Blog Archives

Aaron Kimberlin’s ‘Willo Wonder’ Gets National Attention

Aaron’s Distinctive Guest House

Each year, the  home design website Apartment Therapy invites readers from around the world to submit photos of their beautiful small spaces under 1000 square feet. This year, Phoenix architect (and DVC friend), Aaron Kimberlin‘s 416 sf. Willo guest house (where he lives) was accepted in the Tiny (sub 600 sq.ft.) category of Apartment Therapy’s 7th Annual Smallest Coolest Home Contest.

Small Cool Phoenix—Aaron's Willow Wonder 1

Here’s what Aaron had to say in his entry:

What I Love About My Home

I love the fact that even though my guest house is only a little over 400 square feet, I was able to maximize the space into 5 distinct useable areas that really contribute to the design of the space as a whole.

Biggest Challenge in Furnishing My Home

Finding pieces that complemented each other color and design wise.

Please got to the Apartment Therapy site and vote for Aaron’s ‘Willo Wonder!” It would be great to prove to the world that within our sprawling metropolis there are some small cool oases.

Small Cool Phoenix—Aaron's Willow Wonder 2

Small Cool Phoenix—Aaron's Willow Wonder 3

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Small Cool Phoenix—Aaron's Willow Wonder 5

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7th Ave. and McDowell: the gateway to downtown Phoenix

[Source: Si Robins, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — The intersection of 7th Avenue and McDowell has long been overlooked.  Before SideBar, Pei Wei, and Starbucks moved onto the southwest corner of the intersection, it was an all-but-forgotten red light stop — abandoned antique shops, boarded storefronts, and a gas station.  So many ventures have come and gone on the corner that even the real estate boom of the early 2000s couldn’t lift it out of its hole.  But, things are turning around.

Whether or not you’re ready to admit it, the corner is quietly becoming an important gateway to Downtown from Midtown neighborhoods and points west.  Those invested in the corner couldn’t agree more.  “There are great neighborhoods around it — they’re diverse; they’ve been here forever,” says Josh Parry, co-owner of SideBar, which just celebrated its first anniversary.  “We’ve got walk-up traffic and a really diverse group of people.   This corner has amazing potential.  It’s got everything going for it, but it’s just been ignored by everyone for so long.”

Mike Hogarty, a partner at Desert Viking, the development company rehabbing the southeast corner of the intersection, concurs.  “It’s the four corners of the historic neighborhoods (Willo, F.Q. Story, Roosevelt and Encanto-Palmcroft),” Hogarty says.  “It’s always been a good corner; it’s just been poorly served recently, and it’s time to change that.”  [Note: To read the full article, visit 7th Ave. and McDowell: the gateway to downtown Phoenix.]

Viewpoint: Where do you live (in Phoenix)?

[Source: Seth Anderson, Downtown Phoenix Partnership blog] — The automobile is so ubiquitous in Phoenix that it has even crept into the way we speak.  With rare exception, we do not talk about where we live in terms of neighborhoods or districts, but in terms of intersections.  You hear, “I live at 7th Ave and Camelback” or “I live in North Phoenix off of (fill in the blank),” but never a reference to an established neighborhood.  (There are exceptions, but they are few.)

I think it’s unfortunate that our Phoenix lingo doesn’t include references to neighborhoods, the areas that should be little pockets of density like mini-cities within the city.  I’m thinking of places like North Park, Hillcrest, and Kensington in San Diego; Sugar House or the Avenues in Salt Lake; Lakeview or Andersonville in Chicago; or Georgetown or Dupont Circle in D.C.  Each of these neighborhoods has its own character, charm, and history and each neighborhood is integral to sustaining a healthy downtown core.  Without neighborhoods, mixed use buildings, and walkable streets, a town center can never mature into an urban city because it will lack the vibrancy and innovation necessary.  If downtown Phoenix is the urban heart or Arizona, then people are the lifeblood and the neighborhoods where the people live are the organs that supply it.

I’d like to see the city government take a more active role in “branding” the existing neighborhoods.  (And by “take a more active role” I mean cut the red tape, back off, and stop imposing more and more restrictions that insist on a suburban style of development.)  Did you know there are actually 35 historic neighborhoods in Phoenix?  I did not; I am able to identify just a handful.  Of those I have a shaky idea about where they are; I can vaguely discern when I am in one.  Willo is pretty obvious.  Coronado and Garfield are a little more inconspicuous.  However, I’d have to look at a map to identify exactly where those two neighborhoods are.  [Note: Read the full blog entry at Viewpoint: Where do you live (in Phoenix)?“]

It all ‘adds’ up: Christoph Kaiser and his Garfield neighborhood


Christoph Kaiser at one of his Garfield properties.

[Source: Yuri Artibise, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — Christoph Kaiser is helping to rebuild Garfield one house at a time.  Once an epicenter of gang activity and urban blight in downtown Phoenix, Kaiser’s houses are now at the heart of Garfield’s resurgence, and among the coolest in downtown Phoenix.

Kaiser is part owner of the architectural firm Plus Minus Studio, founded by him and his business partner Hayes McNeil in the fall of 2005. Since its founding, they have added Anson Chen to their team as Project Manager.  The studio has been responsible for some of the most striking projects in and around Phoenix, including transforming Katz’s Deli into Postino Central and the complete remodel of Kitchen Sink Studios in downtown Phoenix.  In addition, Christoph has recently joined Hayes as partner in the new Royal at the Market coffee shop at the soon-to-be-opened Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar.

While this portfolio is indeed impressive for a young architect, it is his personal projects in the Garfield neighborhood that captured the attention of DPJ.  Garfield is the oldest historical district in Phoenix.  First established in 1883, it became part of the city of Phoenix in 1899.  Houses in the neighborhood date from the 1890s to the 1940s, with a large percentage built in the early 1900s.  Unlike the grand dames of Phoenix’s historic districts, Willo and Encanto-Palmcroft, which have mostly remained intact and have dramatically appreciated in value, the historical homes in Garfield fell on hard times over the past three decades.  [Note: To read the full article, visit It all ‘adds’ up: Christoph Kaiser and his Garfield neighborhood.]

Finding Willo: An eclectic Phoenix historic district has a way of making friends


Annual Willo Home Tour festivities

[Source: Katherine Bair Desmond, American Bungalow Magazine] — When my husband suggested a relocation to Phoenix four years ago to be nearer to his family, visions of endless identical postwar homes surrounded by dirt and cacti sprang to mind.  For a girl who grew up in the green hills of Atlanta and has lived in the Berkshire mountains, Boston, Washington D.C. and London, the thought of a move to the desert was less than thrilling.  The pace of life was appealing, as was the closeness to family.  But could I ever feel at home in the desert landscape?

We decided to take a “get to know Phoenix” trip.  Ryan drove me around to countless neighborhoods his mother had suggested we check out.  None spoke to me.  Many were nice — perfectly pleasant — but I needed a neighborhood with character.  A neighborhood with soul.  I started to think maybe you couldn’t find that in America’s “new” cities.  And then… we found Willo.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix Willo home tour, Feb. 8

[Source: Downtown Phoenix Journal] — The Willo Historic District Annual Home Tour will take place on Sunday, February 8, 2009 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  This unique neighborhood tour features outstanding examples of Tudor, Spanish, and Bungalow style homes dating from the 1920s through the 1940s.  One of Phoenix’s most beautiful, and oldest historic neighborhoods, Willo is approximately west of Central Avenue between Thomas and McDowell Roads from 1st to 7th Avenues.  Tickets can be purchased the day of the event at the neighborhood park at 3rd Avenue and Holly.  Tickets are $15 the day of the tour.

Trolley cars will carry tour participants to various stops on the tour, or participants can enjoy the traditional tour method of walking from house to house.  A Street Fair at the event will offer handcrafted goods, unusual gift ideas, jewelry, antiques, and local artwork.  Food vendors will supply a variety of munchies. There will also be live music.  For more information and tickets online, click here.

Phoenix to get $39 million to stabilize housing market

[Source: Eric English, ABC News 15] — Cassia Vaughn has spent the last decade living in the historic Willo neighborhood in [midtown] Phoenix.  The last couple years have seen home prices drop and foreclosures rise as the Valley housing market spirals to all-time lows.  A new program about to get underway soon may help more than just her neighborhood bounce back.  “Oh, I love it,” Vaughn said.  “It’s wonderful news, especially because of my children.  They are looking to buy their first home.  It’s a blessing.  I am really happy.”

The City of Phoenix is set to receive part of a $4 billion federal housing housing and recovery program.  The city could receive more than $39 million to buy foreclosed and abandoned homes to help stabilize neighborhoods. Neighborhood Services’ Kate Kreitor explained, “We’re really hoping to make an impact on the homes that have become vacant and blighted in the harder hit neighborhoods of our community.”

Kreitor said the idea is to buy the empty homes from banks at low prices, then offer them to qualified residents.  She said the program will help new buyers take advantage of low prices, and help property values bounce back. “We are excited about the program, and hope to address some homes in neighborhoods that will really be visible and make a big difference,” Kreitor said.

That’s good news for the Vaughns as they hope to whether the tough times. “We really appreciate the fact that the city would try to preserve this beautiful area,”Vaughn said. “We really appreciate the efforts.”

Willo tour will show off midtown Phoenix architectural styles

[Source: Kristena Hansen, Arizona Republic] — The 21st Annual Willo Historic Home Tour and Street Festival comes Feb. 8 this year, and neighborhood excitement builds as these Phoenix residents come together again to show off their unique, historical homes they’ve fought hard to preserve.  More than 3,000 people show up every year to the fundraiser for the Willo Historic District.  It’s also a way for the public to see rare examples of Tudor, Spanish, and Bungalow style homes from the inside that date back to the early 1920s.  “People are committed to keeping the historic value and integrity of these homes,” said Andrea Katsenes, spokesperson for the tour and a Willo resident.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix neighborhood coalition urges City support of existing special planning districts

[Source: Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix] — Maintaining a favorable quality of life in established neighborhoods is challenging.  Citizen developed and approved area plans are one of the tools used in the struggle to preserve established neighborhoods and define their desired character.  The City of Phoenix Special Planning District Plan (“SPD”) originally known as a Special Conservation District (“SCD”) is one form of such an area plan.  At present, there are 12 SPDs:

  • Roosevelt SPD – Central City Village
  • Story SPD – Central City Village
  • Coronado SPD – Encanto Village
  • Encanto Vista SPD – Encanto Village
  • Willo SPD – Encanto Village
  • Arcadia Camelback SPD – Camelback East Village
  • North Central Avenue SPD – Camelback East Village
  • Squaw Peak Heights SPD – Camelback East Village
  • Windsor Square SPD – Camelback East Village
  • Royal Palm SPD – Alhambra Village
  • Saguaro SPD – Paradise Valley Village
  • Mountain Park SPD – South Mountain Village

Shortly after the Squaw Peak Heights SPD had been approved (July of 2006), a dissident property owner subject to the terms of the plan, filed a suit in Superior Court challenging the way the final votes for the SPD were tabulated.  In August of 2008, the court issued a Minute Entry favoring the claimant.  If the City of Phoenix fails to appeal the Squaw Peak Heights SPD Court decision within 30 days after the formal decision is handed down (could be sometime soon after the first of the year), it will cause this particular SPD to be voided.  A replacement SPD is estopped from being a possibility because of the passage in the fall of 2006 of Proposition 207.  A failure to appeal could jeopardize the validity of all of the other SPDs because they tabulated their final votes according to the same procedures as were followed in the case of the Squaw Peak Heights SPD.

The Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix believes that the loss of the existing SPDs under such circumstances will be detrimental to all neighborhoods whether or not they fall under an SPD.  This is due to the fact that an unwillingness on the part of the City of Phoenix to at least appeal the Superior Court’s decision in this instance will be interpreted by developers as a softness on the City’s part to support other existing citizen authorized/passed area plans such as the existing Specific Planning District Plans.  Such an interpretation will embolden developers to propose projects that will not be in keeping with these plans.  The same holds true for adhering to rezoning for sites throughout the city that was passed subject to approved site plans and stipulations.

Individuals and organizations in agreement with the Coalition’s position on this matter are encouraged to send a letter or e-mail by the middle of January 2009 urging Mayor Phil Gordon and Members of Council to oppose the Superior Court decision in the matter of Madison Positive Alliance of Neighbors v. Phoenix City (case on Squaw Peak Heights SPD).  The cost of such an appeal does not come from the City’s operating funds.   It is an insurance matter.   All such letters should be addressed to the party intended at 200 W. Washington Street, 11th Floor, Phoenix, AZ 85003-1611.

For more information, contact Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, at 602-840-1579 or e-mail.

Willo Grocery, Midtown Phoenix fixture, closes[Source: Pete Scholz, Arizona Republic] — The boom has gone bust for countless businesses during this economic downturn.  The latest casualty was Willo Grocery, a fixture in the historic Willo neighborhood.  “I’d come here about every two weeks to eat at the restaurant for lunch and also to buy things at the bakery,” Rena Steele said while taking a break from the auciton taking place inside the store.

On Wednesday, only dealers filled the small shop looking to pick up a sweet deal on used equipment.  “I guess that’s a good thing that people are here to buy the stuff,” business owner Shelli Walker said.  “It’s just terribly sad that someone’s lost there business.”  Right next door, the Community Florist is a budding operation with plenty of upside.  Two years ago, Walker was on the wrong side of light rail construction.  “And that pretty much destroyed every bit of walk-in business we had,” she said.   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]