[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Arizona Center is enjoying tourist season crowds, but the downtown Phoenix mall’s parent company faces financial troubles, according to this report from Arizona Republic business writer Max Jarman. “General Growth Properties, owner of the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix, Tucson Mall, and a string of other retail properties in Arizona is negotiating with creditors to avoid bankruptcy,” Jarman wrote.
“The troubled Chicago mall owner is asking its bondholders to abstain from demanding payments on some $2.25 billion in loans for rest of this year,” Jarman reported. “The company would use the breathing room to restructure its balance sheet and raise money by selling assets. General Growth needs its bondholders to agree to the deal by March 16,” he wrote. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — After nearly 30 years without a grocery store, downtown Phoenix will get one as early as June. The non-profit that runs a popular weekend farmers market has secured $305,000 to open a 4,000-square-foot shop at 14 E. Pierce St., the group will announce today. The store will be open five days a week and will sell produce, dairy, eggs, prepared foods, wine and beer, said Cindy Gentry, executive director of Community Food Connections. The biweekly Downtown Phoenix Pubic Market will remain open.
A key loan came from the non-profit Phoenix Industrial Development Authority. The farmers market group needs an additional $170,000 for startup expenses, but the authority’s $250,000 will allow renovations to start. “In these difficult times, the efforts of the Public Market and the outlet it creates for small business is needed more than ever,” Don Keuth, the Phoenix authority’s president. The last grocery store to serve Phoenix’s downtown core, the area south of Interstate 10, closed in 1981. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The grim economy has driven Valley residents to turn to charities of last resort: shelters and food banks. The economy is also taking a toll on the non-profits that are helping them. St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance gave away 70 percent more food to needy families this past December than it did the same month in 2007. Officials say food programs will be scaled back unless they receive more donations.
In six months, the number of people who line up for a free breakfast has roughly doubled at downtown Phoenix’s Human Services Campus. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, an agency that serves meals there, had to lay off eight workers and stopped serving lunch to the needy in Sunnyslope because donations are down. At the campus, volunteers and employees help handle housekeeping duties because of staff cutbacks, one official said.
Each night, more than 300 people sleep in the parking lot of one Phoenix homeless shelter for men because there’s no room left inside of the building. Central Arizona Shelter Services, the non-profit that runs that shelter and two others, lost $118,000 of the $839,000 that it used to get annually from Phoenix, a victim of city budget cuts. Maricopa County, another major funding source, is weighing whether to cut its CASS contribution by half. Maricopa County contributes $600,000 to CASS programs, roughly 10 percent of its $6 million annual operating budget, Jennifer Dangremond, CASS’s development director. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — As millions of passengers cut their travel budgets, Sky Harbor slipped down the FAA’s ranking of busy U.S. airports. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was the ninth busiest airport in 2008. In 2007, it was the eighth busiest. Charlotte Douglas Airport, in Charlotte, N.C. is now No. 8.
The Federal Aviation Administration ranking measures the number of takeoffs and landings by commercial airlines, air taxis, private planes, and the military. “This is a direct reflection of the economy and is unfortunately the way things are at airports across the country,” said Deputy Aviation Director Deborah Ostreicher. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[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.]
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The $30 million park taking shape in downtown Phoenix will be like no other the city has built, officials say. The yet-unnamed spot will use water, lights, shade, and art to create an oasis for nearby Arizona State University students, office workers, residents, and tourists, landscape architect Tom Byrne said. “The concept of the park was an urban weave, so we are weaving together the neighborhood around the park, the offices and ASU,” Byrne said.
The park, which is expected to open in March, covers 2.77 acres and sits in the city’s business district. It’s bound by Central and First avenues and Polk and Fillmore streets. The park is one of several multimillion-dollar projects — including light rail, a hotel, and expanded convention center — that city leaders hope will revitalize downtown. To be sure, it’s not as big as New York’s sprawling Central Park or Chicago’s Millennium Park. But it is expected to be a key gathering place in downtown Phoenix and a long-awaited addition to Arizona State University. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Although a growing number of businesses plan to open in the downtown Phoenix project called CityScape, the worsening economy is forcing developers to scale back other parts of the three-block, $900 million plan. Construction of more than 1,000 condos in the project, which straddles both sides of Central Avenue and First Street, between Washington and Jefferson streets, has been put on hold.
The downsizing from CityScape’s original plans, which were unveiled in 2007, is another sign that the deepening recession is taking a toll on a constellation of multimillion-dollar projects designed to bring jobs, shoppers, and residents into downtown Phoenix. Plans for two 500-condominium buildings have been postponed until the housing market recovers. Construction issues also prompted a developer to eliminate 65 planned apartments. There are other changes, project officials say:
- One planned hotel, Twelve, is no longer part of the project. However, a 34-story tower, the future home of a 250-room Hotel Palomar and 165 condos, is under construction.
- P.F. Chang’s has pulled out of the project but may open a restaurant later. It will be replaced by a steakhouse from Fox Restaurant Concepts.
- Wachovia, the anchor tenant in the project’s 27-story office tower, could withdraw. Wells Fargo, which already has a downtown Phoenix high-rise, has plans to acquire the bank.
- The list of tenants now includes a gym and a retail outlet, and developers hope to add a drugstore soon.
“The market is worse than it was three years ago,” said Keith Earnest, a vice president at RED Development, a CityScape developer. “Hopefully, we are at the bottom… We have a great location, and we continue to be optimistic.” [Note: To read the full article, click here. To read one local blogger’s February 2007 and August 2008 prediction of CityScape’s scaling back, click here.]
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Downtown Phoenix is more appetizing than it’s been in years, with more than 20 new bars and restaurants catering to tourists and locals. All of those businesses have opened or have started construction within the past two years. That’s a 25% increase, said David Roderique, president and CEO of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership. It’s also the biggest jump in recent memory, he added.
Many of the new establishments hope to capitalize on the thousands of people expected to descend upon downtown Phoenix’s new attractions, including the Phoenix Convention Center, which will wrap up a $600 million expansion this month. Others want to serve a quick bite to ASU students, downtown workers, or Metro commuters when the $1.4 billion light-rail line opens Dec. 27.
To be sure, the national financial crisis has curbed consumers’ craving for restaurants — taxable sales are down citywide at Phoenix restaurants and bars, according to city figures. But people are still eating and drinking downtown: Sales are up, and some entrepreneurs have forged ahead with new spots. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — A business group plans to roll out new signs so that it’s easier to get around downtown Phoenix. Over the next two weeks, the public can look at the proposed signs on the Downtown Phoenix Partnership’s website and pick their favorites. This survey will be on the partnership’s website until Nov. 26. The signs, which are call wayfinding signs, are part of an ongoing effort to boost downtown Phoenix’s image. Last month, the partnership unveiled a new logo. Earlier this year, they officially dropped their old moniker, Copper Square.
Once a final design is chosen, the new signs will be built and installed sometime next year. The city has set aside about $2 million from a 2006 voter-approved bond for the signs. (Although the city faces a $250 million shortfall, the money for the signs can’t be used for city operating expenses. The first signs will appear during the week of the Feb. 15 the NBA All-Star Game, partnership officials say. [Note: To read the full blog entry, click here.]
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Thousands of NBA All-Star Game fans were expected to give metro Phoenix an $80 million shot in the arm this winter. But now, amid a historic economic meltdown, it’s anyone’s guess how much money fans will spend. The Feb. 15 basketball showcase at US Airways Center will draw fans to stores, hotel rooms, restaurants, and attractions, a welcome boost in sales for businesses and in sales taxes for city coffers. Phoenix is buckling under an estimated $250 million budget deficit.
At one point, city officials had expected 125,000 to 150,000 fans and an economic impact of $80 million. But some experts predict that at least some fans will spend less freely than they did in past years. They may stay fewer days, forgo side trips to destinations such as the Grand Canyon or eat fewer pricey meals, said Robert Hayward of Warnick and Co., a national hospitality-industry consultant with offices in Phoenix.
Nobody will know for sure what effect the economic downturn will have on Phoenix’s All-Star Game expectations until January, when many fans begin to make travel plans, said Robert Tuchman of Premiere Corporate Events. His firm sells travel packages for the All-Star Game and other major sporting events. He said he expects corporations will scale back on spending. “If a company was taking 20 people, they are taking 14 or 15 people,” Tuchman said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]