On a quick walk around Downtown Phoenix, new construction and historic renovations dot the landscape in every direction. Within just a few blocks of Lola Coffee on Roosevelt and 3rd Ave, new structures are quickly changing the makeup of a handful of streets. But what’s less noticeable is that many of the most exciting new projects coming to this side of downtown Phoenix are being ushered in by one development firm that is placing an all-in bet on livelihood of downtown.
The firm is Metrowest Development, and the bet is that more people want to live, work, and relax in the heart of downtown Phoenix.
Recently, the story on everyone’s mind was the Union @ Roosevelt: a mixture of retail and housing that will surely deserve the coveted 1st Avenue and Roosevelt intersection more than the dirt that currently lies. After breaking ground with Mayor Greg Stanton just a few weeks ago, the team of Doug Gannett and Matt Seaman are preparing to turn renderings and plans into glass and concrete.
But the Union doesn’t tell the whole story of Metrowest’s involvement in downtown. Indeed, the firm’s work can be seen in finished and under construction projects throughout the Roosevelt neighborhood, beginning with the Cathedral Townhomes on 2nd Avenue south of Roosevelt.
After being abandoned for eight years and becoming just one more empty structure in downtown, Metrowest converted the historic building into four modern condos, which quickly sold out. Further south on the same street, two of the more recent projects are weeks away from being finalized.
As many downtown dwellers know, walking past abandoned historic homes surrounded by chain link fence is nothing new. But last year, the City of Phoenix decided to address two of those neighboring properties on 2nd Avenue, and issued a call for development proposals. The partners at Metrowest submitted their ideas to convert them back into functioning homes, and were selected to complete the work.
Two of the oldest buildings in the Roosevelt neighborhood, which the City of Phoenix condemned in the late 80s, are now unrecognizable as fully restored, completely livable homes.
“We want to get more people down here, so we converted them back to single family residences,” said Matt Seaman, downtown phoenix resident and Principal and Development Partner at Metrowest.
“We made an agreement with the city that we would not sell to investors. We would only sell to people who wanted to live here permanently as their primary residence.”
The houses were originally build in 1909, and due to decay had to be completely gutted and rebuilt, but the team kept the historic character in mind while adding modern touches, like leaving brick walls exposed in the living room.
While this project is smaller in scale than the Union, it reflects the team’s desire to invest in downtown in a multitude of ways.
“We’re not afraid to do a couple single family houses … or an 80 unit apartment building,” Seaman said.
While the Union @ Roosevelt may be a ways off from being complete, their Townhomes on 3rd project is set to be complete by this summer, and will feature newly built townhomes complete with office/gallery space on the bottom floors, two-car garages, and two bedrooms each. Not surprisingly, the complex is completely sold out.
“I meet with every buyer. We’re really particular … we don’t want to just sell to a bunch of investors. Our goal is for this neighborhood to evolve,” Seaman said.
And with people, come the questions of livability in a city center with growing public markets but no grocery store within a walkable distance. But as Matt puts it, before a grocery store comes to downtown, people need to get here first.
“This is going to be a good year for Roosevelt and downtown. You’re talking about adding another 1,500 bodies down here [through planned residential developments] that will frequent the restaurants, support the small businesses, and will just continue to build that critical mass that you need to build a grocery store.”
While the partners at Metrowest find themselves knee-deep in projects at the moment, they continue to add developments to their future plans, and have announced another exciting addition they’re bringing to the downtown landscape.
Beginning next year, they team will start work on McKinley Row, a new residential development of townhomes on the corner of 4th Avenue and McKinley Street. This project, along with the mixed retail and living space at the Union @ Roosevelt, makes the strong case that not only do people want to visit downtown, they’re ready to invest in a life here. And it’s not just prospective homebuyers who are taking notice.
Mayor Greg Stanton at the groundbreaking for the Union @ Roosevelt described the challenge to take an awkward piece of land and turn it into a destination project, noting that it proves that interest in downtown is truly accelerating.
“This shows that downtown has really arrived. The arc of the city is where developers are willing to put in the time, effort, and creativity to get a project like this done,” Mayor Stanton said.
The buy-in from the city makes all the different for Metrowest, Matt said, and allows the partners to make a personal wish for the growth of the city into a concrete reality.
“I live in the neighborhood, and I’ve participated with this neighborhood for a long time. It’s been a very progressive neighborhood that wants to see more urban development.”
Project images courtesy of Metrowest Development.
An ephemeral Art Detour pop-up space reveals long-covered DeGrazia murals and showcases plans for a new Lauren Lee mural.
Iconic Arizona artist Ted DeGrazia is most widely remembered for his commercially popular paintings of large-eyed children, faceless angels, and Southwestern-themed imagery. But two murals he left behind in downtown Phoenix—hidden under protective sheetrock for years—reveal a glimpse of DeGrazia’s other subjects, and his unique mark on the community.
“A lot of times, DeGrazia would go into a place and someone would say to him, ‘Oh, here’s a sandwich and a pitcher of beer,’ you know, ‘Would you paint me a picture?’ and he’d do it for lunch,” says DeGrazia Foundation Executive Director Lance Laber. “Now, this is a pretty extensive mural, so I know he didn’t do it for lunch,” he continues with a laugh. “This mural is 12 feet tall and it’s 40 feet long.”
Laber is describing a mural covering a large expanse of interior wall at 222 E. Roosevelt in the former greenHAUS Gallery. “The establishment was a bar,” he says, and explains that the murals were most likely painted around 60 years ago. “….They go along with the way DeGrazia’s style was in the ‘50s.”
On the Roosevelt walls, a smaller mural shows a dancer twirling in a glass, while the huge 40-foot work depicts scenes of alcohol production, from loincloth-clad figures gathered around a cauldron to a hillbilly moonshine still. “Everybody’s making some kind of booze,” says Laber. “That seems to be the theme of the mural.” Both pieces feature opaque greenish-turquoise backgrounds, and while the dancer is painted on drywall attached to wood studs, the alcohol scenes were applied directly to a very thin layer of plaster adhering to a double- brick wall.
For years, the artwork was covered and protected by sheetrock and Laber learned about the murals when building owner Baron Properties contacted the DeGrazia Foundation back in September 2014. “I had never seen anything by DeGrazia that looked like that—truly amazing,” says Laber. “The murals are kind of old…they’re a little faded from time, but they’re very interesting.”
“We learned of the two pieces as we were conducting our due diligence to buy the property,” says Baron partner Scott Fisher. “We called Lance [Laber] to understand what the murals were and what they stood for and their importance.” He continues, “We wanted to do the right thing and…donate the paintings, so that’s why we called the DeGrazia Foundation.” Baron has owned property in the Valley since 2004 and intends to build a new building on the Roosevelt site, but the company has worked out a rare opportunity with Artlink in which the DeGrazia murals will be open to the public during March First Friday and Art Detour 27 from March 6-8. “We don’t just share a desire to preserve the DeGrazia artwork,” says Fisher. “We want to do what we can to actually enhance and expand a great arts neighborhood with additional efforts too.”
Laber has been working with Baron and an art conservator to determine how the murals can be preserved, and believes the smaller mural can be saved. “That’s on a piece of sheetrock that we believe can be removed from the wall,” he says. The larger mural is a different story. No one has yet devised a method to protect such an expansive piece against the torque exerted on a thin layer of aging stucco. “If you start trying to peel it off or get behind it and get it off, you’re probably just going to break it into a thousand pieces,” says Laber.
“In either case, we plan on having a professional photographer take very high-definition photographs and donate those to the Foundation and whoever else is interested,” says Fisher. “We understand that the Roosevelt Arts District is very important, and so our new projects on Roosevelt…we plan on displaying and highlighting local art from local artists. Our plan is to have more artwork, not less.”
And the beautiful Lauren Lee mural “Three Birds” on the building’s outside east-facing wall? Lee recognized that it was going to be difficult to save the piece, so she approached Baron Properties about the possibility of producing a new piece for the new building.
Fisher said, “When Lauren Lee approached us with her idea, the answer was a resounding yes. That’s because our goal is to create a combination of the preserved art along with the newer works and contribute to a great success story in the heart of Phoenix.”
Lee said, “I’ll be painting three massive birds in flight on the five-story-high new building that will be called ‘iLuminate.’ Given their name, the developer suggested that we illuminate the birds from below so that they can be seen from far away, which I think will be spectacular.”
Lee added, “The new concept design will be displayed at Art Detour this weekend in a pop-up art gallery hosted by Artlink in the greenHAUS building. I’ll be there answering questions with the new painting and design rendering of the ‘Three Birds in Flight,’ as well as offering prints of the ‘Three Birds’ mural for sale. It’s difficult to convey my happiness about this, but I am truly happy that the ‘Three Birds’ get to live on in a new way, in a new stage of their evolution.”
Take advantage of this final opportunity to see the DeGrazia murals and Lauren Lee’s “Three Birds” at Art Detour this weekend.
If You Go:
What: Artlink Pop Up Gallery – Art Detour 27
Where: 222. E. Roosevelt St.
When: Saturday and Sunday, March 7 & 8, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Update: Recently released, DeGrazia: The Man and the Myths is a new biography of DeGrazia by James W. Johnson and Marilyn D. Johnson from The University of Arizona Press. Both authors join DeGrazia Foundation Executive Director Lance Laber at the Tucson Festival of Books on Sunday, March 15 in the Student Union’s Kachina room on the U of A campus for a panel discussion from 1 p.m.-2 p.m., followed by a book-signing.
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Mayor Stanton, City Leaders Break Ground at Pivotal Phoenix Development
Mayor Greg Stanton and members of the Phoenix City Council joined the Sustainable Communities Collaborative on March 4 to break ground on a pioneering, mixed-use development project located on a vacant lot at the gateway into downtown and the Roosevelt neighborhood.
Metrowest Development is set to break ground on the “Union @ Roosevelt” – a mixed use residential and retail development — strategically placed on the light rail line, in what has become one of the more walkable and bikeable areas of downtown Phoenix. The development attributes a large part of its progress to a redevelopment loan provided by the Sustainable Communities Collaborative’s (SCC) $20 million Fund and the public and community support the Collaborative shepherded throughout every stage of the project over the last several years. The SCC is a Collaborative that consists of 35+ public, private, non-profit, and foundation partners. Its core mission is to work with all partners to implement equitable transit oriented development within the Valley’s 20-mile light rail corridor.
“The culture change in the Valley’s development and real estate industry toward more inclusive community development is making Arizona more globally competitive while supporting a more diverse economic foundation,” says SCC Co-Founder and Director Shannon Scutari. “The Collaborative catalyzes and influences this transformation by closely working with city officials, developers, community organizations and neighborhoods along the entire light rail line, to create interesting, inclusive, mixed- income communities. These communities attract and retain talented workers, meeting their housing, transportation and healthy community needs and responds to corporations looking to locate or expand within world-class cities which can offer unique and interesting experiences.”
Mayor Stanton, Councilman Michael Nowakowski and Councilwoman Kate Gallego spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony along with Metrowest Development partners, Matt Seaman and Doug Gannett. Both partners were on hand to highlight unique aspects of the project and innovative plans.
Renderings for Union @ Roosevelt courtesy of Metrowest Development, LLC.
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Antique Sugar Vintage Relocating to Roosevelt District
Antique Sugar Vintage Clothing, five year staple of the Melrose district, will be relocating to the Roosevelt district at the beginning of April.
A target opening date of April 3rd (first friday) has been set for the new shop located at 801 N. 2nd St, pending completion of construction. At nearly 2000 square feet, the new space will be able house the boutique’s extensive collection of men’s and women’s clothing that spans the 20th century. The vintage clothier will be sharing the building, formerly offices built in the 1950’s, with a Bar/Arcade and an architectural firm.
Co-owner, Sarah Bingham, says “The move will be bittersweet for us. We’re going to miss our partners in crime at Zinnias so much, but we’re super excited for this new chapter and to be a part of all the amazing things that are happening downtown.” Similarly, Annamarie Sanchez, co-owner, states “I’m sad to be leaving Melrose, but I feel like it’s the right decision with the way downtown is growing. I’m looking forward to the exciting new environment.”
Antique Sugar will be open in it’s original location, inside Zinnias at Melrose Antique Mall, through the final weekend in March. The owners plan to maintain a booth of their signature vintage clothing and accessories at Zinnias for the foreseeable future.
Images courtesy of Antique Sugar.
The annual Art d’Core Gala is the official kickoff party for Art Detour 27, and it’s happening this Saturday evening at Crescent Ballroom. It’s a “don’t miss” event with art, music, food and drinks, along with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s annual address on the progress of downtown.
Art d’Core is all about artistry and imagination, so the dress code encourages “creative, formal attire.” If you’re wondering what to wear, just remember there is no better way to celebrate the downtown arts scene than with downtown fashion!
There are plenty of stylish spots around town to find the perfect ensemble, but here are just a few of our favorite places to get glammed up for a night of art, music, dancing and celebrating the downtown community.
This Uptown district shop is known for their exquisite selection of clothing, accessories, gifts and home goods with vintage flair and plenty of nods to local artists and crafters. Guys and gals can find stylish, but classic, pieces perfect for day or night.
What should I wear? We fell in love with everything from flirty A-line dresses and skirts in spring florals to little black dresses with just the right amount of sparkle, but we couldn’t get over this black and white polka dotted trench by Kling. It’s perfect for making a bold entrance!
The home of OUMA, designer Monique Sandoval’s handmade line of dreamy wedding gowns and special occasion dresses, along with other great pieces from local designers. Nestled in the Melrose District, this shop/studio emanates beauty and warmth at every turn.
What Should I Wear? Nearly every beautifully handcrafted piece in the shop had us swooning: flirty frocks made with tulle, sequin miniskirts, hand-dyed ombre dresses and more. But for this event, our pick is this black and white-striped form-fitting dress with a leather waistband. Not only is it gorgeous, but the bit of stretch in the fabric makes it perfect for dancing the night away.
This downtown boutique does “timeless meets modern” like nobody else. Their collection of everything from loungewear to party dresses and anything in between fits the vibe of downtown perfectly and keeps us locals looking good.
What Should I Wear? Bunky has a great collection of elegant, yet cozy pieces like their black maxi and kimono sleeve dresses or a little black peplum dress with leather detailing. We loved their reconstructed vintage dresses, too, but to bring home the creative and formal theme, we chose this handmade silver tube top and skirt set by designer KT Jean. Either one could be paired with a simple top or bottom, or pair them together for maximum flash.
A stellar choice for vintage apparel in Phoenix is Antique Sugar, currently located in Melrose, but soon heading south to Roosevelt. Whether you’re dressing for a decades party or for everyday, their well-curated collection of pristine vintage clothes and accessories has you covered.
What Should I Wear? When it comes to party attire, this shop has an endless selection. We could have spent all day combing through floor-length boho frocks, sequined disco minis and mod shift dresses. Any of these would be great for Art d’Core, but we couldn’t resist the fun, Betty Draper-vibes of this 1950’s champagne brocade party dress.
Featured image from Bunky Boutique.