Blog Archives

DVC Statement on Rezoning of Sahara Hotel/Ramada Inn into another parking lot.

Note: Background information the Sahara Hotel Ramada Inn is here http://bit.ly/9wqIHC

Demolition began on the Sahara Motor Hotel, May 12, 2010. It wil be completed this week.

On August 12, a zoning hearing to change the usage status of the Sahara Hotel/Ramada Inn, where Downtown Voices Coalition and other concerned citizens were hoping to voice their discontent with making an existing vintage motor hotel into a “temporary” parking lot, was continued by the City.

We firmly believe that our statements led to this continuance, and by the time the rescheduled hearing on August 26th occurs, the demolition will be complete and our statements will be moot.

Nevertheless, the Downtown Voices Coalition wants to make their statement available to the public, to help spread the word about this ridiculous decision being taken by the City of Phoenix.

Steve Weiss, subcommittee chair Sahara Hotel/Ramada Inn Preservation

+++++++++++++++

I’m speaking today for the Downtown Voices Coalition, an organization that includes small business owners, artists, historic preservationists, housing advocates, developers and other Phoenix stakeholders, all striving for a better downtown for residents and visitors.
One of our developer members finds it difficult to convince people to bring new projects to the downtown, especially when driving them through large swaths of empty, unused land and rows of asphalt parking lots. Investors are suspicious of a city’s progressiveness when it spends more time and money on land banking and demolition than creative and adaptive development.
The Sheraton is a city-owned and constructed hotel. If it wasn’t built with enough parking to accommodate its users, this should be fixed creatively, not destructively. A future ASU project on the site could be worked into the existing vintage structure, utilizing skills hopefully taught at its own architecture school. There is also still private-sector potential for adaptive re-use, even with the initial demolition, to make something more of the property than mere asphalt and land-fill.
Therefore, Downtown Voices Coalition asks you to deny the re-zoning and help us to hit the reset button on this demolition. If the current city administration doesn’t have the foresight to consider the alternatives, it should at least be saved for ideas from a future and more visionary group of planners.

+++++++++++++++

More information on this property

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

Ramada Inn in downtown Phoenix is days from demolition

Read the Downtown Voices Coalition’s position on the demolition of the hotel here and here.

There will be a public hearing to allow a use permit for an interim parking lot on the site this Thursday, August 12, at 9:00 am. It will be held at Phoenix City Hall, 200 W. Washington St. 1st Floor, Assembly Room C.  More information can be found here.  A meeting agenda has been posted here.

[Source: Emily Gersema in the Arizona Republic]

Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

Workers have been stripping recyclable items such as doors and wiring from the 175-room Ramada Inn at First and Taylor streets in downtown Phoenix to prepare the site for a parking lot.

A Phoenix group of concerned residents and business leaders, Downtown Voices Coalition, tried for several months to stop the demolition, arguing the hotel, once known as the Sahara Motor Inn, was a historic site and should be preserved.

City Manager David Cavazos has said the demolition is a done deal. Crews demolished part of the motel in May.

DEMOLITION: Jeremy Legg, Phoenix economic development program manager, said this phase costs about $700,000. Workers will begin razing the remaining buildings later this month.

PARKING: Legg said after the site is razed, workers will turn it into a parking lot, which could be opened to handle overflow from the nearby Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

NEXT STEP: Within two or three years, Arizona State University hopes to expand its downtown Phoenix campus to include a new building at the site for a new College of Law. The state budget crisis has forced ASU to wait for funding.

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

Midtown Phoenix high-rise set to be imploded, 9/27

PHP4ABCE373A7340

Beadle high-rise set for implosion (Photo source: Sadie Jo Smokey)

[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] — At 10 a.m. Sunday, Lisa Kelly, owner of Advanced Explosives Demolition, will push a button.  In 4.5 seconds, a bit of history at Third Street and Earll Drive will fall.  Residents and businesses neighboring the site say good riddance.  Last spring, workers removed the building’s windows, leaving a blighted skeleton of steel and concrete.

In 1972 when it was built, the Mountain Bell Plaza building was one of the first International Style glass-and-steel office high-rises in Phoenix.  Designed by local architect Al Beadle, the building was a perfectly rectangular 10-story block of blackened glass.  For 30 years, the building was home to Mountain Bell and Qwest Communications.  Qwest moved out in 2003, and San Diego developer Joe Pinsonneault bought the building in mid-2004 for $12.5 million.

Jean Switzer lives with her elderly parents on Catalina Drive, one street south of the implosion site.  As of Thursday, she said residents were confused and frustrated at the lack of communication and information about the impending implosion.  “I haven’t received a flier,” Switzer said.  “Nothing about how to prepare, what to expect. Should we stay in our homes?  Should we seal our windows?  These are things that take a long time.”  Phoenix spokeswoman Deborah Sedillo Dugan said a reverse 911 call Saturday evening will alert residents of the blast.  [Note: Read the full article at Midtown Phoenix high-rise set to be imploded 9/27.]

“Results we can see.”

IMG00112Hmmm… We’re guessing these aren’t results Councilman Tom Simplot wants to see.  Campaign sign in foreground; midtown Phoenix development project lying fallow in the background.

NEWSFLASH!  Between last night and this morning, the sign has been taken down.

Midtown Phoenix empty lot where WWII housing once stood sold

[Source: G.G. George] — The Encanto Citizens Association Board attended the foreclosure auction on Thursday, June 11, 2009 for the vacant land on the north side of McDowell Road between 13th and 15th Avenues.  The property that the out-of-state investor, Scott M. Haskins, had purchased in 2006 for $5,400,000 had contained 32 moderate-rate apartments meant to house war workers during World War II.  It was just two years ago to the day, June 11, 2007, that Haskins had the historic Palmcroft Apartments demolished.  In ECA’s opinion, Haskins’ action irresponsibly wasted a historic resource that, properly managed, could have sheltered low-to-moderate income families for generations to come.

The Encanto Citizens Association opposed both the alley abandonment and the grab for the excess right-of-way at the 15th Avenue bus stop.  Councilman Michael Nowakowski, Mayor Phil Gordon, former Councilman Doug Lingner, and the other Council members denied the developer the alley abandonment and the excess right-of-way.  The F.Q. Story Historic District also supported ECA’s position.

The property was sold at auction to Michael Sklar of the Sonata Property Group for $500,000.  Mr. Sklar is familiar with the neighborhood, having previously lived at 1621 N. 11th Avenue.  The Encanto Citizens Association will continue to monitor this property and, in the best of all possible worlds, work harmoniously with a developer who truly has something to contribute to the appeal of Encanto-Palmcroft.

Tonight, community invited to learn more about Jackson St. Entertainment District plans

The first Planned Urban Development (PUD)-required “Community Meeting” for the Jackson Street Entertainment District project in Phoenix’s historic Warehouse District will be held:

  • Date: Thursday, April 9, 2009
  • Time: 6 p.m. start
  • Place: The Summit at Copper Square condominium

The public is invited to attend.

Viewpoint: The plague of downtown Phoenix continues

portland-and-first-street-before

E. Portland & 1st St. (Then)

[Source: Life in Downtown Phoenix blog] — Before I moved back to Phoenix, I would drive around downtown and wonder why it looked the way it did with so many empty lots.  Other cities with somewhat desolate downtowns usually just have a lot of empty buildings.  But Phoenix is peculiar with its abundance of barren land right in the middle of its downtown.

portland_first_street_demo

E. Portland & 1st St. (Now)

Now I don’t wonder where the vacant lots come from; I’ve come back and watched some of the lots appear.  And just this week a new one popped up as a landowner decimated an entire block of vacant buildings at First Street and Portland, as pictured above.  While I don’t believe any of the buildings were necessarily “historic,” they were somewhat old and could have been excellent homes to small businesses as downtown continued to rebound.  But now they’re gone, and in their place is just more infertile land, zoned for a high rise that may never be built.

What remains of Phoenix’s Warehouse District

The plight of Phoenix’s Warehouse District is an ongoing saga. Unfortunately, with each passing year historic and vintage buildings continue to decay or be demolished.  This slideshow shows buildings in the district that are listed on one or more historic registries. But such designation is not enough to save and reuse them as is commonplace for similar buildings and districts in many other urban centers.

It’s been our hallmark to tear them down and unfortunately, unlike the New Testament’s Lazarus, they can’t be resurrected.  Let’s take stock in what we have, and “cut the Gordian knot” here and now.  It should be the couth thing to do.  The clock is ticking…

For background information on the Warehouse District:

A familiar problem still haunts downtown Phoenix, says Talton

[Source: Jon Talton’s “Rogue Columnist” blog] — I saw a curious headline recently in the Arizona Republic: “Event Center could add life to downtown.”  Curious, because downtown is brimming with “event centers,” from the convention center to hotel ballrooms to (I guess) what’s left of the star-crossed and badly located Bentley Projects.  The story was actually sad and illustrative.

If I read it correctly (and one never knows, now that editors have become graphics clerks), the owners of relatively historic buildings at Madison and Fifth Avenue lost the business leasing their space.  Now, they “are working to make the Fifth Avenue and Madison Event Center one of downtown Phoenix’s premier spots.”  (Editors used to prevent reporters from using embarrassing hyperbole; also, is the address in the story correct?).  The “center” can be used for “weddings, bar mitzvahs, business corporate outings…”  Surely, the next McCormick Place.

At least the owners aren’t tearing the buildings down, an act of city-encouraged vandalism that has devastated downtown Phoenix.  But here’s a small but telling example of what holds back the center city: lack of private investment.  I hate to sun on ASU’s parade of finishing one dorm tower — heavy lifting in an education-hating state, to be sure.  But until a simple older set of buildings such as these on Madison are used by businesses doing daily commerce, downtown will remain an underachiever.  [Note: To read the full blog entry, click here.]