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City council members annoyed by lack of communication from developers

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Unfinished Hotel Monroe (Photo: Rail Life)

[Source: Mike Sunnucks and Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — Some Valley city council members are frustrated with the lack of updates they are getting from real estate developers regarding projects tabled by the market crash and recession.  A slew of construction projects have fallen short of expectations, and council members across the Valley are giving developers and their lawyers mixed reviews on keeping their respective cities updated.

“No, no, no, no, no,” Tempe City Councilman Ben Arredondo said when asked whether he’s been kept up to date on the status of stalled projects — including the Tempe Centerpoint condo high-rise, which is in Chapter 7 bankruptcy and sits unfinished on Mill Avenue.  Arredondo said he’s not getting frequent or detailed enough updates on Centerpoint or other projects. He said developers — especially those in distressed situations, such as Centerpoint — aren’t giving Valley cities straight answers on their projects.  “I don’t think they are ever going to give us the bottom line,” Arredondo said.

Developers and their various lawyers aren’t specifically obligated to keep cities updated on their projects, but some city council members are worried about the status of delayed or abandoned developments and how they might hurt short- and long-term economic development.

Centerpoint developer Ken Losch did not respond to requests for comment.  Centerpoint is not the Valley’s only distressed real estate development.  The Hotel Monroe redevelopment in downtown Phoenix sits empty and boarded up.  Downtown condos such as 44 Monroe and the Summit at Copper Square are mostly empty, and a significant number of suburban subdivisions and commercial developments are unfinished or delayed because of lack of demand and financing.

“I think that everyone is cautious and holding close to the vest.  This goes beyond the developers, as end-users are placing projects on hold,” said Surprise City Councilman John Williams.  “That said, I believe much of the information shared is often one-sided and biased and may not reflect the exact state of our economic recovery.”

Valley cities signed off on scores of retail, condo, single-home and commercial projects during the real estate boom.  Now, many of those projects are on the back burner.  “Many of (the planned projects) look foolish in hindsight, but most looked really good at the time,” said Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot…

After extensive efforts to obtain updates on several of the largest mixed-use developments in the Valley, few elected officials wanted to discuss the uncertain, even dire, financial situations facing some of them.  The Phoenix Business Journal asked for comments about those projects — including CityScape, CityNorth, and Main Street Glendale — from the cities of Phoenix, Glendale, Tempe, Scottsdale and Chandler.  The only responses from public officials are those noted above.  [Note: Read the full article at City council members annoyed by lack of communication from developers.]

Phoenix’s CityNorth legal fight has fallout for business valley wide

[Source: Max Jarman, Arizona Republic] — A legal battle over parking garages for upscale shopping center CityNorth could trigger major changes in how cities work with private developers and in the longtime practice of awarding sales-tax subsidies to them.  A high court decision against a $97.4 million subsidy offered to CityNorth by Phoenix potentially could scuttle other deals, create liability for cities, and change the equation on developers’ decisions on whether to build high- profile projects.

Billions of dollars in sales-tax rebates have been handed out by Valley cities to car dealers, mall developers, and retailers.  Projects such as Tempe Marketplace, Mesa Riverview, and the Nordstrom at Scottsdale Fashion Square were subsidized by such rebates.  Several major new developments, including the Prasada master-planned community in Surprise, include sales-tax rebates as well…  A ruling against the rebate could affect some high-profile projects in downtown Phoenix, such as CityScape, a mixed-use project that has $96 million in city subsidies, including $26 million in tax breaks. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Foreclosure-riddled metro Phoenix to get $121M in federal aid

[Source: Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic] — Metropolitan Phoenix’s ailing housing market is getting a boost from the federal government.  Early next year, Arizona will receive $121 million to combat the state’s growing foreclosure problem.  Most of the money must be spent to buy and fix up foreclosure homes and then help people purchase them. Homes in the Valley communities hardest hit by the downturn will be targeted.  Those areas include neighborhoods in Phoenix, Mesa, Avondale, Tolleson, and Surprise.  The money, distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, comes from the nation’s Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which Congress passed in July.

The funds are earmarked for “stabilizing” the neighborhoods hurt by too many foreclosures.  The federal money will go toward the purchase of thousands of Valley foreclosure homes, which means more work for real-estate agents, appraisers, title agents and lenders.  Many people who have struggled to get financing or down-payment money to buy a house will get help.  The funds also will mean more jobs for contractors hired to fix up foreclosure homes. Homeowners in neighborhoods hurt by too many foreclosures should see their home values stabilize and even increase as the money is spent on houses nearby.

A record 35,000 homes have been foreclosed on Valley-wide so far this year.  Many neighborhoods, particularly on the Valley’s fringes, are dotted with homes left vacant and vandalized because of foreclosures.  “This money will a go a long ways to helping a lot of people and communities,” said Fred Karnas, director of the Arizona Housing Department, which will get more than $38 million of the federal money.  Only Phoenix, which has been allotted $39 million, will get more of Arizona’s share.  Several other communities will receive money, as well.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Metro Phoenix housing prices dip again

[Source: J. Craig Anderson, Arizona Republic] — Lenders’ pledges to be more aggressive about modifying delinquent mortgage loans did nothing to ease Maricopa County’s swelling foreclosure rate in October, according to the latest housing report from Arizona State University.  Foreclosures on single-family homes increased from 3,655 in September to 3,745.  Meanwhile, home resales followed a predictable pattern of seasonal decreases, dipping to 4,465 transactions in October from 4,625 sales the month before.

The city with the highest ratio of foreclosures to resales was Phoenix, where there were 65 more foreclosures than regular sales.  The median resale price also fell slightly, to $175,000 in October from $180,000 in September.  The median price is down 30% from $250,000 in October 2007.

  Home Resale Median Price

Foreclosures

2007 Population Foreclosures Per Capita
Chandler           250 $241,200             1,335      246,399 0.542%
El Mirage             85 $101,925               100        26,431 0.378%
Surprise           280 $157,250               215        90,717 0.237%
Goodyear           125 $158,000               110        52,864 0.208%
Avondale           160 $142,250               160        79,798 0.201%
Peoria           195 $214,350               165      146,743 0.112%
Glendale           315 $154,650               275      253,152 0.109%
Phoenix        1,270 $121,950             1,335   1,552,259 0.086%
Mesa           440 $174,000               365      452,933 0.081%
Gilbert           290 $227,000               165      207,550 0.079%
Scottsdale           265 $441,500               155      235,677 0.066%
Tempe             75 $240,000                 35      174,091 0.020%
Sun City             40 $190,000                   5        39,000 0.013%
Maricopa Co.        4,465 $175,000             3,745   3,880,181 0.097%

Color Key: East Valley (green), West Valley (yellow), Phoenix (orange)

Arizona Music Project musicians (by hometown)

As noted in a previous post, the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) has embarked upon a new project to encourage visitors to not only see Arizona but to hear Arizona.  AOT has developed the Arizona Music Project (AMP), a six-minute musical tribute to Arizona that captures the state’s diverse geography, culture, and heritage in music.  In addition to the composition, a documentary was created to chronicle the journey of the musicians who contributed to the project. 

And those musicians, places of residence, and instruments are:

  • Chandler: John Herrera, percussion
  • Gilbert: VerRona Grandil, viola, violin
  • Mesa: Dominic Amato, saxophone; Carrie Caruso, violin; Nick Sterling, guitar; Joe Swierupski, bass; Melanie Yarger, cello
  • Phoenix: Hai Jung Choi, bass; Bob Giammarco, bass: Chuck Kerrigan, tuba; Louie Moses, drums; Joshua Whitehouse, trumpet
  • Prescott: Joseph Torguson, pedal steel guitar
  • Scottsdale: Richard Bass, trombone
  • Surprise: Jason Camiolo, composer, drums; Paul Cruize, guitar
  • Tempe: Elijah Bossenbroek, piano; Nathan Mitchell, French horn
  • Tucson: Gabriel Ayala, classical guitar, flute

Developer floats cancer center in suburbs, not downtown Phoenix

[Source: Jahna Berry and Edythe Jensen, Arizona Republic] — An influential developer wants the University of Arizona to consider putting a sought-after cancer center in a suburb, not downtown Phoenix.  Officials from UA, which would oversee the future cancer center, have downplayed the developer’s queries in Chandler and Surprise.  Patients need a center in a sprawling, resort-like setting, and Phoenix doesn’t have enough room for that, said the developer, Tom Hornaday.   But Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon isn’t taking any chances and wants UA to reaffirm its commitment to build the center in his city.  Gordon has reasons to be worried:

  • Last year, Phoenix lost to Goodyear on a $70 million cancer center that was to be built near Loop 101 and Thomas Road.  This year, talks collapsed for a Banner teaching hospital on UA’s fledgling downtown Phoenix medical-school campus.
  • Chandler and Surprise are jockeying to be players in the state’s bioscience scene.
  • There are new Valley political players, and leaders at UA, who were not part of the early planning for Phoenix’s 28-acre biomedical hub.

Eventually the area, bounded by Garfield, Monroe, Fifth and Seventh streets, would share a hospital, researchers, and the three state universities.  Already, UA’s medical school and Translational Genomics Research Institute and a unit from the ASU engineering college have taken root there.  State lawmakers recently approved $470 million for future campus construction.

Gordon wants UA to reaffirm its four-year-old commitment to put a branch of the Arizona Cancer Center in Phoenix.  “While outsiders are trying to put together a speculative real-estate deal, it risks slowing down and diverting the attention necessary to continue the momentum to build the biomedical campus,” Gordon said, noting the state Legislature and other groups have committed more than $1 billion to the downtown project.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Metro Phoenix’s growing mortgage problem spreading

[Source: Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic] — Metropolitan Phoenix’s foreclosure problem has spread.  Many Valley neighborhoods closer in, particularly in south, west, and central Phoenix, now have the highest foreclosure rates, according to an Arizona Republic analysis of real-estate data from the Information Market.  Foreclosures across metro Phoenix number 16,647 for the first half of the year compared with 9,966 during all of 2007 and 1,070 in 2006.

Last summer, when foreclosures were just starting to climb, the highest rates of home defaults were found on the Valley’s more affordable fringes.  The problem worsened, hitting a wider swath of homeowners who bought at the peak of the housing boom through subprime loans.  Although some of the Valley’s fringe areas such as Surprise, Anthem, and Buckeye continue to have high foreclosure rates, the problem has moved inward.  “It has become more of an equity problem than a subprime problem,” said Tom Ruff, a real-estate analyst with Information Market. [Note: To read the full article, click here.  What’s the foreclosure rate in your zip code?  Click here to find out.]

Run-down Phoenix neighborhoods Mayor Gordon may want to visit (Republic column)

[Source: Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic] — Interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed over the past few days.  A lot of people seem to think Phoenix is a lovely place to live.  They’re giving me a hard time for giving the mayor a hard time for the shabby state of Tom Alexander’s neighborhood.  But here’s the thing I’ve noticed, as they spring to the defense of Phil Gordon and Phoenix in the wake of my Saturday column: Most of them live in Surprise or Chandler or some place other than Phoenix.  Here’s Jim: “Are you actually shocked that this gentleman’s street is not like it once was or as he had hoped it would be 35 years later?” 

No, not shocked, but saddened that a guy like Alexander, a man who went to war for his country and worked hard all his life, must now be ashamed of the street where he lives.  Saddened and surprised that such a thing would occur in the city run by North America’s best mayor.  Surely the pride of the continent would notice that his city has a problem.  And put up a fight.

While it’s great to work on boosting downtown, most people’s views of their city come from the place they live.  Their street.  Their neighborhood.  And frankly, the view isn’t so good in whole sections of this town.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Where’s the crime in your neck of the woods?

[Source: Arizona Republic]Click here to search and map crimes reported to Valley law enforcement agencies.  You can search by city, zip code, or street name and by a specific crime type or all crimes.  Incidents are listed by zip code and block number, not exact address.  (Electronic reports are available for only the following cities: Avondale, Buckeye, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe, and Tolleson.)  Updated every Thursday.