Blog Archives

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

+++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++

More information on this property

Enhanced by Zemanta

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 Phoenix restaurant, District, focuses on Arizona-grown menu

[Source: Megan Finnerty, Arizona Republic] — Old Town Scottsdale prides itself on being filled with wine bars, restaurants, and clubs that are unique.  Rarely is a chain the best option for dinner or a drink.  And restaurants are increasingly adding produce to menus, highlighting for diners that they’ve come from neighboring farms such as Singh or McClendon’s Select.  At some resorts, bartenders are routinely ducking out to their own gardens to snip mint, thyme or basil, so garnishes are grown within feet of the bars where the drinks are served.

Recently, downtown Phoenix has given foodie bloggers and tastemakers reasons to talk, as a number of restaurants and bars specializing in locally sourced menu items expanded in the past year.  But the most significant development in Arizona-grown goodness might not be at an independently owned business after all.  And it’s not in Old Town either.

If you’re looking for truly local dining and drinking, you’ll want to head to the Sheraton hotel and swing by the District Kitchen and Bar in downtown Phoenix.  The all-local all-the-time focus is a new strategy for the hotel chain, but general manager Heinrich Stasiuk, who lives in Arcadia, is the man making it work.  Downtown Phoenix is a proud place when it comes to home-grown talent, and he has managed to get neighbors and business people to eat, drink and be merry in his bar.  [Note: Read the full article at Downtown Phoenix restaurant, District, focuses on Arizona-grown menu.]

Fewer hotel bookings pose challenge in downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix Wyndham Hotel (soon to be Marriott)

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The ongoing travel recession and, to some extent, city-built Sheraton in downtown Phoenix are putting pressure on central Phoenix hotels, some hotel owners say.  Tourists are traveling less and spending less, dampening the travel boom that hotel owners hoped would follow last year’s completion of the Phoenix Convention Center’s $600 million expansion.  Properties are responding in a variety of ways:

  • Last week, the Wyndham Phoenix Hotel asked for and received a 20-year tax discount from Phoenix that will save the hotel at 50 E. Adams St. $400,000 annually.  The deal will finish the hotel’s renovation and switch to the Marriott flag from Wyndham, which, the majority owner says, will drum up business.
  • The Lexington Hotel Central Phoenix, 1100 N. Central Ave., is open but is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, court records show.
  • The Clarendon Hotel is starting a new promotion geared toward business travelers that will give hotel guests $20 cash for each night they stay there.

In the 14 months that it has been open, the 1,000-rooom Sheraton also has changed the market.  Phoenix built the hotel to accommodate larger conventions that were expected to meet there.  Although several groups, including the National Rifle Association, brought tens of thousands of new tourists to Phoenix, those bookings have tapered off.

Nationally, “distressed hotels are the way of the world right now because of the debt that they are carrying and because there is no business,” said Jeff Higley, a spokesman for Smith Travel Research.  “There are hotels that are struggling to meet payroll.”

The Phoenix market has been one of the hardest-hit travel markets in the nation.  From January though November, city hotel occupancy fell 12.6 percent and the average room rate tumbled 15 percent, compared with the same period in 2008.  A key barometer slid 26 percent in the city.  Revenue available per room is the amount of money generated per room excluding extras such as food and spa visits.  Only New York’s RevPar figure dropped more in that period.  It declined 28.1 percent, according to Smith Travel.  [Note: To read the full article, visit Fewer hotel bookings pose challenge in downtown Phoenix.]

Viewpoint: A Desert Shade of Green?

[Source: Alec Appelbaum, The Faster Times blog] — The stubborn fact of urban investment in this century involves density.  We can forget about economic growth outstripping environmental cost if we don’t invest in ways to reward people for living, working and playing close together.  That can mean big opportunities for suburban office parks, rural town centers and old-style cities, but it also means some awkward transitions for cities whose layout relies on excessive driving.  Consider downtown Phoenix.

I just went there for the annual expo of the US Green Building Council, which I suspect chose the locale as a Lenin-shipyard proclamation of their message’s reach.  And downtown Phoenix is a warren of womblike hotels and a massive conference center, with artificial efforts at urbane charm.  This includes a greeter simpering scoldingly at me when I run across the street, homeless men on aluminum benches, and a prerecorded voice telling me to “enjoy the greening of downtown Phoenix.”  The simperer reveals how underpopulated downtown remains, and the homeless hint at how underfunded the social network remains.  But the salient thing is that powerful somebodies want downtown Phoenix to not be horrible.

Yes, there are posted instructions on how to cross a street and security guards at the convention hall say I won’t find a bathing suit at the downtown mall.  But I do find one, and there are sidewalks, and the womblike hotels have balconies overlooking actual blocks and streets.  On day two of my visit, I started to get the trendline.  I saw the new light rail glide past the four old buildings, the “clean cab” company rolls around.  But standing on the Sheraton balcony, I saw again that there’s no waterline or mountains to define the horizon.  Without barriers to physical growth on all sides, it will take natural disaster or political will to make places like Phoenix develop strong centers.  Nature will provide the disasters.  Then what?

We’ll have to see whether trends in urbanizing lead to scalable industries.  It dawned on me late on my 24-hr sojourn that the Compass restaurant on 21 (”turning the direction of SW cuisine,” say elevator ads) is a rotating rooftop.  Forty years ago, these were as thorough an urban inevitable as a downtown ballpark is now.  And as I passed Phoenix’s massive and retroish Chase Field, I wondered naifishly: when people need affordable housing and good jobs, why is there enough room downtown for a fat square brick ballpark?  The riddle’s solution involves homes, business incentives for clean manufacturing, and policies that monetize the pleasures of close proximity.  Each city in America will need to work up its own formula.  As I flew home to New York in a November hurricane, I couldn’t quite rouse that old Northeastern smugness.  And that’s a hopeful sign.

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?]

Arizona Center owners says business is up

null[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Throngs of tourists and a neighborhood building spree have helped turn things around at Arizona Center, a 19-year-old outdoor mall that was a pioneering downtown Phoenix redevelopment project.

There are questions about the mall’s future.  In April, Arizona Center’s parent company, General Growth Properties Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  But for now, “it’s absolutely business as usual” for mall customers and shop owners, said mall General Manager Chris Bilotto.  In media reports, analysts have speculated that some of General Growth’s 200-plus malls could be sold.

While shop owners wait for news on the bankruptcy case, they are enjoying a boost from the mall’s new neighbors: the Phoenix Convention Center, which finished a $600 million expansion last winter, and the 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel that opened last fall.   Since January, the convention center has hosted 44 events with more than 233,175 visitors, a convention center spokeswoman said.  In 2008, the center had 49 conventions and 122,625 attendees.  That foot traffic has kept Arizona Center cash registers ringing and has helped to reduce the effect of the economic downturn, shop owners say.   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona Republic issues “report card” on Phoenix mayor

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — A year after Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon gave his 2008 State of the City address, [the Republic takes] a look at how well he followed through on his policies and goals:

What he said in ’08: “Phoenix is a city on the rise.  And because we are a city on the rise, we face our challenges — our opportunities — from a stronger position than most other big cities can.”  The reality: The housing crisis and broader economic recession dealt Phoenix’s budget a fierce blow.  But Phoenix literally is a city on the rise. Several projects have helped fill the downtown skyline, including the expanded convention center, Sheraton hotel, and future CityScape project.

What he said in ’08: “We need more investments, more partnerships, more international flights.  Last year I hinted at a new non-stop flight to Europe… We’re nearly there and we’ll have it before we meet again.” The reality: Well, we met again, and Lufthansa, the referenced airline, abandoned its plan for a non-stop flight across the pond due to the economy.  “We’re just grateful the airline is still in business,” the mayor’s spokesman said.

What he said in ’08: “We’re proud of our innovative solar projects… But let Phoenix now become the global center for sustainable energy.”  The reality: The city and state have lagged behind other regions when it comes to attracting solar and other renewable-energy firms, but Gordon has laid out a bold plan to make Phoenix the greenest city in the country.  Stay tuned.

What he said in ’08: “Before this year is over, 20 miles of light rail will be operating.  And that train will leave the station on budget and on time — on Dec. 27.”  The reality: Metro light rail launched its $1.4 billion starter line by its Dec. 27 target.  Ridership has exceeded expectations but fare hikes are imminent given the budget crunch faced by Phoenix and other cities.

[Note: To read the full article and online comments, click here.]

Auto branding guru to speak on branding downtown Phoenix

209145-600-0-3[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — Jim Schroer, former automotive branding guru and now a popular speaker, will deliver the keynote address at the upcoming DREAMR awards to be presented by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership on January 26 at the Sheraton Phoenix.   Speaking from his office in Minneapolis, Schroer said he advocates sustained, enthusiastic branding of downtown Phoenix, an area of about 90 city blocks.  “I speak primarily on the fact that the folks who are responsible for what people experience in downtown Phoenix have a huge opportunity to build a great urban center,” Schroer said.

The core of that urban center experience is firmly in place, he said, pointing to the expanded convention center, the opening of light rail, the downtown campus of Arizona State University, new residential units, and hotels.  He balked at the notion that continued development of downtown will be radically curtailed by the economic downturn and barely breathing credit markets.  “I’m extremely insensitive to that thought. There’s always money for what you care about,” Schroer.  The larger concern, he said, is whether the people who can push forward progress in downtown will come together or go chasing “after their pet projects.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]