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Board postpones hearing on downtown Phoenix’s Ramada Inn site

[Source: PHXBeat, azcentral.com]

The city’s Board of Adjustment meeting on Thursday has been cancelled, which delays for another month a homeowners association attempt to stop the city from paving a parking lot on the old Ramada Inn site downtown.

The seven-member board was not able to ensure a quorum of four members would appear at the noon meeting to hear zoning issues.

The board in November had rejected a challenge by the St. Croix Villas HOA to halt the city’s parking lot plans for the inn property at Taylor and First sreets. But the HOA soon after appealed the decision.

The appeal hearing will be rescheduled for the board’s next meeting at noon Thursday, Feb. 3, in City Council Chambers, 200 W. Washington St.

– Emily Gersema, emily.gersema@arizonarepublic.com

Downtown Voices Coalition Minutes for August 14, 2010

Meeting held at Roosevelt Commons, 825 N. 6th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85003

Attending: Kim Kasper, Tim Sprague, Suad Mahmuljin, Louisa Stark, Matt Tomb, Elise Griffin, John Saccoman, Beatrice Moore, Susan Copeland, Steve Weiss, Carol Poore, Erick Baer, Karla Grijalva, Margaret Dietrich, Jim McPherson, Reid Butler, Kate Benjamin, Sean Sweat, Bill Blauc, Tim Eigo

9:35 AM

Introductions and approval of minutes: Motion to approve Reid Butler, Second Tim Eigo, voice vote carried unanimously.

 

GRAND AVENUE FESTIVAL– Kate Benjamin, chair Grand Avenue Festival

September 25, 2010-All day and evening

Events include-5 stops on Historic Tour-15th Avenue/Grand area

$10.00 ticket for tour-fundraiser for Grand Avenue Merchants Association

Open Artist Studios-Trashy Sculpture Show

Evening Fashion Show Braggs Pie Factory

Oasis Motel renovation will be part of tour-hoping to start renovation in October 2010

Request for $250.00 donation by Downtown Voices Coalition to Grand Avenue Merchant Association for Grand Avenue Festival.

  • Motion to donate John Saccoman, 2nd Suad Mahmuljin, voice vote approved unanimously
  • Reid Butler will match DVC donation.

VISONING CONFERENCE DOCUMENT UPDATE– Carol Poore

Initial stages developing nicely and she’ll be handing over preliminary soon

Carol discussed her dissertation on how Phoenix Community Alliance and Downtown Phoenix Partnership interact with other organizations in downtown-DVC is a player!

3 profound issues:

  1. Leadership changes
  2. With big projects done, street level activity and development needed
  3. Affordable and attainable housing

Erick Baer-Public funding initiatives=empty lots, Private no public funds=Grand Avenue

SAHARA/RAMADA UPDATE– Steve Weiss

City asked for continuance of rezoning for parking lot. “Done Deal” says City Mgr.  David Cavazos.

10:15 am

OLD BUSINESS

Update Private Non-Profit Intervention Fund-Reid Butler

  • Example was given for creating new organization with capital seed money ($20 mil)
  • Phoenix-based organization intervenes and purchases older threatened buildings
  • Save money with more than advocacy, save with money!
  • Funding sources-Angles, non-profits, corporations
  • Use tax credits to finance end goal-Organization stabilizes structure, sells to preservation-     friendly developers-Or –Bank—gift building to non-profit.
  • Version of how not to do it-Grace Court

NEW BUSINESS

Motion to Publish DVC Minutes General Monthly Meetings to DVC website

  • Motion made by Suad Mahmuljin, Seconded by Tim Eigo, voice vote carries motion unanimously.

11:30 AM

MOTION TO ADJOURN

John Saccoman, seconded by Tim Eigo, voice vote carries motion unanimously.

 

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City wins permit to pave over Ramada Inn in downtown Phoenix

[Source: Emily Gersema, in azcentral.com’s Phx Beat]

Photo credit: azcentral.com

Some Phoenix residents believe city officials just won approval to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

City officials last week at a hearing with a zoning officer won a permit to turn the Second and Taylor streets site of the old Ramada Inn into a parking lot.

Business leaders and residents with the Downtown Voices Coalition want to save the pink-stuccoed property that they believe has historic value. Last week, about a half-dozen coalition members argued unsuccessfully for rejection of the temporary use permit application.

Marilyn Monroe stayed in the hotel, once known as the Sahara Motor Inn, during the filming of “Bus Stop,” which was shown in theaters in 1956.

Opponents can appeal the zoning officer’s decision to the seven-member Board of Adjustment.

However, city officials have said the plans for the old inn are a done deal.

Phoenix officials intend to turn the site over to Arizona State University for a law college building as soon as the university has the funding it needs for construction.

That could take a few years; ASU is waiting for the state to recover from its budget crisis – or a very generous donor.

The five-year permit gives ASU some time to drum up funding. The parking lot would be used for overflow parking by the nearby, city-owned Sheraton Inn at Third and Van Buren streets.

*     *     *

You can read the DVC’s position on this demolition and parking lot here and here.

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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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Ramada Inn in downtown Phoenix is days from demolition

Read the Downtown Voices Coalition’s position on the demolition of the hotel here and here.

There will be a public hearing to allow a use permit for an interim parking lot on the site this Thursday, August 12, at 9:00 am. It will be held at Phoenix City Hall, 200 W. Washington St. 1st Floor, Assembly Room C.  More information can be found here.  A meeting agenda has been posted here.

[Source: Emily Gersema in the Arizona Republic]

Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

Workers have been stripping recyclable items such as doors and wiring from the 175-room Ramada Inn at First and Taylor streets in downtown Phoenix to prepare the site for a parking lot.

A Phoenix group of concerned residents and business leaders, Downtown Voices Coalition, tried for several months to stop the demolition, arguing the hotel, once known as the Sahara Motor Inn, was a historic site and should be preserved.

City Manager David Cavazos has said the demolition is a done deal. Crews demolished part of the motel in May.

DEMOLITION: Jeremy Legg, Phoenix economic development program manager, said this phase costs about $700,000. Workers will begin razing the remaining buildings later this month.

PARKING: Legg said after the site is razed, workers will turn it into a parking lot, which could be opened to handle overflow from the nearby Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

NEXT STEP: 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.

Downtown Voices Coalition issues statement on demolition of downtown Phoenix vintage motel

Demolition begins on the Sahara Motor Hotel, May 12, 2010 (new use: parking lot for Channel 12 News trucks)

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

Downtown Voices statement on proposed demolition of Sahara/Ramada Hotel for parking lot

To the Mayor, City Council, ASU Officials, City Staff, ASU Staff, and the Citizens of Phoenix:

It seems for every success that Phoenix can point to as ASU’s benefit to the downtown’s vitality, there also seem glaring and obvious deficiencies.  The decision to purchase and raze an existing historic structure, the Sahara/Ramada Hotel, and replace it with an overflow parking lot for a city-owned hotel, seems an obvious contradiction.

  • Though ASU and Phoenix both promote sustainable development, there is nothing in this direction that is sustainable, Earth-friendly, or revitalizing.
  • Phoenix already has land-banked large swaths of empty lots.
  • The campus was originally proposed to decentralize through downtown, rather than an aggregate of clustered buildings, in an effort to promote activity throughout the downtown.
  • For ASU to promote sustainability and the City to promote adaptive reuse, it seems disingenuous to then take down a historic and easily repaired structure and replace it with an asphalt lot.
  • Likewise, for Phoenix to promote light rail to discourage more cars on the road and the need for lots to park them, while investing in yet another parking lot to serve a city-owned and developed hotel, seems equally two-faced.

There are great opportunities to save, restore, and adapt the original Sahara/Ramada Hotel, with uses that fit well with the city-promoted need for hotel rooms and ASU’s existing colleges.  Within a one-hour Downtown Voices Coalition Steering Committee meeting on Saturday, March 13, ideas were discussed that would create revenue streams.  A true boutique hotel along the lines of The Clarendon, various care and health facilities (assisted living, long-term care, hospice, or transitional living), and even working art studios to bring fine art students to downtown are all more creative directions and tax revenue than another off-the-tax-rolls empty lot.

The Downtown Voices Coalition Steering Committee urges the City of Phoenix and ASU Downtown to abandon its harmful decision to demolish the Sahara/Ramada, and instead discuss more creative and forward-thinking goals for this property.  We look forward to a dialogue and request a planning session.  We also trust no decision will be made without further input.

Thank you.

Steve Weiss
Steering Committee Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition

Viewpoint: Why preserve a mid-century downtown Phoenix motel?

[Source: Rachel Dawn Luptak] — The historically relevant Sahara Motor Inn has an entire city block’s worth of eight possible retail spaces, café/bar, enough commercial kitchen space to accommodate additional dining and lounge facilities, gift shop, two large terrace suites for hosting meetings and parties, 175 guest rooms, and two apartment penthouses.  One of these penthouses accommodated Marilyn Monroe during the filming of her movie “Bus Stop.”

This hotel was built in 1955 by our valley’s own mid-century mover and shaker in the commercial real estate and construction industry.  His name was Delbert E. Webb, who was also a part owner of the motel at the time.  His name might also sound familiar to you because it is also the current name of ASU’s own Del E. Webb School of Construction, which boasts of its collaboration that created ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.  How ironic, because we all know that the most “sustainable” use of a built environment is to re-use and re-cycle what is already there, instead of adding more debris to our landfills.

Our Sahara/Ramada structure was designed by a talented mid-century modern architect, Matthew E. Trudell, who used period style materials that you couldn’t afford to use today in a roadside motel: red brick, colored art glass details, mosaic tiles, floor to ceiling glass, cast-in-place concrete, solid block, and patterned block.  This is a structure that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so if allowed the opportunity.  There are still original drawings that depict the detailing of this mid-century design.  There is also a report created just last year by a group of architects and engineering professionals on the existing facility’s structure and systems, and what it would cost to bring everything up to today’s functioning standards and codes.

If the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Del Webb aren’t enough of a history to save this structure, hopefully the history of our motor inns and the local memories will.  This type of “mini-resort” made Phoenix accessible to the masses and helped put our city on the map during the 50’s.  Many have already been bulldozed, and their historical relevance and place making identities are forever gone.  Our Phoenix locals who are old enough to know this hotel have been coming out and speaking to groups like the Downtown Voices Coalition.  For instance, a grandmother from back East recalled her first visit to Phoenix where she stayed at the Sahara.  It was while she was there, experiencing a day of summer life at the courtyard pool and witnessing the joy being had by the children and all guests, that she decided to move to Phoenix to start her own family.   A UPS driver who used to deliver to the Sahara wrote to us and calls it “an amazing place that deserves to be preserved.” 

Modern urbanites would like to have the opportunity to sip pina coladas by the pool.  The architectural and engineering professionals who have studied the facility feel it has great potential and deserves to be preserved.  It is a one of a kind actual “oasis” in our downtown core and should be valued as such.  And nobody — and I mean nobody — that actually lives and breathes downtown wants to see another parking lot.  [Note: For more information, photos, and design renderings, click here.]