Blog Archives

Lots of bling coming to downtown Phoenix

[Source: KTAR.com]

The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns have formed a partnership to create an atmosphere in downtown Phoenix mindful of New York City’s Times Square and Las Vegas.

The Legends Entertainment District will offer nearly 50,000 square feet of unique marketing opportunities with a blend of digital signage and super-graphic static billboards, including the largest signage available anywhere in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Officials said the project is the first of its kind between two professional organizations.

“The new Legends Entertainment District, an attraction in itself, will help connect all the other downtown attractions, assuring visitors a more memorable and exciting downtown experience,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. “Instead of heading home after a sporting event, concert or meal, visitors will want to stick around and continue enjoying downtown, thus bringing revenue to our city. This creative partnership is a win-win for all.”

The Legends Entertainment District was strategically planned to encompass landmark downtown facilities such as US Airways Center and Chase Field where more than 700 downtown events are held each year.

“The unique working relationship shared by the Suns and D-backs expands the value of associating brands with our teams,” said Suns President and CEO Rick Welts. “The Legends Entertainment District creates outdoor marketing opportunities that extend the reach of our partners beyond the walls of our playing facilities in the regions busiest corridor.”

The signage is to be unveiled at a ribbon-cutting in the second quarter of 2011.

“The look and feel associated with the Legends Entertainment District will enhance the experience for sports fans and others attending more than 700 downtown events as the vibrant signage will continue to increase traffic for local businesses and restaurants,” said D-backs’ President and CEO Derrick Hall. “More than 100,000 people will attend downtown events associated with Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Chase Field in July 2011, putting the Legends Entertainment District on a global stage when viewers around the world tune in to watch the historic game.”

The Legends Entertainment District extends from First Avenue to Seventh Street, between Washington and Jackson Streets. It includes two METRO Light Rail stations, providing easy accessibility to the area.

Judd Norris, general manager of Legends Entertainment District, said, “The City of Phoenix has given us a blank canvas to work with. The Legends marketing partners will have the ability to push the envelope and create marketing concepts that have never been seen before in our downtown. The goal of the Legends Entertainment District is to push the limits of what is new and fresh in the marketing community.”

According to The Arizona Republic, the district will have electronic billboards four to five stories tall. Giant LED TVs could cover the sides of buildings, and animated advertisements may promote products or downtown businesses.

The aim is to create more energy to encourage people to linger outside the major stadium events to shop, eat and drink downtown.

The city, the Suns and the Diamondbacks all stand to gain financially from the initiative. Additional retail sales downtown would bring additional sales-tax dollars for Phoenix. The teams would earn money from ad sales and sponsorships.

City and team officials say they do not know how much revenue the district could generate. But experts told The Republic such districts can increase revenues by millions of dollars as they spur economic growth around them.

Jeff Soule, a planner and outreach director for the Washington, D.C.-based American Planning Association, said entertainment and signage districts have been around for years, but more recently, they have been defined as an area surrounding sports entertainment centers, stadiums or arenas.

“It’s a place where you can capitalize on foot traffic and try to keep people in the downtown longer,” Soule said. “It’s good for tax revenues obviously, sales tax or whatever.”

Other experts are more skeptical. An entertainment district doesn’t always catch visitor interest and increase foot traffic, said Ed McMahon, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. He said he knows of entertainment districts in Richmond, Va., and Louisville, Ky., that have collapsed.

The Phoenix City Council and Planning Department approved zoning changes in 2009 to allow development of the district.

The Republic said that a group that had planned a separate entertainment district for downtown, the Jackson Street Entertainment District, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June. The 12-acre district was proposed as a mix of nightclubs, restaurants, and commercial and residential space.

Downtown Phoenix welcomes start of Suns’ season

U.S. Airways Center in downtown Phoenix
Image by Steven Vance via Flickr

[Source: KTAR]

The Phoenix Suns‘ home opener against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night was welcome news to downtown Phoenix business owners.

“Annually, we typically see over 2 million visitors a year for events at the US Airways Center,” said Eric Johnson with the city of Phoenix, adding that Suns’ games are a big part of that number.

“Basketball season is very important to Phoenix. It brings over 18,000 people per event to downtown. Not only does it bring them for that event, but they also come to have dinner, have lunch, visit our cultural activities and museums, see concerts and other such things.”

The new CityScape development is a huge downtown attraction, Johnson said.

“They’re going to be holding some grand opening concerts and events over the next couple of weeks to try to celebrate the grand opening of the project and the beginning of the Suns’ season.”

CityScape will host a block party, with a free concert by Macy Gray, next weekend.

Johnson said, “This is definitely one of the peak seasons. It helps that the weather is turning, so a lot more people want to come out and explore the city. We have a lot more activities for them to experience downtown. Every year, it gets a little bit better.”

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Downtown Phoenix Journal Weekly Recap

[Source: Si Robins, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — I’ve been thinking about seeing beloved members of the Downtown community leave town recently, and it had me realizing the bonds that we create in our daily lives in Downtown Phoenix, whether they be direct or indirect. This weekend we celebrated Natalie Morris‘ departure at the Urban Grocery and Wine Bar with a food and wine affair that would make any neighborhood envious. While there, I realized how many of us see each other regularly in these parts, and it’s always disheartening when one of the flock leaves the nest.

The same was almost the case in this week’s Suns Spot post.  As trivial as it may seem, Suns fans have been entertained at US Airways Center by Amar’e Stoudemire for seven years.  When intense trade rumors reached a boiling point last week (despite 11th hour discussions, Stoudemire remained a Sun, to the delight of most Suns fans), Chris Coffel examined the mark Stoudemire’s entrepreneurship has impacted Phoenix and how it would change (with some hilarious would-be results). Luckily, we won’t be seeing Taylor Griffin’s OK BBQ anytime soon.

Proposed tax zones could benefit Phoenix Coyotes and Suns arenas

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — A measure put forward at the Arizona Legislature would allow the city of Glendale to create a special tax district to help the Phoenix Coyotes and Jobing.com Arena.  The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Phoenix, also could allow the city of Phoenix to establish a similar tax zone around US Airways Center downtown, where the Phoenix Suns play.

House Bill 2193 would allow Arizona cities to create special tax districts around enclosed, city-owned sports arenas.  Sales tax revenue collected within two miles of those venues would be earmarked for use by the arenas and for public infrastructure within their zones.  The cities also could issue bonds against the money to finance projects and the sports complexes’ operations.

Weiers said earlier this week the bill is aimed at helping the Coyotes hockey team stay in the Valley.  The Coyotes are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and have lost more than $300 million since moving to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996.   The team currently is owned by the National Hockey League…

The bill would exclude University of Phoenix Stadium from a Glendale tax zone, Weiers said, because the measure limits the taxing districts to areas around enclosed arenas owned by Arizona cities.  That could allow a tax zone in downtown Phoenix, as US Airways Center is owned by the city of Phoenix.  But Chase Field and the Phoenix Convention Center would not be included in that tax zone.  [Note: Read the full article at Proposed tax zones could benefit Phoenix Coyotes and Suns arenas.]

Downtown Phoenix Journal recap (02/08/10)

[Source: Si Robins, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — When DPJ’s Phoenix Suns blogger and I paid a visit to US Airways Center last week to interview guard Goran Dragic, we didn’t know what to expect.  The guy is in his early 20s and from Slovenia, and before arriving in Phoenix via the NBA Draft a year-and-a-half ago, he spoke very little English.  So, we weren’t sure he’d be able to give the DPJ crowd much insight on what he likes about Phoenix culture.  We were right, in some respects.  Dragic, who lives in a condo overlooking Tempe Town Lake, really only ventures into Downtown Phoenix for practice and games.  He spends the rest of his time perusing the East Valley.  It brings up a question that we at DPJ ask ourselves a lot: How do we get people from over there to come over here?  When I take a look at the content we featured this past week on the site, there are plenty of reasons to spark a trip Downtown for those that live in outlying areas.  I compiled a list of unique Grand Avenue locales worth checking out on a First Friday.  There’s a growing Scrabble night at Urban Beans for those looking for a mellow, fun school night out of the house.  And there is a whole plethora of nightlife fun, including the massive martini list at FEZ.  These are just a select few.  Keep telling your friends and family to venture Downtown.  There is something for everyone, and there’s a whole lot of it.

Despite mayor’s optimism, downtown Phoenix feels real estate, consumer stress

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon extolled the economic resilience of downtown Phoenix [last] week during this annual “State of Downtown” speech.  Gordon said Arizona State University’s expansion of its downtown campus, construction of the mixed-use CityScape project, and the light rail system are helping the area. He also said while sales tax revenue is down citywide, it is up 13 percent in downtown Phoenix.  “Yes, it’s been a tough year economically for everyone.  You’ve heard all about it, read all about and felt it,” Gordon said.  “But in spite of it all, we’ve still got a lot going on in downtown Phoenix.”

Notwithstanding the mayor’s optimism, downtown Phoenix faces some economic problems.  High-rise condominium developers face questionable financial futures because of troubles with pricing and occupancy.  The Hotel Monroe redevelopment at Central Avenue and Monroe Street remains stalled, and the boarded-up building has become a haven for pigeons.  The total amount of vacant space in downtown Phoenix stands at 1.05 million square feet — up from 630,400 square feet in the first quarter of 2007, according to Colliers International.  The downtown vacancy rate is 13.8 percent, compared with 8.5 percent in first-quarter 2007, according to Colliers.

Downtown also is feeling the effects of pulled-back consumer spending.  A number of downtown businesses have closed because of the recession, including Weiss Guys Car Wash at Grand Avenue and Van Buren Street and the China Inn restaurant at the Colliers Center.

The two downtown pro sports teams also face economic challenges.  The Arizona Diamondbacks had a poor season on the field and drew about 381,000 fewer fans than in 2008, according to ESPN.  The Phoenix Suns have gotten off to strong start on the court — but, like other sports teams, they face hurdles in attracting and keeping fans during the consumer doldrums.  [Note: Read the full article at Despite mayor’s optimism, downtown Phoenix feels real estate, consumer stress.]

Property tax exemptions may be next battle in Arizona subsidy war

Collier Center, downtown Phoenix (Photo: HooverDam, Skyscraper Forum)

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — The next shoe to drop in the legal fight over special tax breaks and subsidies for developers could be over the 100 percent tax exemptions ponied up for high-profile projects such as ASU SkySong in Scottsdale and enjoyed by professional sports teams.  That action could come after the Arizona Supreme Court decides whether a $97 million tax break for the CityNorth mixed-use development in northeast Phoenix is constitutional under state law.  A judgment in that case isn’t expected before the end of the year, but those opposed to developer subsidies already are strategizing for future battles.

The first is a lawsuit expected to be filed over government property lease excise taxes, or GPLETs.  These funding mechanisms allow government entities that own land to lease it back to private developers and businesses, which then pay lower-than-normal property taxes.  The Goldwater Institute and Arizona Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, said they plan to file suit to do away with GPLETs.

Cheuvront wants to sue to try to stop the tax breaks.  Clint Bolick, attorney for the Goldwater Institute, said the conservative think tank also is looking at other tax arrangements to determine whether they are legal.  “We’re just beginning to burrow deeply into GPLETs,” Bolick said.  “To the extent that lease rates are below market after tax benefits are taken into consideration, it may represent an illegal subsidy, and also may violate equal protection of the law if similarly situated tenants are paying more in private buildings.”

As that case works its way through the courts, the same skeptics want to go after entities including SkySong, the Arizona Cardinals, the Phoenix Suns, and the Arizona Diamondbacks, which pay no property taxes because they lease their facilities from city or county governments.  None of those arrangements are considered GPLETs, though that mechanism has been used extensively for downtown Phoenix developments including the Colliers Center, Arizona Center, and Renaissance office towers.  The new Cancer Treatment Centers of America hospital in Goodyear also is a GPLET.

Real estate developers and business interests say striking down the CityNorth subsidy, GPLETs or other tax incentives would discourage investments and economic development.  [Note: Read the full article at Property tax exemptions may be next battle in Arizona subsidy war.]

Suns, Diamondbacks acquire downtown Phoenix garage

[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — The Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks ball clubs jointly have acquired the Jefferson Street Parking Garage from the city of Phoenix.  A legal entity representing both major league teams is now operating the 1,456-space parking garage at 333 E. Jefferson St.  The Phoenix Business Journal reported in April 2008 that the city council had approved a $20 million lease-purchase agreement with the teams after a year of negotiations.

It took another 15 months to close the deal, but according to the city’s interim Finance Director Jeff DeWitt, the added hold time benefited the city.  “We wanted to hold it as long as possible to receive revenue,” DeWitt said.

The change of ownership officially took place July 31. DeWitt confirmed that the ball clubs paid $20 million for the garage.  The city will need the $20 million to reimburse RED Development Co. for renovating and adding public parking at the site of the CityScape development at Jefferson Street and Central Avenue.  But there are conditions to that payment, according to DeWitt.

RED must meet the terms of its agreement with the city, including receiving a certificate of occupancy from the city certifying that its underground parking area is fully completed.  DeWitt said officials at RED have projected a completion in early 2010.  In the meantime, the city will earn interest on the $20 million, he said.  [Note: Read the full article at Suns, Diamondbacks acquire downtown Phoenix garage.]

UOP Stadium outranks downtown Phoenix arenas in fan survey

2007_BCS_National_Championship.JPG[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — The University of Phoenix Stadium outranks the region’s other pro sports venues, according to fan surveys conducted by ESPN and the University of Oregon. The ESPN magazine survey asked 5,000 fans nationwide their impressions of pro sports teams, owners, stadiums, and arenas.

The UOP Stadium in Glendale, home to the Arizona Cardinals, ranked 24th on the list.  The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field in downtown Phoenix came in 39th for stadium experience. Jobing.com Arena where the financially struggling Phoenix Coyotes play came in 72nd ahead of the Suns.  The Phoenix Suns’ US Airways Center ranked 88th among the 122 pro sports franchise stadiums and arenas. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

“Archaeology of Phoenix’s Chinatown” topic of Jan. 7 lecture

Downtown Phoenix

Sun Mercantile Building, last remaining structure in Phoenix's Chinatown

Burton Barr Central Library will present “Archaeology of Phoenix’s Chinatown” a free lecture and slide presentation hosted by archaeologist Dr. Todd Bostwick, from 7 – 8 p.m., Wednesday, January 7, at 1221 N. Central Ave.  Bostwick will discuss the archaeological excavations of the historic Phoenix Chinatown at First and Madison streets.  The construction of the Phoenix Suns stadium led archaeologists to excavate portions of two city blocks exposing thousands of artifacts.  The study of these artifacts has provided some interesting insights into Phoenix’s Chinatown.

The lecture, part of the “AZest for the West” series, is supported with funds granted by the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records Agency.  Phoenix Public Library is a system of 14 branch libraries and the Burton Barr Central Library.  For more information, call 602-262-4636 or visit website.