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Touring downtown Phoenix… by bike

Visiting the murals in the alley behind 5th St. near Roosevelt (photo source: Tony Arranaga)

[Source: LightRailBlogger.com] — I took my neighbors on a hour long bike tour of downtown Phoenix.  Mike and Jane were not too familiar with the backstory to some of the historic sights in our urban core, so it was fun to give them some background on the landmarks in the heart of the city.

We started in the Evans Churchill neighborhood near 4th Street and Fillmore.  We visited the community garden near Conspire Coffee and the murals in the alley behind 5th Street near Roosevelt in the arts district.  Mike, Jane and I then went to the Phoenix Public Market, the Westward Ho and Civic Space Park.  Our tour then continued south on 1st Avenue to see the Orpheum Lofts, 44 Monroe and the old City Hall.

Next. we made our way over to Hanny’s Restaurant, which used to be home to a high end department store back in the day.  We then stopped by St. Mary’s Basilica where Pope John Paul II visited several years ago.  Our trip ended at Heritage Square and then we stoppped for a bite to eat at Front Row – TGIFriday’s restaurant inside Chase Field where the Arizona Diamondbacks play ball.

How did I do?  Where would you take friends or out of town guests to explore the heart of Phoenix?  [Note: Read the full blog entry at Touring downtown Phoenix… by bike.]

Phoenix Interrupted: Downtown’s full of gleaming progress surrounded by vacant lots – now what?

Chateaux on Central

Failing midtown Phoenix project (Photo: Sharon, Phoenix Daily Photo)

[Source: Sarah Fenske, Phoenix New Times] — There’s a development on the edge of downtown Phoenix that captivated me even before I moved into the neighborhood: the Chateaux on Central.  My interest wasn’t a matter of good design — everyone from Will Bruder on down is on the record mocking the place, and rightly so.  (With its fanciful turrets, shiny copper roofs, and that ghastly faux-French “eaux,” the project’s overall effect is Disney Does Brownstones in the Desert.) No, the Chateaux on Central were somehow personally evocative.  They made me homesick. [Note: Read the full article at Phoenix Interrupted: Downtown’s full of gleaming progress surrounded by vacant lots – now what?]

Downtown Phoenix luxury condos face money woes

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — When the first condo owners moved into The Summit at Copper Square, Phoenix leaders hailed the luxury high-rise because it would bring residents who live, work and shop in the heart of the city.  But two years later, the 22-story complex near Chase Field has millions of dollars in unpaid bills, from late utility payments to construction costs.  The developer, W Developments LLC, said the project’s bank debt could lead to future problems, but downplayed other expenses.  Meanwhile, residents, who paid anywhere from $300,000 to more than $1 million, are worried about their investments.

The Summit is the latest sign that the once-overheated housing market has put a strain on some upscale projects.  At Landmark Towers on Central Avenue, owners say they are paying for costly tower repairs, but have lost perks such as valet parking.  A few miles away, Orpheum Lofts owners filed a lawsuit over a permanent parking dispute.

David Wallach, principal of W Developments, characterizes The Summit’s legal and financial problems as “challenges” that can be overcome. And the firm still plans to help build a downtown entertainment district and to develop property near the Orpheum Theatre, he said.  “The fact that we have challenges and continue to meet those challenges is . . . a true statement,” Wallach said.  “That doesn’t mean that we are having financial problems,” he added, calling The Summit “successful.”

While several owners in the 165-unit building praised Wallach for giving them frank updates about the building, some worry about the future. Condo owner David Moskowitz hopes he still is able to sell his two-bedroom unit for $350,000 through a short sale.  “I was so jazzed about this building,” said Moskowitz, who bought his unit last year for $650,000 as an investment property. Moskowitz said he would lose thousands of dollars.  But real-estate agent Vince Zerilli said he was “very happy” with the penthouse he bought in 2008.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Ouch! Orpheum battles Omega over downtown Phoenix parking spots

[Source: “Developer, Orpheum residents trade ire,” Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The residents at an upscale downtown Phoenix loft project were booted from the building’s parking lot this weekend, days after some condo owners accused the parking lot’s owner of “wrongdoing” in court papers.  On Friday, signs appeared in the Orpheum Lofts that said “due to an insurance issue” residents could no longer park in the next-door parking lot.  On Monday, any remaining cars were towed, residents said.

This week, several residents at 144 W. Adams St. scrambled to find a new home for their cars.  Noah Lewkowitz usually takes a bus to his job at a Tempe architecture firm, but is driving to work this week because he has no place to park.  “It was nice to have my car right below my window where I can see it,” said Lewkowitz who rents a one-bedroom apartment.  Residents will have to pay $40 to $80 a month to park in nearby garages, he said.

It’s the latest flashpoint in a long-simmering parking dispute at the Orpheum Lofts, where condo owners have paid anywhere from about $150,000 to nearly $1 million for their homes.  Buyers purchased units in the refurbished Art Deco building and parking was included, residents say.  The lofts’ developer, however, sold the lot to W Developments.  W plans to build [Omega] condos on the parking-lot property but has allowed owners to park for free on the lot for a year and a half, said the company’s principal, David Wallach [also the developer of The Summit at Copper Square].  When the condos are built, each owner may have to pay more than $30,000 for a space in the high-rise’s parking garage.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

High-profile Phoenix condos are falling apart, some say

[Source: J. Craig Anderson, Arizona Republic] — A high-rise renovation project in midtown Phoenix that received high praise when it was converted from apartments to condominiums in 2005 appears headed for serious trouble.  The Landmark Towers, 4750 N. Central Ave., was built as Camelback Towers in 1963.  The project received much attention when it was restored and remodeled as a swanky, retro-cool apartment building for urban dwellers in 2004.  It went condo in 2005.

But some who bought units in the Landmark say they were fooled into thinking the building’s guts also had been replaced — and now they are paying for that mistake.  Meanwhile, amenities originally promised to prospective buyers, such as valet parking, have disappeared.

Property owner Rene Kyl said her monthly association fee has jumped from $230 in 2005 to $700 now, and the association recently announced that residents would have to pay an additional $800 a month for the next eight months to pay for new air-conditioning units.  The primary reason, Kyl said, is that the 45-year-old building’s renovation was nothing more than a cosmetic fix.  The original central-cooling unit from 1963 is still in place and has been failing lately, she added.  “We’re one power surge away from no air,” she said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.  Related video below about the Landmark Tower’s opening in 2005.]

A parking crisis for urban pioneers at Orpheum Lofts

[Source: Sarah Fenske, New Times, April 5, 2007] — When it comes to real estate, Monty and Marlene Wilson aren’t exactly novices.  Monty’s a builder.  Marlene has a broker’s license.  But earlier this year, the Wilsons learned something shocking about the $479,000 condominium they purchased two years ago in downtown Phoenix: It came without parking.

Not just without covered parking.  But without any parking — and that’s for a pricey condo in the Orpheum Lofts, which sits in the busiest part of downtown, at the corner of First Avenue and Adams Street.  It’s practically impossible to find a meter free for lunch in the neighborhood, much less a spot to park for 24 hours.  In sales brochures, the condominium’s developer, TASB LLC, promised buyers not just parking, but valet parking.  Residents like the Wilsons say that parking was also promised in conversations with the developer and sales representatives.  For two years, they had it.  But that’s all about to change — and it’s almost certainly going to get expensive. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]