Blog Archives

Downtown Phoenix Journal Recap (2/4/10)

[Source: Si Robins, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — Researching my ongoing blog series, From the Arizona Room, takes a solid chunk of time, but the payoff is twofold — I’m helping to educate neighbors and visitors alike about historic structures littered throughout Downtown’s landscape, and I’m gaining an unwavering appreciation for carefully conducted historic reuse projects.  It’s really baffling how many historic structures there are throughout the grid, though most could be given some TLC and a dab of nice landscaping out front.  I bring this up as DPJ debuts Lyle Plocher’s weekly Downtown real estate blog, City Dwelling.  Yes, Lyle is a real estate agent who lives, works, and plays Downtown.  But, he also has an undeniable knack for spotting and scouting properties all of our readers would be interested in. Whether it’s a modern high rise or a historic bungalow in Garfield, City Dwelling highlights some of the Valley’s truly unique architecture, and that’s something that is often overlooked.  As you journey about this week, I urge you to take a moment to appreciate some of the great structures in our city. They’re part of our character, they’re part of our skyline and they’re part of what makes our city great.

Viewpoint: Where do you live (in Phoenix)?

[Source: Seth Anderson, Downtown Phoenix Partnership blog] — The automobile is so ubiquitous in Phoenix that it has even crept into the way we speak.  With rare exception, we do not talk about where we live in terms of neighborhoods or districts, but in terms of intersections.  You hear, “I live at 7th Ave and Camelback” or “I live in North Phoenix off of (fill in the blank),” but never a reference to an established neighborhood.  (There are exceptions, but they are few.)

I think it’s unfortunate that our Phoenix lingo doesn’t include references to neighborhoods, the areas that should be little pockets of density like mini-cities within the city.  I’m thinking of places like North Park, Hillcrest, and Kensington in San Diego; Sugar House or the Avenues in Salt Lake; Lakeview or Andersonville in Chicago; or Georgetown or Dupont Circle in D.C.  Each of these neighborhoods has its own character, charm, and history and each neighborhood is integral to sustaining a healthy downtown core.  Without neighborhoods, mixed use buildings, and walkable streets, a town center can never mature into an urban city because it will lack the vibrancy and innovation necessary.  If downtown Phoenix is the urban heart or Arizona, then people are the lifeblood and the neighborhoods where the people live are the organs that supply it.

I’d like to see the city government take a more active role in “branding” the existing neighborhoods.  (And by “take a more active role” I mean cut the red tape, back off, and stop imposing more and more restrictions that insist on a suburban style of development.)  Did you know there are actually 35 historic neighborhoods in Phoenix?  I did not; I am able to identify just a handful.  Of those I have a shaky idea about where they are; I can vaguely discern when I am in one.  Willo is pretty obvious.  Coronado and Garfield are a little more inconspicuous.  However, I’d have to look at a map to identify exactly where those two neighborhoods are.  [Note: Read the full blog entry at Viewpoint: Where do you live (in Phoenix)?“]

Volunteer to plant trees in downtown Phoenix, Nov. 14

[Source: Arizona Republic] — More than 100 volunteers will get their hands dirty during a community tree planting Saturday in connection with Hands On Greater Phoenix Day for Downtown.  The tree planting, sponsored by Mayor Phil Gordon, is an opportunity for residents, families, businesses, students, and visitors to connect with and take part in growth and development downtown.

Approximately 60 trees will be planted, including Arizona ash, evergreen elm, and sissoo.  The trees will provide shade and enhance the urban feel along Roosevelt Street, including the First Friday Art Walk area, and along Portland Street Park.  The planting locations are:

  • Portland Parkway at Portland Street Park, west of First Avenue
  • Roosevelt Street and First Avenue, in front of Trinity Cathedral
  • Latham Street and Third Avenue, in front of the Puppet Theater
  • Garfield Street at Fifth and Sixth streets, part of the First Friday Art Walk area

A block party hosted by Hands On Greater Phoenix will follow the planting, which is open to the public. To volunteer, send an e-mail.  Planting will be done from 8 to 11:30 a.m.  Volunteers are to meet at 8 in the courtyard of Trinity Cathedral, 100 W. Roosevelt, which is serving as planting headquarters.  Parking is in the parking garage north of the church.

It all ‘adds’ up: Christoph Kaiser and his Garfield neighborhood

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Christoph Kaiser at one of his Garfield properties.

[Source: Yuri Artibise, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — Christoph Kaiser is helping to rebuild Garfield one house at a time.  Once an epicenter of gang activity and urban blight in downtown Phoenix, Kaiser’s houses are now at the heart of Garfield’s resurgence, and among the coolest in downtown Phoenix.

Kaiser is part owner of the architectural firm Plus Minus Studio, founded by him and his business partner Hayes McNeil in the fall of 2005. Since its founding, they have added Anson Chen to their team as Project Manager.  The studio has been responsible for some of the most striking projects in and around Phoenix, including transforming Katz’s Deli into Postino Central and the complete remodel of Kitchen Sink Studios in downtown Phoenix.  In addition, Christoph has recently joined Hayes as partner in the new Royal at the Market coffee shop at the soon-to-be-opened Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar.

While this portfolio is indeed impressive for a young architect, it is his personal projects in the Garfield neighborhood that captured the attention of DPJ.  Garfield is the oldest historical district in Phoenix.  First established in 1883, it became part of the city of Phoenix in 1899.  Houses in the neighborhood date from the 1890s to the 1940s, with a large percentage built in the early 1900s.  Unlike the grand dames of Phoenix’s historic districts, Willo and Encanto-Palmcroft, which have mostly remained intact and have dramatically appreciated in value, the historical homes in Garfield fell on hard times over the past three decades.  [Note: To read the full article, visit It all ‘adds’ up: Christoph Kaiser and his Garfield neighborhood.]

Non-profit restores 1916 downtown Phoenix house

[Source: Arizona Republic] — City officials, preservationists, and downtown Phoenix residents [celebrated] the restoration of a 1916 adobe house… at 1246 E. McKinley Street.  The home was purchased by the non-profit Neighborhood Housing Services of Phoenix in 2003.  “Residents in the Garfield neighborhood had a strong desire to have this rehabilitated… because of the historic value,” said Krista Schwartz, the organization’s director of real-estate development.

The non-profit completed a five-month, $130,000 renovation.  NHS plans to sell the house for $110,000, but the buyer’s annual income must be at or below 80 percent of the area median income.

Downtown Phoenix infill project completed by JAG Development

[Source: Phoenix Business Journal] — A new urban infill project by JAG Development is complete and ready for sale.  Evergreen 9, at 525 E. Willetta St. in Phoenix, includes a model home that’s open daily. The loft-style townhomes were designed by Arizona State University professor and architect Michael Underhill.  They include several “green” features.  Prices begin in the low $200s.  JAG has completed several uber-modern infill projects, including the Willetta 9 and the Portland 38 in the Garfield Historic District of Phoenix.  JAG’s principals are two Phoenix natives: Benjamin and Allan Gutkin.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Residents disapprove of plan to cut downtown Phoenix rec center’s hours

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The city’s plan to close Verde Park’s recreation center nine months a year will increase crime in the Garfield neighborhood, residents said.  Those residents joined about 300 people who packed a room in the South Mountain Community Center earlier this week. Most were there to voice their concerns about a proposal to cut $270 million in city services and programs.  Phoenix faces the $270 million shortfall because consumers have drastically cut back spending, hurting the sales tax-dependent city’s general fund.  That fund bankrolls key city services like parks, police, and libraries.

Proposals to reduce recreation-center hours, a plan to eliminate after-school programs and a proposal to shutter five senior centers drew the most fire from residents.  Without places to go, some kids will turn to crime, said Guillermo Barreras, 15.  “I need a place were I can go during the day,” said Barreras, adding he often goes to the recreation center at Verde Park at Ninth and Van Buren streets.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix’s Garfield neighborhood subject of premiere video, Nov. 13

Garfield street with downtown Phoenix in background

The public is invited to attend the premiere viewing of the video, “Civic Engagement & Revitalization in Phoenix’s Garfield Neighborhood.”

  • Date: Thursday, November 13, 2008
  • Time: 5:30 to 7 p.m.
  • Place: Alwun House, 1912 bungalow at 1204 E. Roosevelt
  • Free; light refreshments will be served

A two year project by Marilyn Dantico, professor of Political Science at ASU, the video documents a small fragment of Garfield residents’ 22 years of concerted effort to drive its neighborhood revitalization and community building efforts.  Both the Department of Political Science and School of Geographical Sciences collaborated on this project, funded by the Arizona Humanities Council.  Dr. Dantico and students attempted to capture the tenacity of residents that created today’s safer and rehabilitated downtown historic neighborhood.  As a result of these resident efforts, Garfield was selected as Arizona’s first U.S. Department of Justice “Weed and Seed” site.  This program reinforced existing collaborative strategies with the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department and Police Department.

In between vintage housing footage, are spliced the remarks by Terry Goddard (former Mayor, current Arizona Attorney General), Jerome Miller (Director Neighborhood Services Department), Kate Krietor (Deputy NSD Director), and Roberto Frietz (Garfield Neighborhood Initiative Area Team Leader).  For more information about the project, click here.

Phoenix’s First Missionary Church to be rehabbed with HP bond funds

[Source: Barbara Stocklin, City of Phoenix] — The Phoenix City Council approved $150,000 in Historic Preservation Bond Funds for the exterior rehabilitation of the historic First Missionary Church, a high profile 1928 historic building at 902 E. McKinley St. in the Garfield Historic District.  The building will continue to be used as a church, occupied by Spirit & Life Church, though a lease agreement with the owner. 

The proposed rehabilitation project includes window repair and replacement, masonry cleaning and repair, repainting of wood surfaces, removal of paint from concrete steps, removal of non-historic features such as evaporative coolers, and installation of a new ADA lift on the east side of the building.

New DASH bus routes launched in downtown Phoenix

[Source: KPHO Television] — New DASH bus routes launched Monday morning in downtown Phoenix.  Marie Chapple with Phoenix Public Transit says the DASH downtown loop will now take them to the dining places and sports venues, including ASU.  “People used to going from the state Capitol to downtown Phoenix or into the city buildings will still be able to do that, they just won’t have to go as far as they used to,” Chapple said.  Basically, it’s from the state Capitol to the city and county buildings and into Central Station.”

Chapple said the downtown DASH loop used to run mostly at night and nobody was riding it.  The routes are now targeted to the daytime dwellers of downtown Phoenix.  “It’s a north-south loop and we think it’s going to work a lot better for who’s here during the day,” she said.

Mayor Phil Gordon said he will seek more money to keep the buses running past 8 p.m., and he may start thinking “outside the box.”  “[We should] look at bringing in some private vendors, particularly to tie together the Garfield, Roosevelt, the historic neighborhoods where there are a lot of restaurants, bars, and boutiques to the core downtown,” Gordon said. 

By early 2009, another 800 ASU students will be moving into downtown dorms.  The DASH buses are also sporting a new look.  Gone is the copper color.  The new buses are decked out in blue and green.