PHOENIX, AZ, May 13, 2010 — Phoenix woke up yesterday with one less piece of its history. The Ramada Inn, formerly the Sahara Motor Hotel, at 1st Street and Polk, is now under the bulldozer. We, Downtown Voices Coalition, believe our actions to save the building instead sped up its destruction.
At a Friday afternoon meeting last week with Mayor Phil Gordon and city staff, the Sahara/Ramada Subcommittee of Downtown Voices Coalition asked for a moratorium on the demolition, to give time for a feasibility study and look at a potential adaptive reuse by a boutique hotel company waiting in the wings. This is the same moratorium that would be asked of any private developer.
We were told there that the “train had left the station” on this project.
Here are some of the points given by the Mayor and city staff (and DVC’s response in CAPS):
The Sheraton Hotel, a city-financed and designed project, needed more parking.
- WHY WASN’T THE HOTEL BUILT WITH THE PROPER PARKING IN MIND TO BEGIN WITH?
The ASU Downtown campus design includes a Law School, with ground-breaking “anticipated” in two years and designs already on the board.
- WHY IS THE ONLY LAND IN DOWNTOWN PHOENIX NEEDED TO BUILD ALWAYS UNDER AN EXISTING AND INTERESTING BUILDING? AND WHY TALK ABOUT ALL THE DESIGN COSTS ALREADY SPENT WHEN THERE HASN’T YET BEEN MONEY RAISED OR A REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL?
The Law College is going to be a great thing for downtown.
- ALL CITIES THAT SUCCEED UNDERSTAND A CITY IS AN URBAN PLACE, NOT A TALL SUBURB. THE SAHARA/RAMADA WOULD HAVE BEEN OUR PALM SPRINGS/SCOTTSDALE VALLEY HO LINK AND WE JUST PUT IT IN A DUMPSTER.
- WITH LAW FIRMS STOPPING THEIR OUTREACH AND LAYING OFF LAWYERS, IS A NEW LAW SCHOOL A WISE INVESTMENT?
- WITH OUR STATE IN THE WORST FINANCIAL SHAPE IN DECADES, IS IT TIME TO BUILD NEW BUILDINGS WHEN EXISTING STRUCTURES EXIST?
- ULTIMATELY, COULDN’T WE HAVE HAD BOTH A LAW COLLEGE AND A VINTAGE HOTEL?
The ASU Downtown is spread through the downtown.
- ASU DOWNTOWN IS A MOATED, GATED COMMUNITY, INSULAR AND SEPARATE FROM THE DOWNTOWN. ALL THE PROMISES OF SPREADING OUT THE CAMPUS THROUGH THE DOWNTOWN SEEM CONVENIENTLY FORGOTTEN.
- TAKING AWAY A POTENTIAL LINKAGE TO THE REST OF THE CITY BY CREATING ANOTHER PARKING LOT IS A FOOL’S MOVE.
Instead of working to save this building, work with the city to save other threatened buildings.
- BETWEEN SPECULATORS, ASU DOWNTOWN, AND THE CITY’S OWN DISINGENUOUS APPROACH TO HISTORIC PRESERVATION, THERE IS SO LITTLE LEFT TO SAVE.
There was no way the city could denigrate the actual building, other than saying it was a liability issue. After all, this was a poured concrete building, built in 1955 by Del Webb Construction, the same company whose name adorns the ASU Del E. Webb School of Construction. It was positioned for a true urban mid-century modern hotel like the highly successful Valley Ho in Scottsdale.
For all the “lip service” to historic preservation, why has so much attempted and successful demolition of historic and vintage architecture occurred under the current City administration? Granted there have been preservation success stories and Downtown Voices Coalition has joined in praising those successes, but unfortunately this example demonstrates our City’s “one step forward, two steps back” nature.
Downtown Voices Coalition mourns another potential “win/win” for its citizens, ASU Downtown, and the City of Phoenix. The City administration and Mayor Gordon have made Phoenix a poorer place by their choices.
MORE INFO ON PROPERTY
- “Threatened: Phoenix’s Marilyn Monroe Motel,” National Trust for Historic Preservation
- “A City of Phoenix Native and ASU Alumni Disheartened By Her City and Alma Mater’s Greed, Lack of Historic Preservation, and NON-Sustainable Attitude?“
- “Community Commentary: More Parking For Downtown“
- “Dumb and Dumber: The City of Phoenix and ASU“
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Three years after voters paid to build Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus, the university says it plans to ask taxpayers for more money for an expansion that may relocate the law school from Tempe. ASU officials would not say how much money they plan to seek, but Richard Stanley, a university vice president who oversees planning, said they want the proposal to be part of a package of city projects to go before voters in 2011 or 2012. The university expects the enrollment at its downtown campus to nearly double to 15,000. And moving the law school — an idea that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon publicly pitched in 2007 — would give the school room to grow and put it at the heart of the city’s legal community. “We will continue to expand downtown, and we will be bringing new programs down there,” Stanley said.
ASU has not talked to the Phoenix leadership about using bond money yet. But city leaders and experts suggest Phoenix voters may be wary of taking on more debt, especially if tough times linger. In 2006, city voters approved a bond package that included $220 million to build several buildings on ASU’s new downtown campus. That debt is paid for with money the city collects from residents’ property taxes. “It would be wonderful to have the law school downtown,” said Councilwoman Peggy Neely. But “there are lots and lots of street projects that we didn’t do because… we put such a huge amount of money from the bond program to ASU.”
Even though a bond vote may be a few years away, planning for the election — and jockeying for the funding — starts as much as a year and a half before voters head to the polls. [Note: To read the full article, click here. To read Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman’s response, click here. In a nutshell, he thinks it’s a bad idea.]