In 2011, funding became available from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for cities to do smart growth planning. Phoenix had forward thinking civic leadership, staff, and community partners poised and ready to collaborate and seized the opportunity with a proposal for a bold, transformative program called Reinvent Phoenix. Curt Upton (pictured right) of the City of Phoenix Planning and Development Department was a key leader in the design and creation of this long-term collaborative project with two main goals: create an attractive investment environment in transit-oriented development (TOD) districts along the light rail, and maximize the community benefits from these investments.
Upton points out, “These were very competitive grants. Hundreds of cities applied and only 8% were selected.” Not only that, he adds, “Phoenix was awarded $2.9M, the 4th largest grant in the country.”
At the time of the grant application (2011), Upton contends that Phoenix was still hurting from the recession and “there was a strong feeling that we needed to try something different, to have a time out and think about how to develop our city differently. We’d just invested in a huge light rail project, and we needed to make the most of it.”
Thus was born Reinvent Phoenix. The Planning Department was the lead applicant, but “it was very much a collaborative process,” said Upton. “We needed about eight other city departments to participate in the process – streets, parks, art & culture, public works, etc….and we also had to reach out to community partners.”
They began by asking a bold question, “Can we create and implement a vision that can demonstrate a better Phoenix?….As the light rail expands, through this vision can we create a new model for how we develop our city that includes best practices, walkability, and equity – where everyone benefits?” The vision was “not just a place where wealthy people go, not just a café scene or art scene, but daycare facilities, decent housing and healthcare for the people who work in the cafes and neighborhood businesses.”
“HUD awarded us the grant because of both the ideas in the plan and the partners that were brought into process,” said Upton, who emphasizes that these partnerships are significant not just for the purposes of the grant, but in order to have a long-term impact on the city. “That was the hope,” said Upton, “to bring partners into almost a movement, using civic leadership to create coalition.” From Upton’s perspective, “building these partnerships upfront means that everyone has ownership in the outcome. Everyone is invested in the vision and the road map that creates investment and equity for the long term.”
This collaborative model helps dispel what Upton calls “every planner’s fear….that we’ll spend hours, months, energy and dedication to create a plan that just collects dust on a shelf. No one wants that.”
Reinvent is a transformational program – so it needs to have legs over decades. In order to do that it required upfront civic leadership and community engagement instead of top down planning. Upton says, “It’s much harder to do, but if you put the upfront work in, it pays dividends going forward. It’s important to build broad community ownership, so that many people support the plan over time.”
What are Curt Upton’s thoughts about the long-term impact on the City from the Reinvent Phoenix program? He says, “I hope that it helps position Phoenix to benefit over the next couple of decades. There’s a unique historic occurrence in cities going on right now. Two large demographic groups – millennials and baby boomers are converging on the real estate market and they both want the same things – walkable neighborhoods with amenities close by.”
Regarding baby boomers, Upton notes that “A whole generation will be over 65 in the next two decades. Increasingly they will be looking to get out of the suburbs and find ways to live that aren’t as costly and are easier to navigate if you don’t want to or can’tdrive.”
He adds, “At the same time you have the millennials coming in with a different set of preferences than the previous generation. And it’s not just going to be a fad. This younger generation is looking for a different product than in the past.”
Upton just returned from a conference in Seattle where he heard the phenomenon described by a real estate fund manager described as “planes in the air, looking to land.”
He explains, “Investors want to invest, but they are looking for good places to land. Cities can position themselves for investment by creating the right conditions for investors to land.” He adds, “Reinvent helps Phoenix take advantage of this historical opportunity to make our city better.”
Upton is a Phoenix native and has spent the last nine years with the City Planning and Development Department. Wednesday, April 29, was his last day, however, as he has been lured to a new job in planning in Denver.
“Denver is similar to Phoenix, but a little ahead of us. It’s an opportunity. I’m a Phoenix native and have lived here my whole life, but I respect the work they are doing in Denver and it is a chance to learn stuff.”
“Nine years ago I took the job with the city for the opportunity to do important work.” In reflecting back, he is grateful for the entrepreneurial, hands off management in the department that empowered him and his staff to do just that.
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Local Developers Team Up to Renovate 1950’s Era Building into “The Colony,” a Vibrant Restaurant & Retail Destination in the Emerging 7th Street Corridor in Central Phoenix
Western Vertical Holdings, a company formed by Bob Agahi and David Sellers, has begun construction on Phase 1 of The Colony, an adaptive re-use project located on 7th Street just north of Missouri Avenue in Phoenix. The Herb Box, innovative world cuisine with locations in Old Town Scottsdale and North Scottsdale; Stock & Stable, an American gastropub by the creators of Clever Koi in Midtown Phoenix; and Pure, a sushi restaurant based in Scottsdale; have already committed to the project and expect to open restaurants at The Colony in November. Additional local concepts are in negotiations to lease space in the 1st phase.
The Colony will be a 22,467-square-foot infill redevelopment built in two phases. The project is located in what is becoming an emerging local restaurant district in Central Phoenix. The first phase of the project is a renovation of a building originally built in the 1950’s, which has stood mostly vacant in recent years. Terry Brodkin of Scottsdale was the owner of that building and is a partner in the first phase of The Colony with Agahi and Sellers. Phase 2 will be a newly built ground up 8,122 square foot building on the north side of the development, which will begin construction this summer and is expected to be open 2nd quarter of 2016.
“The Colony is an example of a market shift of local restaurateurs and retailers wanting to locate in infill areas,” said Dave Sellers, who is also president of LGE Design Build in Phoenix. “Densely populated areas are now more desirable for restaurants and retail businesses than strip centers.” LGE will serve as the general contractor for both phases of the Colony.
The Colony will be just south of The Yard, Sam Fox’s popular multi-restaurant destination which was formerly a motorcycle garage and dealership. The area between Central Avenue and 7th Street, north of Camelback Road and south of Glendale Avenue, is emerging as a destination for dining with The Yard, St. Francis, Postino, Joyride, Federal Pizza, Windsor and Churn locating in the area.
“Our goal is to bring the Best of Local to The Colony. We’ve had numerous overtures from national tenants and we have respectfully declined them every time,” said Bob Agahi. “The passion, creativity and experience you get from a local operator is unparalleled to a national chain.” Agahi is also a partner in Scottsdale-based Triyar Companies.
Stock & Stable is an example of the Best of Local.
“Stock & Stable draws inspiration for design and culture from the nearby historic Murphy Bridle Pass,” said Jared Porter, a chef/owner of Stock & Stable. “Stock & Stable delivers an energetic, comfortable and dynamic mix of food, drink and atmosphere that appeals to all walks of life in a diverse neighborhood setting.”
Michael Rumpeltin, founder of Phoenix-based Brick & West Design, is the project designer. Rumpeltin has designed some of the most high-profile restaurant concepts in the Valley including Culinary Dropout and Little Cleo’s at The Yard Phoenix, Old School 07, Joyride Phoenix, Dakota, Comoncy, Taco Guild and Postino Tempe. “Passion for these food-focused projects is what drives me. They are highly social environments and because the restaurants are local, serve as incredible catalysts for community,” said Rumpeltin.
In April, Sellers and Agahi will develop another project in the immediate area also designed by Rumpeltin, a single tenant building at 7th Street, south of Montebello Avenue, located diagonally across the street from The Colony. A Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana will be the tenant. The existing Planned Parenthood facility will be razed for the new 5,800-square-foot restaurant. That project is slated to open in the 1st quarter of 2016.
Rendering of The Colony courtesy of LGE Desgin Group.
There are lots of conversations these days about how to preserve, enhance and contribute to an authentic sense of place in our urban core. And while not all projects are as successful as some would like, increasingly we’re seeing innovative, adaptive reuse renovations along the Central corridor.
These projects incorporate our unique history and provide vital new use opportunities for 21st century enterprises: education, research and development, and diverse businesses. Not every building will be preserved, but as we speak an interesting renovation/adaptive reuse project with glorious potential is taking shape in the vintage Uptown Plaza on the northeast corner of Camelback Rd. and Central Ave.
Uptown Plaza, with its modern brick, masonry and steel midcentury modern construction originally opened on August 25, 1955. It was constructed by Del Webb and was the first “suburban” retail shopping center outside of downtown Phoenix. From the beginning, the unique mix of midcentury design details, along with a variety of shopping and dining options made it a popular destination for Phoenicians. Uptown was home to everything from Jerand’s of Arizona fine fashions and Bostrom’s department store, to the national grocery chain, Piggly Wiggly (currently AJ’s Fine Foods).
Over the years the center has suffered from a series of stucco “improvements” and the once vibrant corner has experienced vacancies and under-use for a long time now. Local developer, Vintage Partners saw a unique opportunity to bring the center back to life. Vintage Partners Principal, Dave Scholl approached the center’s owners to sell them on the concept of a comprehensive revitalization that would restore much of the midcentury modern elements and re-attract a mix of local, regional and national tenants to create a jewel destination in uptown.
As Scholl puts it, “When you see someone like a Craig DeMarco invest in an area, you see the chance – the risks he took, how he’s been rewarded and how the neighborhood has appreciated that reinvestment. And I think a little more is a good idea.”
Designed by Nelsen Partners (Kierland Commons, Scottsdale Quarter), the renovation plans are still being finalized as Vintage Partners and builder Kitchell Contractors determine how much of the original red brick façade (including many interior walls) can be preserved. However, the end results will combine a restoration of the classic lines and low-slung shapes with verdant new landscaping and modern amenities, including rebuilding the original 15-foot shade overhangs with cantilevers to achieve a sleeker, less cluttered look.
In its current deconstructed state, many of the old painted signs for the earlier businesses have been uncovered and, in talking with Scholl, we wondered if those elements would be retained. Unfortunately, it appears that keeping those painted signs will be problematic, since they would conflict with the new tenant signage. Scholl and the contractors believe that these painted signs were actually under the original neon signs. If you look closely you can see dozens of holes in the brick around these signs where it appears that the neon was affixed. The goal according to Scholl however, is “to preserve as much of the original brick with the worn patina of time as possible.”
While many people are familiar with the work that Vintage Partners did renovating the corner of 7th Ave. and McDowell, Scholl points out why this project should have a happier outcome.
“Our vision is to peel all this stucco off and get back to the original brick. Unlike 7th Ave and McDowell, this center was built with baked brick. 7th ave and Mcdowell was built with sand brick – not baked. Sand brick is allowed to dry in the sun, which makes for very brittle bricks, which crumbled when we began to take the stucco off.” He adds, “and because it was built in the 30s, it didn’t have any steel to reinforce the brick. Uptown was built in the 50s and in just those twenty years building standards had changed. Uptown was built with baked brick and reinforced with steel.” So far, so good. As they peel off the layers of stucco, the underlying brick is still strong and viable, which means much more of the original character of the center will be maintained.
“The center has a great anchor with AJ’s,” said Scholl, “The next best anchors in retail are great destination restaurants. We’ll be picking out four to six great destination restaurants, and then filling in with soft goods, gift stores, etc.”
A really exciting change will be taking place in the far back corner of the plaza. In the original center, the back corner was actually connected, there was no courtyard. Over the years, changes were made, and the buildings were separated. Vintage is planning to open up this space even further, increasing the width of the walking area by putting in a big lawn in the middle with restaurants spilling out onto the space with outdoor dining patios. With the right tenants, it will be a great addition to this increasingly walkable, bikeable neighborhood.
In working on this project, which is close to his heart, Scholl says that he “feels like an archeologist.” He adds, “I’ve lived in Phoenix for 43 years, and I can remember when McCreary’s drugstore was on that corner (pointing to the current remains of Boston Market).”
Most of the work on the plaza will be completed by September 2015 and new tenants will be able to get in and begin building out their spaces soon after, so Scholl anticipates these businesses will begin opening in early 2016. Some of the current businesses will remain, including AJ’s. Vintage Partners will be working with them on renovating the exterior of the store, which will hopefully be followed by AJ’s themselves renovating the interior of their store.
And Vintage has just contracted with Modern Manor vintage furnishings owners, Kylie & Ryan Durkin, to help restore the authentic midcentury modern charm to this landmark center. “This project is a rare find to midcentury fan boys like us,” says Ryan Durkin. “We’re looking at incorporating some of our favorite designs from the 50’s into the center’s ecosystem.”
In our wild west, tear-down, build new, expand-out kind of city, we’re only now beginning to grapple with the challenges of preserving our unique places. Some success stories, like the recent renovation of the old Beefeaters into the Newton, the Upward Projects work on Windsor, Federal Pizza, Postino’s, and Joyride, are shining examples of thoughtful renovations that incorporate the past, while looking to the future. We’re hopeful that Vintage Partners’ renovation of Uptown Plaza will continue that momentum.
For 27 years, Artlink has worked with artists and galleries to present the annual two-day free celebration in downtown Phoenix known as Art Detour. Visitors from throughout Phoenix and the entire Valley will be welcomed into studios and spaces throughout downtown this weekend to see working artists in their natural habitat, buy their work, and enjoy the creative energy of our thriving arts community.
While much of the activity during Detour is concentrated in downtown and on Grand Ave., increasingly the borders of Detour are expanding, and interesting artists and spaces can be found beyond where the trolley route can currently cover. Never fear, however. Using a combination of Metro Light Rail (get a day pass!), bikes and shoe leather, these destinations are within easy reach, and we can help you “connect the dots” to get there. So, with pith helmets firmly snapped in place and our trusty map in hand, we offer a multi-modal guide for intrepid explorers to get the full Detour experience.
Using light rail stations and GRID bike hubs as our guideposts, here are some “beyond the trolley route” spaces you’ll want to incorporate into your weekend Art Detour adventure.
Located on the southwest corner of Camelback Road and Central Avenue, the light rail station is a great place to consider starting your “beyond the trolley” adventure. There is ample parking both at the station and in the Uptown Plaza parking lot on the northeast corner of the intersection.
First Stop – Practical Art, 5070 N. Central
Less than a block north of the light rail station on the west side of Camelback you’ll find Practical Art, a hybrid store/art gallery featuring functional artwork by more than 100 Arizona artists, along with monthly exhibitions of fine art. For Art Detour they will be featuring an exhibition of paintings by Lee Berger called “Indispensable Dispensables – Lessons to Still Be Learned.” In addition, on Saturday they will host some of the instructors from the Bergamot Institute, who run their summer kids classes.
Take the Light Rail to the Indian School and Central station (1 mile south of Camelback).
This is a good location to grab a GRID Bike, as there are a handful of great artist studios and galleries within blocks of this station. The GRID Bike lot can be found at the entrance to Steele Indian School Park. If you have a GRID bike membership you can reserve your bike for pick up, but if you don’t, there is still a chance that there will be bikes available at this stop. This weekend, however, is chock o’block with activities and at Steele Indian School Park, the Arizona Hemophilia Association will be hosting their 31st Annual My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge on March 7 and 8 from 10:00 a.m. You might want to stop by for a salsa snack before starting your Art Detour adventure.
So, chow down on some salsa, then grab your bike and head east on the south side of Indian School Rd. to:
Collective Gallery @ The Artery, 623 E. Indian School
The Artery features work by many different artists, including pastels, paintings, photography, woodcuts, jewelry and more.
Studio 6 @ The Artery, 625 E. Indian School
Upstairs in The Artery are six studio spaces where artists welcome visitors to see works-in-progress.
After your visit to both spaces at The Artery, it’s time to head west on Indian School and south on Third Ave. to The Clarendon Hotel & Spa, 402 W. Clarendon.
The Clarendon Hotel & Spa lines its public spaces with the work of local artists and presents an annual art “happening” in May called ARTELPHX, featuring local visual and performing artists. For Detour, the Clarendon will be featuring large scale paintings by local artist Bill Dambrova in the lobby. And just off the lobby, you’ll find The Bolles Gallery, A Historical Reflection Space which commemorates Don Bolles, an Arizona Republic journalist who was murdered in the parking lot of the hotel back in 1976. So, stop by and catch up on a little of the dark side of Phoenix history. And, if you’ve worked up a thirst or an appetite, before you leave for the next location, you can get a drink and nibbles at Cafe Tranquilo.
After you’ve scoped out everything the Clarendon has to offer, hop back on your bikes and head south and west to Willo North Gallery.
MAP CORRECTION – There is a slight error on the Art Detour map that we need to address here. While it’s shown as an orange dot with a 32 on it, it is actually the dot for Willo North Gallery (#30) on Gallery list. It’s in the correct place, but the number is incorrect.
Willo North Gallery, 2811 N. 7th Avenue
This popular gallery is off the beaten track, but well worth the effort. It’s only a short bike ride from the Clarendon. For Art Detour the gallery will be featuring a solo exhibition of paintings by Fred Tieken called “For the Birds.”
The Hive, 2222 N. 16th Street
The Hive is an eclectic art space that is part shop, part studios, and part gallery and it is well worth the ride. The midcentury modern Hive is in the historic Coronado neighborhood and hosts unique shows throughout the year. During Art Detour they will be featuring work by local artists Thomas Breeze Marcus and Dwayne Insano.
For the TRULY adventurous – there is one more out of the way stop we have to mention: Gary Beal’s artist studio at 2030 N. 17th Avenue, North of McDowell and West of 15th Avenue. It’s a little off the beaten path and he didn’t make it onto the Detour map, but he will be open and if you are a fan of glass/sculpture, you won’t want to miss Gary’s work.
On the final leg of this part of your Art Detour adventure, you can ride back towards Central Avenue and head south to leave your GRID bike at one of the GRID lots along Central, near the Heard Museum or the Phoenix Art Museum. During Detour weekend, the Heard Museum will be hosting the 56th Annual Indian Fair & Market, a ticketed event and the Phoenix Art Museum will be hosting Devoured, a popular, sold-out local food event.
Burton Barr Public Library, 1221 N. Central Ave – Art Detour Park and Ride Trolley Hub
Just one block south of the Phoenix Art Museum, at the Burton Barr Public Library, you’ll find an Artlink Trolley hub, where you can jump on a free trolley and hit all of the great venues along the route. Trolleys will circulate throughout the downtown all day on both days. Waits at each stop are about 15 minutes between trolleys. There will be volunteers and maps to help guide you the rest of the way.
Enjoy Art Detour this weekend, both on the trolley and beyond. Discover how the arts can help “connect the dots” to your unique downtown adventure.
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.