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Downtown Voices Coalition issues statement on demolition of downtown Phoenix vintage motel

Demolition begins on the Sahara Motor Hotel, May 12, 2010 (new use: parking lot for Channel 12 News trucks)

PHOENIX, AZ, May 13, 2010 — Phoenix woke up yesterday with one less piece of its history. The Ramada Inn, formerly the Sahara Motor Hotel, at 1st Street and Polk, is now under the bulldozer.  We, Downtown Voices Coalition, believe our actions to save the building instead sped up its destruction.

At a Friday afternoon meeting last week with Mayor Phil Gordon and city staff, the Sahara/Ramada Subcommittee of Downtown Voices Coalition asked for a moratorium on the demolition, to give time for a feasibility study and look at a potential adaptive reuse by a boutique hotel company waiting in the wings.  This is the same moratorium that would be asked of any private developer.

We were told there that the “train had left the station” on this project.

Here are some of the points given by the Mayor and city staff (and DVC’s response in CAPS):

The Sheraton Hotel, a city-financed and designed project, needed more parking.

  • WHY WASN’T THE HOTEL BUILT WITH THE PROPER PARKING IN MIND TO BEGIN WITH?

The ASU Downtown campus design includes a Law School, with ground-breaking “anticipated” in two years and designs already on the board.

  • WHY IS THE ONLY LAND IN DOWNTOWN PHOENIX NEEDED TO BUILD ALWAYS UNDER AN EXISTING AND INTERESTING BUILDING? AND WHY TALK ABOUT ALL THE DESIGN COSTS ALREADY SPENT WHEN THERE HASN’T YET BEEN MONEY RAISED OR A REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL?

The Law College is going to be a great thing for downtown.

  • ALL CITIES THAT SUCCEED UNDERSTAND A CITY IS AN URBAN PLACE, NOT A TALL SUBURB.  THE SAHARA/RAMADA WOULD HAVE BEEN OUR PALM SPRINGS/SCOTTSDALE VALLEY HO LINK AND WE JUST PUT IT IN A DUMPSTER.
  • WITH LAW FIRMS STOPPING THEIR OUTREACH AND LAYING OFF LAWYERS, IS A NEW LAW SCHOOL A WISE INVESTMENT?
  • WITH OUR STATE IN THE WORST FINANCIAL SHAPE IN DECADES, IS IT TIME TO BUILD NEW BUILDINGS WHEN EXISTING STRUCTURES EXIST?
  • ULTIMATELY, COULDN’T WE HAVE HAD BOTH A LAW COLLEGE AND A VINTAGE HOTEL?

The ASU Downtown is spread through the downtown.

  • ASU DOWNTOWN IS A MOATED, GATED COMMUNITY, INSULAR AND SEPARATE FROM THE DOWNTOWN.  ALL THE PROMISES OF SPREADING OUT THE CAMPUS THROUGH THE DOWNTOWN SEEM CONVENIENTLY FORGOTTEN.
  • TAKING AWAY A POTENTIAL LINKAGE TO THE REST OF THE CITY BY CREATING ANOTHER PARKING LOT IS A FOOL’S MOVE.

Instead of working to save this building, work with the city to save other threatened buildings.

  • BETWEEN SPECULATORS, ASU DOWNTOWN, AND THE CITY’S OWN DISINGENUOUS APPROACH TO HISTORIC PRESERVATION, THERE IS SO LITTLE LEFT TO SAVE.

There was no way the city could denigrate the actual building, other than saying it was a liability issue.  After all, this was a poured concrete building, built in 1955 by Del Webb Construction, the same company whose name adorns the ASU Del E. Webb School of Construction.  It was positioned for a true urban mid-century modern hotel like the highly successful Valley Ho in Scottsdale.

For all the “lip service” to historic preservation, why has so much attempted and successful demolition of historic and vintage architecture occurred under the current City administration?  Granted there have been preservation success stories and Downtown Voices Coalition has joined in praising those successes, but unfortunately this example demonstrates our City’s “one step forward, two steps back” nature.

Downtown Voices Coalition mourns another potential “win/win” for its citizens, ASU Downtown, and the City of Phoenix.  The City administration and Mayor Gordon have made Phoenix a poorer place by their choices.

MORE INFO ON PROPERTY

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.