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Jerry Colangelo talks about downtown Phoenix

[Source azcentral.com / aztalk.azcentral.com]

Jerry Colangelo, a former longtime member of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, was the guest last week on Live Talk. Here are excerpts from the interview, which can be found in its entirety at aztalk.azcentral.com.

Colangelo, a partner in JDM Partners LLC, has played a pivotal role in the growth of downtown Phoenix as a community leader and former owner of such sports franchises as the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is the national director of USA Basketball.

1. Why do we need a vibrant downtown Phoenix?

I think every city needs a heart to it. A place to congregate, to do business, to be entertained. It’s kind of the beat of a community.

I personally believe in a strong downtown – some of it’s instinctive; it’s just what you believe in. I’ve always looked at myself as an urban person more than a suburban. And I believe in building synergy. When looking at building the arena in downtown, we knew with the right mix you could, in fact, reconstruct and rebuild it and give it a new future. It takes a collaborative effort. It takes many of the same mind. Therefore, local organizations, like Phoenix Community Alliance, took that lead and created the Downtown Phoenix Partnership giving downtown another arm to help in that cause.

2. What one or two things would you like to see happen next with downtown?

Much has taken place and much is to be completed. I think we need more housing and more retail. When we get to the point when we have synergy, it will be because of some density. Then we’ll be closer to what some hope will become a very vibrant downtown.

3. What will it take to make these happen?

It’s a combination of things. It’s professional people willing to take the necessary steps in terms of development. Sometimes ahead of the curve. You know the old expression “if you build it they will come.” People or retail, retail or people? It’s a combination and timing. We need all of that to take place all at the same time. It’s an intersection.

I think entertainment is a missing piece. We have museums, culture, sports and arenas and theaters. But entertainment that invites you in from the street to listen to music, enjoy a great meal, great shops all add to an appeal for people. For certain there’s an urbanization of America taking place. People are moving in to downtowns. So we need to add this to get people to move to our downtown.

4. The race for mayor of Phoenix is starting to get under way. What do the candidates need to know about downtown – and do?

Every candidate, councilmember and any mayor should understand that they have the ownership of Downtown Phoenix. And particularly for council members, regardless of what district they have, they should own a piece in it and understand that investment in downtown is critical to the success of the entire city and region.

The next mayor need only to look out the window of City Hall and see what’s happened in the last 15 years and be able to project what can happen. They need to be part of the effort to make sure it does and that includes the expansion of the ASU campus, the TGEN campus, and the projects on the drawing board at the Biosciences campus, and others with interest in coming downtown.

We need to encourage people to look at all that downtown has to offer. The light rail, expanded Convention Center, the ASU campus have all been major add ons in the last few years. And so I believe had the economy not turned south, we would have been even much further along. But as hard as it’s been, I think downtown is destined for a very bright future.

5. As a long-time champion of downtown Phoenix, what is your fondest memory of so many years spent working downtown?

I have so many great memories of being with people of the same mind, watching things take place. I remember the first event at the arena and watching people walking down the streets. Many of the naysayers said it would never happen. That was a big moment.

Also the opening of Diamondbacks season in 1998 with the arena and the ballpark hosting a sellout crowd was special as well. The arrival of Major League Baseball was another stepping stone of a city thriving.

6. Why should the rest of the Valley care about a strong downtown Phoenix?

Because all of the communities within a marketplace should not think of themselves as standalones. A vibrant downtown brings communities together. It’s one thing to have your own identity of a community in the suburbs, but there’s nothing like being asked “where are things happening?” It should be in the downtown.

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Arizona Republic sells its stake in Diamondbacks

Arizona Republic, downtown Phoenix (Matt York, AP)

[Source: Craig Harris, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix Newspapers Inc., one of the original investors to bring major-league baseball to the Valley in 1998, has sold its minority stake in the Arizona Diamondbacks to the team.  The deal closed within the past two weeks, according to both sides.  Financial terms were not disclosed.  Phoenix Newspapers, parent company of The Arizona Republic, was part of an ownership group of businesses and individuals that sports executive Jerry Colangelo formed in the mid-1990s to start the franchise.

“The times are much different,” said John Zidich, president and publisher of The Arizona Republic.  “It’s not part of what we do as a business, and it made sense to sell it back to the Diamondbacks.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Colangelo quits Phoenix Community Alliance

Jerry Colangelo, photo by Charlie Leight/Arizona Republic[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Jerry Colangelo, once a titan in downtown Phoenix development, is fading from the inner circle.  Today, he’ll end his nine-year stint leading the Phoenix Community Alliance, a key group of business leaders who have provided behind-the-scenes muscle for many downtown projects.  Those include the $1.4 billion light-rail line, the $600 million Phoenix Convention Center overhaul, and the $900 million City- Scape development in downtown.

The alliance board is expected to vote to name Martin Shultz, an influential executive with Pinnacle West Capital Corp., parent company of APS, as the group’s new chairman.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Colangelo says Chase Field helped put downtown on path to redevelopment

Jim Poulin/Phoenix Business Journal[Source: Mike Padgett, Phoenix Business Journal] — Chase Field turns 10 years old at the end of this month, and supporters say the baseball park is a hit in the redevelopment of downtown Phoenix.  Chase Field and the neighboring US Airways Center are considered MVPs in the total economic picture, attracting more than $3 billion in new construction and redevelopment downtown.  US Airways Center opened in 1992 as America West Arena.  Chase Field debuted March 31, 1998, as Bank One Ballpark.  Both openings cranked up the rate of downtown redevelopment, according to Phoenix Suns Chairman Jerry Colangelo.  “The reasons for them being built, and the impact they’ve had on our downtown, were immense,” he says.

Dressed in a dark blue pin-striped suit and a yellow tie, Colangelo watches from the center-field concourse as singers audition on the field for the chance to belt out the National Anthem at upcoming games.  “It was all part of a rebirth in building a new Phoenix,” he says.  Both sports venues were built for teams headed by Colangelo. He was approached in 1994 to lead the charge for a Major League Baseball team for Phoenix, and the Arizona Diamondbacks debuted in 1998.

Critics of publicly financed sports facilities still have their doubts.  Arizona Tax Research Association President Kevin McCarthy opposed the special county sales tax that paid for the ballpark.  He also questions whether sports venues create new money.  “More often than not, you’re moving money around in the system that’s already there,” McCarthy says. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix Council may testify in W hotel trial; Court to decide if conflicts existed in talks with developer

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix City Council members and their top aides may have to tell a court whether they had improper talks with the developer of a proposed $200 million W Hotel project.  Last week, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered a trial to sort through conflicting accounts about how the developer tried to sway city leaders to build the project.  That means council members and top aides may have to testify about the behind-the-scenes lobbying tactics in the controversial project.

Developer Suns Legacy Partners was poised last year to build a 39-story W Hotel near US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix.  A key part of the project was an 11-story office and condo tower that would have been built on top of a historic warehouse, preserving it from being torn down.  Even if Phoenix wins the court case, litigation and other problems have effectively killed the hotel project for now.  Legal wrangling has delayed the project, and the developer’s deal with W Hotel expired because ground was not broken by June 30.  In his four-page Sept. 18 ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Swann wrote that a trial would have to sort out whether Mayor Phil Gordon, his council colleagues, and their aides had improper talks with Suns Legacy Partners, the development group that includes Suns owner Robert Sarver and former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo.

The litigation is just about procedures; it’s not about the City Council’s decision to build a condo tower on top of a historic building, the mayor and the city attorney say.  The city is weighing its legal options, City Attorney Gary Verburg says.  Gordon denies any wrongdoing.  “There was no influence behind the scenes or any type of nefarious-type discussions,” Gordon said.  “Everything was public.”

The preservationists are prepping for trial, although no date has been set.  They filed the lawsuit to protect the 1920s warehouse, the last vestige of Phoenix’s old Chinatown.  “Phoenix can do better with its historic structures.” said Barry Wong, a former state lawmaker who is a spokesman for the coalition of preservationists and Asian-American community groups.

The City Council was essentially sitting as a judge when it overruled the historic-preservation officials who didn’t think the condo tower should be built on top of the historic warehouse, the coalition argued in court.  When acting as judges, council members can’t have outside talks with the parties in the dispute, the preservationists argued.

The warehouse, the Sun Mercantile Building, is owned by the city.  Suns Legacy Partners has a long-term lease agreement.  Lawyers for both sides agree that preservationists and the hotel developer lobbied the City Council.  However, the preservationists argue that council members and their top aides — including the mayor’s senior assistant, Bill Scheel — may have been swayed by undisclosed talks with the Suns Legacy developer.

The contacts included a Dec. 6 letter from the developer’s lawyer.  The preservationists also point to a form letter that Scheel used to respond to several people who e-mailed Gordon about the project.  In addition to replying on behalf of Gordon, Scheel lauded the project as a “reasonable and positive re-use” of the 1920s warehouse.

Scheel, who has helped run Gordon’s election campaigns, downplayed the letter.  Gordon said his staff gives him advice, but ultimately he and the rest of the council made the final call.  In court, the city argued that council members were more aggressively lobbied by residents and groups that opposed the 11-story tower.  The city’s legal team also argued that the City Council avoided communicating with either side after it was clear that issue would be appealed to the full council.

Since council members are routinely lobbied on issues, it would have been impossible for them to know before the appeal that they should be careful about talking about the case, Verburg said.  In affidavits, council members said that they did not talk to the developer after Suns Legacy appealed the decision the historic preservation decision.  Swann, however, ruled that any contact with parties in the hotel fight could fall under scrutiny.

[Click here to download Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Swann’s ruling of September 17, 2007.]

Original Sun Merc roof trusses & post-and-beam system remain intact


Recent photographs show the Sun Mercantile Building interior’s original trusses and original central cast-in-place concrete post and beam system.  The proposed project would definitely impact these historical elements, refuting the developer/architect’s claim that “the roof has been replaced.”

2005 event touts Sun Merc as site of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…and museum

[Source: America West Arena website, January 24, 2005] — Ask any fan.  America West Arena has always been rockin’.  And now comes the rollin’.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is going “On Tour” and the first stop is at the corner of Jackson and 3rd Streets next door to AWA.  Currently housing the Phoenix Suns Athletic Club, the Sun Mercantile Building will be transformed into a mini-rock museum by early 2005.  The concept is intended to offer audiences outside of Ohio a chance to experience special exhibits and collections similar to those featured in the Cleveland-based Hall of Fame. “We are the first,” Suns Chairman Jerry Colangelo said.  “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has expanded and we’re happy to represent them on the West Coast.”

It’s only fitting that the 75-year-old brick warehouse, a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will soon house some of rock and roll’s most historic artifacts.  While the official list of arriving music goodies is still TBA, when you’re talking about a museum that’s got everything from Jimi Hendrix’s 1965 Fender Stratocaster and Prince’s Purple Rain coat to handwritten lyrics to Beatles’ songs, you know some good memorabilia will be en route to the Valley.  “We haven’t figured out specifically what we’re going to bring here,” said Jim Henke, Chief Curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  “But it’s not about autographed guitars.  It’s the real costumes people wore on stage, the guitars they played, their handwritten lyrics, artifacts like that.  We’re going to have a standing exhibit that will deal with the history of rock and roll, but then what we really want to do is bring down these specialty exhibits that we’ve done over the years.”

Some of those past exhibits included displays on John Lennon, the Supremes, U2, the psychedelic era and Elvis Presley.  Henke promises “exhibits that are really huge and in-depth,” just like what’s back in Cleveland.  While the exhibits will change periodically like any museum’s collection, this isn’t a temporary memorabilia road show.  The full conversion of the two-floor, 28,000 square-foot building is proof of that.  And don’t consider this the start of a trend in terms of the museum officially expanding outside of Cleveland.  As Terry Stewart, President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, puts it, the biggest stumbling block in the past was finding partners who understood the museum’s mission statement and why it exists in the first place… to educate people on the music genre’s origins, development, legends, and cultural impact.  “We wanted a place to have our special artifacts, take it to an area and expose it to more folks,” Stewart said.  “Jerry’s people understood that we had to have a first-class building that’s secure and one that has all the environmental protection, one where we feel comfortable and it feels just like being back in Cleveland.  We found that in Mr. Colangelo and his people here.”

Located right off the Bud Light Paseo, “On Tour” should see a great deal of foot traffic once doors officially open early next year.  In addition to having Bank One Ballpark and the Dodge Theatre right around the corner, AWA’s expansion should be finished by then, complete with a new retail setup adjacent to the new museum.  “I’m excited to get to the finish line,” Colangelo added.  “When the building is remodeled and the Hall of Fame is up and running and our retail is in place, it should be fascinating.”

In a town that’s hosted countless music legends over the years like Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and B.B. King, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s “On Tour” facility fits in perfectly with the tradition and growth of downtown Phoenix. “It illustrates we’re just not in the basketball or baseball business,” Colangelo said. “It’s the entertainment business and it’s all encompassing. We hold major events here, all types of entertainment and music. This is just a perfect condition, because it enhances the experience for our consumers and it will be a major traffic builder for those who might be coming downtown for the first time or those who’ll start frequenting downtown more often.”

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame slated for Sun Merc

[Source: UPI] — The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum plans to open a new satellite facility in Arizona early next year, the Arizona Republic said Wednesday.  We are going to bring in special exhibits, said Jim Henke, chief curator of the original museum in Cleveland.  We are going to give people a reason to return.  Henke and other representatives from the Hall of Fame, America West Arena, and Phoenix City Hall officially unveiled plans for the sister museum Tuesday.

Organizers declined to specify what would be housed in the historic Sun Mercantile Building, but they hope to attract at least 100,000 visitors a year by constantly changing exhibits and attracting children, the newspaper said.  The new rock museum will be located next to the America West Arena, where the Phoenix Suns Athletic Club is now located.  The health club will close June 30.  The Cleveland museum is home to costumes worn by Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Madonna, David Bowie, and Bono, along with personal effects and instruments of rock stars.