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DVC Statement on Rezoning of Sahara Hotel/Ramada Inn into another parking lot.

Note: Background information the Sahara Hotel Ramada Inn is here http://bit.ly/9wqIHC

Demolition began on the Sahara Motor Hotel, May 12, 2010. It wil be completed this week.

On August 12, a zoning hearing to change the usage status of the Sahara Hotel/Ramada Inn, where Downtown Voices Coalition and other concerned citizens were hoping to voice their discontent with making an existing vintage motor hotel into a “temporary” parking lot, was continued by the City.

We firmly believe that our statements led to this continuance, and by the time the rescheduled hearing on August 26th occurs, the demolition will be complete and our statements will be moot.

Nevertheless, the Downtown Voices Coalition wants to make their statement available to the public, to help spread the word about this ridiculous decision being taken by the City of Phoenix.

Steve Weiss, subcommittee chair Sahara Hotel/Ramada Inn Preservation

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I’m speaking today for the Downtown Voices Coalition, an organization that includes small business owners, artists, historic preservationists, housing advocates, developers and other Phoenix stakeholders, all striving for a better downtown for residents and visitors.
One of our developer members finds it difficult to convince people to bring new projects to the downtown, especially when driving them through large swaths of empty, unused land and rows of asphalt parking lots. Investors are suspicious of a city’s progressiveness when it spends more time and money on land banking and demolition than creative and adaptive development.
The Sheraton is a city-owned and constructed hotel. If it wasn’t built with enough parking to accommodate its users, this should be fixed creatively, not destructively. A future ASU project on the site could be worked into the existing vintage structure, utilizing skills hopefully taught at its own architecture school. There is also still private-sector potential for adaptive re-use, even with the initial demolition, to make something more of the property than mere asphalt and land-fill.
Therefore, Downtown Voices Coalition asks you to deny the re-zoning and help us to hit the reset button on this demolition. If the current city administration doesn’t have the foresight to consider the alternatives, it should at least be saved for ideas from a future and more visionary group of planners.

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More information on this property

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Undoing a “Done Deal”

In response to yesterday’s report that the City Of Phonix decision to continue with the demolition of the Raamada Inn, Taz Loomoans, an architect and advocate for sustainable building practices and community-oriented design in Phoenix wrote the following post that I thought was worth sharing:

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[Source: Blooming Rock]

Saving the Sahara: Calling The Community To Undo A “Done Deal”

According to the Arizona Republic article by Emily Gersema, Ramada Inn in Downtown Phoenix Days from Demolition, the $700,000 demolition of the old Sahara Hotel, currently a defunct Ramada Inn, is scheduled to happen later this month. Before we go into why this building is important and why it’s worth saving, let’s first visit the reason why it’s being demolished:

The City of Phoenix is planning a $700,000 demolition to make room for overflow parking for the Sheraton Downtown Hotel while there are loads of empty lots all around downtown that would work just as well, not to mention, be much cheaper.

The parking lot is just an interim use.  This site is ultimately slated for the new ASU College of Law.  Granted, it’s good to hear that there are plans to bring the College of Law to downtown.  According to the Republic article:

“Within two or three years, Arizona State University hopes to expand its downtown Phoenix campus to include a new building at the site for a new College of Law. The state budget crisis has forced ASU to wait for funding.”

As you can tell, there is some uncertainty around the fact that the College of Law will even go on this site at all.  This part of the plan is definitely not a “done deal” as City Manager David Cavazos likes to say about the demolition phase of the project.

If this all sounds suspect to you, like it might not be a very well thought-out plan, you’re not crazy.  It really isn’t a very good plan.  There doesn’t seem to be a good reason for why ASU and the City of Phoenix have their sights set on the Sahara when there are so many dirt lots close by that could be used for the same purpose.

I know, I know, if the City decided it was the right thing to do, then it must be, right?  Afterall, the City is doing what’s best for Phoenix.  Well, far too many of us have bought that for far too long now.  Maybe the City is putting the interests of developers and ASU, yes, ASU, above the interests of the residents of Phoenix.

I support ASU, I am an alumni, and I think they do great things for Phoenix.  But is the University beyond reproach?  Is everything they have done in downtown and are planning to do hands down the best thing for our urban core?  Hardly!  Wake up fellow Phoenicians, ASU and the City of Phoenix do not always know best.  We, as a community invested in the sustainable growth and vibrancy of our downtown, must raise our voices for what’s important to us, because the City and ASU sure aren’t doing it.

You may be one of those people who thinks the Sahara (or the Ramada Inn) is just an old pink run-down piece of crap that would be well served with a fresh asphalt parking makeover.  Rachel Dawn Luptak, a local interior designer and a downtown Phoenix lover, wrote a brilliant piece on why this is just not true.  Check out her article if you need convincing. To me, this planned demolition of the Sahara Hotel is a current-day symbol of how short-sighted our City has been in terms of historic preservation.

It’s a prime example of the countless times City officials (like David Cavazos) have chosen to bank on big new buildings in place of preserving and building upon what’s already here.  The mentality that has brought us the barren, blank-walled, walker-unfriendly downtown that we have today is: newer is better, let’s blow up the old stuff, even if it’s just for a brand, spanking new parking lot.

This mentality is documented in Rob Melikian’s book Vanishing Phoenix that features the many buildings that are now gone forever, often replaced by empty lots.  We can lament all day why, oh why, did we allow those beautiful buildings to be demolished?  But that won’t bring them back, it won’t give us the historic, dense, pedestrian-oriented downtown that we’ve lost.

But we have a chance, as the residents of Phoenix, to stand against the demolition of the Sahara before it becomes an addendum to Vanishing Phoenix.  Yes, the bulldozers are scheduled for later this month, but between now and then, we have a window of opportunity to make our voices heard, to interject in the all-knowing, all-powerful plans of City Manager David Cavazos (doesn’t he work for us anyway?) who thinks he knows what’s best for downtown.

You can show up and speak up at the public hearing scheduled for Thursday August 12, 2010.  This is a public hearing (where the City will hear the public) in regards to allowing an interim parking lot on the site.  This is our chance to speak out against this not so well thought-out plan and hold our city officials accountable.  We have a voice, let’s use it to affect change instead of complaining after the Sahara is lost forever.

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