Blog Archives

Help Roosevelt Row launch the A.R.T.S. Project this Saturday, March 12th

A.R.T.S. Clean Up Day!

Help Roosevelt Row launch the A.R.T.S. Project!

A.R.T.S., Adaptive Reuse of Temporary Space, is a dirt lot activation program that addresses the blight of vacant urban space. Roosevelt Row is working on temporary activation projects for dirt lots in the neighborhood including arts markets, community gardens, public art projects, cultural fairs including science and sustainability, outdoor film space, and concerts.

SATURDAY MARCH 12,  2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Volunteers Needed!

Meet in the dirt lot at 408 E Roosevelt St. We’ll pick up garbage, remove debris, spread mulch donated from local landscaping companies, plant posts, & enjoy the sunset.  Gloves, tools, water, and snacks will be provided. Wear comfortable clothing, tennis shoes or boots, and bring your own water bottle/canteen to refill onsite.

Tell us you’re coming by calling (602) 475 2661, or emailing volunteer@rooseveltrow.org, or just show up!

Roosevelt Row CDC/ 922 N. Fifth St./ Saturday/ March 12/2pm-6pm/FREE

Map of Location

NPR Looks at Downtown Phoenix’s Vacant lots

Downtown Phoenix is full of dirt lots. At the peak of the real estate bubble, an acre was selling for about $90 a square foot. Investors and developers thought the city was finally about to grow up. Now, the same land sells for $9 a square foot.

Plans to build high-rise offices and condos are years, if not decades away.

 

Listen to the story here: Phoenix Officials Face Development Dilemma

 

City agrees to buy/raze downtown Phoenix Ramada Inn for ASU expansion

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The same week that Phoenix leaders imposed a 2 percent food tax to prevent layoffs and painful cuts to city services, City Council members agreed to spend $6 million to buy a vacant motel so Arizona State University can expand its downtown campus.  The city plans to buy the old Ramada Inn at 401 N. First Street with $5 million left over from a 2006 city bond that was enacted largely to help construct ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus, plus roughly $1.3 million from the city-owned Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel’s capital improvement fund.

The city and the motel property’s owner, Phoenix-based City Centre LLC, have not finalized the sale but hope to before it is due to be sold at a foreclosure auction on March 2.  The city has been eying the property for years but was put off by the price, which was once as high as $30 million.  Now, it wants to buy the property before it goes to auction, where it may lose it to another buyer.  Records show City Centre owes its lender $5.2 million.  Until ASU officials decide what to do with the site, Phoenix plans to raze the motel and build an overflow parking lot with up to 250 spaces for the Sheraton.

The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved the deal Feb 3. The city-controlled hotel board approved the transaction on Friday.  “I felt this was a good purchase for the city at this time,” said Councilman Bill Gates.  “The city could acquire property important to downtown and important to the ASU campus.”  But a taxpayer advocacy group said the city should at the very least use the extra money to pay off debt already incurred for the campus.   Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona Tax Research Association, said the hotel purchase also highlights government tactics to spend money on projects not specifically approved by voters.

Buying the Ramada Inn was not specified in the spending plan detailed on the city’s Web site and to the media in the days leading up to the bond vote, city officials acknowledge.  But it was part of early plans for the campus, city officials said.  The vote gave the city permission to borrow $220 million to build various ASU facilities.  The city sells bonds to raise money, which it pays off with property taxes. But the taxpayer group concedes the city’s deal still is legal because the property fits within ballot language for long-term plans for the campus.  [Note: Read the full article at City agrees to buy/raze downtown Phoenix Ramada Inn for ASU expansion.]

ASU students design projects for vacant downtown Phoenix lots

ASU sustainability students Carissa Taylor (left), Truman Kiyaani, and Braden Kay with a planter box nearing completion. (Photo source: John Harlow)

[Source: Arizona State University] — Low-cost ideas, including the construction of planter boxes, to transform vacant lots in downtown Phoenix for temporary use until their development, [were] presented on Dec. 8 on the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus.  The multimedia presentation of research models was developed by university students in an urban design practice class taught by Nan Ellin, an associate professor and director of the planning program in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  She also is an affiliate faculty member with ASU’s School of Sustainability.  “In 2000, the Phoenix metropolitan area contained 42.6 percent vacant land, significantly higher than most American cities,” said Pei Zhai, a doctoral student in sustainability.

“To address this vexing challenge, the office of the mayor requested that ASU students develop a model for the temporary use of publicly-owned vacant lots,” explained Ellin.  “In response, students developed the Desert TULIP – Temporary Urban Laboratory Infill Project – a low-cost strategy to transform vacant lots until their development,” Ellin said.

The students were asked to focus specifically on lots south of Garfield between 3rd and 6th Streets, an area designated to become part of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.   [Note: Read the full article at ASU students design temp use project for downtown Phoenix vacant lots.]

Phoenix Interrupted: Downtown’s full of gleaming progress surrounded by vacant lots – now what?

Chateaux on Central

Failing midtown Phoenix project (Photo: Sharon, Phoenix Daily Photo)

[Source: Sarah Fenske, Phoenix New Times] — There’s a development on the edge of downtown Phoenix that captivated me even before I moved into the neighborhood: the Chateaux on Central.  My interest wasn’t a matter of good design — everyone from Will Bruder on down is on the record mocking the place, and rightly so.  (With its fanciful turrets, shiny copper roofs, and that ghastly faux-French “eaux,” the project’s overall effect is Disney Does Brownstones in the Desert.) No, the Chateaux on Central were somehow personally evocative.  They made me homesick. [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix Interrupted: Downtown’s full of gleaming progress surrounded by vacant lots – now what?]

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

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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.]

Phoenix’s Opportunity Corridor knocked by recession

Opportunity Corridor

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal]Four years ago, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon announced he wanted to rehabilitate run-down areas along the 12-mile stretch from the Arizona Capitol through downtown Phoenix to Arizona State University in Tempe.  Dubbed the Opportunity Corridor, it was to be filled with new office, residential, biomedical, and industrial developments.  Today, inopportune times have stalled those plans.

Van Buren and Washington streets east of downtown still are dilapidated and, in some cases, are worse off because of the recession and real estate crash.   “It’s just in the tank,” said Mark Dioguardi, a real estate expert and attorney with the Scottsdale law office of Dioguardi Flynn LLP.

Like much of the Phoenix commercial real estate market, Dioguardi said the Opportunity Corridor is plagued by foreclosures, unsold vacant lots, shuttered businesses, and almost zero transactions, financing, and construction.  [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix’s Opportunity Corridor knocked by recession.]

And what would you plop on a Phoenix empty lot?

6a00d83453e3b069e200e54f66ef658833-800wiASU grad students want your opinion on temporary urban infill on downtown Phoenix empty lots.  Click here to take the online survey.

Idea of the Day: Dealing with empty lots

15th Ave. & McDowell Rd., Phoenix, AZ

From time to time, we’ll throw out an “Idea of the Day” culled from sources here in Arizona and elsewhere.  The following idea comes from a recent article in New London, Connecticut’s daily newspaper, The Day, about their city’s attempt to deal with vacant, dormat lots in their downtown, a problem experienced in many cities across the U.S., including Phoenix:

“Frank McLaughlin, a downtown developer, and Penny Parsekian, the New London Main Street CEO, said some people have started talking about reverse taxation: levying a higher tax on a property that is vacant.  ‘What happens is, that vacancy devalues the property around it, and so there should be a fee for that,’ Parsekian said.  ‘It’s been that way in Germany forever — you get taxed on the land instead of the property.  And vacant land gets taxed at a higher rate.'”