[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — Phoenix Country Club and the Arizona Attorney General have reached a settlement in a discrimination lawsuit that will open all of the club’s dining facilities to all members and their guests “regardless of sex.” The discrimination lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Terry Goddard in September, alleged that Phoenix Country Club violated the Arizona Civil Rights Act “by excluding women from using the Men’s Grill and men from using the Women’s Grill.”
Although the country club has a long history as a private club in Phoenix, the lawsuit contended that it has hosted many public meetings and events and derived significant income from catering to outside groups. Thus, it is subject to anti-discrimination laws. Now that the club has agreed to forego separate gender-specific dining facilities, Goddard “has acknowledged that he is now satisfied that the club is operating as a private club,” a statement released Wednesday said. The settlement also notes that there was no admission of liability by the club.
Implementation of the settlement will have to wait until next month, however, when the club at Seventh Street and Thomas Road opens following a multi-million dollar remodeling of the clubhouse that took several months. “We are pleased that this matter has been resolved while at the same time preserving the private club status and traditions of this 109-year-old part of Phoenix history,” said country club Manager Pat LaRocca in the joint statement. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — Jim Schroer, former automotive branding guru and now a popular speaker, will deliver the keynote address at the upcoming DREAMR awards to be presented by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership on January 26 at the Sheraton Phoenix. Speaking from his office in Minneapolis, Schroer said he advocates sustained, enthusiastic branding of downtown Phoenix, an area of about 90 city blocks. “I speak primarily on the fact that the folks who are responsible for what people experience in downtown Phoenix have a huge opportunity to build a great urban center,” Schroer said.
The core of that urban center experience is firmly in place, he said, pointing to the expanded convention center, the opening of light rail, the downtown campus of Arizona State University, new residential units, and hotels. He balked at the notion that continued development of downtown will be radically curtailed by the economic downturn and barely breathing credit markets. “I’m extremely insensitive to that thought. There’s always money for what you care about,” Schroer. The larger concern, he said, is whether the people who can push forward progress in downtown will come together or go chasing “after their pet projects.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — There is more office space than takers, according to CB Richard Ellis. The company’s Phoenix office released its fourth-quarter statistics on office space with a footnote saying that for the first time in 28 years of tabulating such data, the metro area experienced “negative absorption.” In other words, during the last three months of 2008 more office space came on the market than was leased out. Currently there is about 600,000 square feet of additional vacant office space as compared to the end of 2007. The lion’s share of the growing inventory is in Scottsdale and east Phoenix, according to CBRE.
The overall office vacancy rate across the Phoenix area is nearly 20%. A vacancy rate of between 5 and 10% generally is considered a healthy state of equilibrium. The 2008 vacancy numbers are up from 13.9 percent at the end of 2007. Part of the negative absorption can be attributed to new office space delivered in 2008, about 7.3 million square feet. Another 3.1 million was under construction at the end of the year, including CityScape and One Central Park East in downtown Phoenix.
Another sign of the times? No projects broke ground during the past three months. CBRE bases its office calculations on single and multi-tenant buildings larger than 10,000 square feet. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — Historic preservation isn’t advised for the penny-pincher or the faint of heart. It’s a particularly difficult practice in the rugged terrain of real estate development. Yet for some, it is the most satisfying work they do. “(Historic preservation projects) are a lot of fun and are very rewarding,” said Stu Siefer, a Tempe architect, who is one of the Valley’s foremost experts on historic preservation. “They can be very challenging. And I have seen a lot of nightmares when unforeseen costs have come into play.”
Fortunately, Siefer is both a developer and architect who can plan and analyze projects with a more precise perspective. Plus, he knows the territory well, having been involved in the Valley scene for decades. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — Hundreds of mechanic’s liens are being filed each month in the Valley by contractors and subcontractors that haven’t been paid for their work. Industry experts say the liens, some in the millions of dollars, are a strong indicator of stress in the real estate community. “Liens are a great way of seeing what’s coming ahead. A glut of liens is a bad sign,” said Zach Bowers, a researcher for Ion Data Express, a Valley real estate data firm.
In fact, the numbers are startling compared with previous years. In 2005, 1,752 mechanic’s liens were filed with the Maricopa County Recorder’s office. Through Aug. 6 of this year, 5,303 liens were filed. If that rate continues, the number of mechanic’s liens filed will more than double the 4,152 liens filed in 2007. “We have filed a ton of liens,” said Janet Summers, owner of Van Rylin Associates Inc. in Tucson, which researches and files mechanic’s liens on behalf of clients all over Arizona.
Summers believes the mortgage and banking industries are to blame. In many cases, she said, developers did not receive the full amount of money promised them. In other cases, banks and other lenders suddenly have called loans or refused to extend credit lines to worthy parties because of market fears, she said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
Top 10 Mechanic’s Liens Filed in 2008 (Downtown/Midtown Phoenix Only)
#1. Summit Builders Construction Co. ($5.68 million)
Lien filed against: Hotel Monroe, Central & Monroe LLC, Grace Communities
Type of project: Luxury boutique hotel, historic preservation
#4. The Weitz Co. ($3.21 million)
Lien filed against: The Summit at Copper Square LLC
Type of project: High rise condominiums
#5. Gold Creek Inc. ($3.05 million)
Lien filed against: Mortgages Ltd. in connection with Chateaux on Central
Type of project: Luxury condominiums