its really sad,” said Jay Williams.  “The economy has caused a lot of problems.  I thought the light rail would bring people back but I haven’t seen that.”  Circles will remain open until sometime after January 1.  The exact closing date has yet to be determined.  [Note: To read the full article, visit Downtown Phoenix fixture, Circles Discs & Tapes, closing.]