Blog Archives

Phoenix Convention Center bookings off ’08 pace

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The Phoenix Convention Center will host many blockbuster events this year, but the recession may hurt its ability to attract events in 2010 and beyond.   Future convention bookings aren’t rolling in as fast as they did last year, and it appears that meeting planners are booking fewer events than expected.   For that reason, the city plans as soon as next month to offer select clients a discount of as much as 25 percent on rental fees.  The incentive comes just five months after the publicly funded $600 million expansion tripled the size of the buildings on the 26-acre convention-center campus.

Conventions are crucial because they bring in thousands of tourists who sleep in Valley hotel rooms, fill nearby restaurants and shop in local boutiques.  Also, those visitors make side trips to other Valley cities and destinations around the state.  “We are all worried because we have a global recession that we are involved in and that impacts everything, including the convention business,” said John Chan, director of the Phoenix Convention Center.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Changes at Phoenix Convention Center and Downtown Development Office

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Jay Green, the city official who oversaw the $600 million expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center, will retire at the end of the month…  Green will be replaced by John Chan the city’s former downtown development director…

The downtown development office was recently consolidated with several other units to help the city save money.  Chan joined the city’s economic development department in 1992 and became downtown development director in 2006.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Small businesses have high hopes for downtown Phoenix

[Source: Betty Beard, Arizona Republic] — For all its looming high-rises and growth, downtown Phoenix hasn’t become so big that entrepreneurs feel squeezed out.  In fact, owners of small businesses in and near downtown Phoenix see only opportunity in the urban professional workers; the growing nightlife; the expanding Arizona State University campus; and the tripling of the Phoenix Convention Center coupled with a new 1,000-room Sheraton hotel.  They watch optimistically as new offices and residential and retail buildings are being constructed, and they’re especially eager for Saturday’s arrival of light rail.

Progress in downtown Phoenix is noticed, though some say it hasn’t come quickly enough.  The area is not yet the vibrant, 24-hour urban core many expected.  One big challenge is increasing pedestrian traffic because downtown Phoenix isn’t as compact as other downtowns in the Valley.  Most small businesses are on the fringes of downtown, where owners still can find an old building with character that can be leased cheaply enough (maybe in the range of $15 to $18 a square foot) to allow the property to become profitable.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.] 

Editor’s Note: Downtown Voices Coalition has long called for investment in and promotion of Phoenix’s locally owned businesses.  Summary recommendations from the 2004 “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown” report are highlighted below.  To review the full report, click here.

Locally Owned Business: Sustain a unique and thriving downtown by choosing to invest in our local economy, cultivate consumer choice, and encourage cultural diversity by nurturing small, locally owned businesses.  The City should be willing to effectively “co-sign” for any developer who is willing to place locally owned businesses in new projects, and offer incentives to developers who seek out local businesses as tenants.  Fifty percent of the businesses located in the Phoenix Convention Center should be locally owned.  A study should be initiated to show the positive impact locally owned businesses have on the economy and use these findings to engage potential lenders and developers, and to inform policy makers.

Lender’s downfall puts downtown Phoenix plans in limbo

Exterior of Hotel Monroe renovation project.  Photo by Nick Oza, Arizona Republic.[Source: Jahna Berry and Andrew Johnson, Arizona Republic, June 25, 2008] — The financial storm brewing around Mortgages Ltd. has touched two key downtown Phoenix projects, a blow to ongoing efforts to reinvigorate the city’s heart.  There is no more loan money to fund construction and renovation work for Hotel Monroe, a high-profile luxury project, the developer said Tuesday.  And a proposed Jackson Street entertainment district is looking for new lenders for a land deal.  And it was unclear if other downtown projects could be next.

It’s unknown what developments are among the estimated 70 loans in the embattled Phoenix company’s $925 million loan portfolio.  The downtown projects are significant because Phoenix and state officials have invested years of planning and millions of taxpayer dollars to resuscitate what had once been a sleepy business district.

On Tuesday, city officials downplayed the impact, noting that Phoenix has many successful downtown projects under way.  That includes the expanding Arizona State University downtown Phoenix campus, the $600 million convention-center expansion, and the nearly complete 1,000-room Sheraton hotel project, said Phoenix’s downtown-development director John Chan.  “One segment of the market is slowing down, but there are a lot of positive things going on in downtown Phoenix,” said Chan, adding that the Mortgages Ltd. meltdown is a symptom of the national credit crisis.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

City leaders say livelier downtown Phoenix on horizon

Downtown Phoenix Sheraton rendering[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Every city has a few crown jewels, but in 2008, Phoenix plans to pile on the razzle-dazzle.  Several downtown projects, which are expected to wrap up this year, could have huge influence on the heart of the city, insiders say.  The list includes light rail, Arizona State University’s journalism school, the expanded Phoenix Convention Center, the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, and 44 Monroe, the tallest residential building in the state.  “I see 2008 as the first wave of the perfect storm,” said Terry Madeksza, director of operations for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, a group of downtown merchants and landowners.  That’s because each project will help lure thousands of visitors and full-time residents, she said.  The 2008 projects also represent a staggering public investment.  The light-rail line, the Sheraton hotel and the convention center expansion represent more than $2 billion in public financing.

Next year will also bring huge milestones for downtown development.  For instance, the first phase of CityScape — a $900 million cluster of shops, offices, high-rise dwelling and hotels — is scheduled to open in 2009 and another high-rise condo tower, Omega, would be in the midst of construction.  “At the end of 2008, we won’t be finished,” said John Chan, the city’s downtown-development director.  This year’s projects “will carry that momentum beyond.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]