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From restaurants to residential development, more than $8.2 billion in private and public capital investment has been built near the initial 20-miles of light rail that extends from Phoenix and Tempe into Mesa. Another $346 million in commercial and residential building is being planned, most of that from private developers.
“Big things are happening in Phoenix because of light rail, and big things are going to continue to happen,” said Mayor Greg Stanton. “Light rail has been transformative for our downtown and our economy. With it we’ve linked jobs, education, arts and culture in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.”
Phoenix and Tempe mayors made announcements on Tuesday at Phoenix’s DeSoto Central Market, an adaptive re-use bar, market and food court that intentionally chose their site due to proximity near the Roosevelt/Central Avenue light rail station.
“Investment in transit does more than improve neighborhoods; it improves lives,” said Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell. “More than $3.4 billion has been invested in Tempe around light rail since construction began in 2005. Everyone benefits from public transportation.”
Economic Development along 20-Mile Light Rail
Number of Projects: 204
Capital Investment – Private: $ 5,989,639,864.00
Capital Investment – Public: $ 2,241,737,632.00
Total Investment: $ 8,231,377,496.00
SF Commercial/Office: 10,327,168
SF Public: 938,737
SF Education: 4,698,902
SF Residential: 5,666,863
# Residential Units: 15,328
# Affordable Units: 1,300
# Hotel Rooms: 2,948
Economic development within one-half mile of the system has been stimulated by ridership that has exceeded original projections. Valley Metro began compiling development activity since construction started in 2005 as part of an economic development database. The original $7 billion investment had included projects that were proposed. The updated $8.2 billion includes projects completed or under construction. With the 3.1-mile Central Mesa Extension set to open in less than four weeks, there is an added $90 million in private and public development that occurred since construction began in June 2012.
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Uptown Farmers Market partners with Local Restaurants and C-CAP for Summer Chef Series. Series strives to inspire and educate home cooks using seasonal Arizona products.
Uptown Farmers Market has joined forces with local restaurants, chefs and C-CAP to host its Summer Chef Series at the market each Saturday through the summer 2015. Each week, the Summer Chef Series will feature a different chef from throughout the valley using seasonal Arizona products to inspire and educate home cooks. We have two goals for this Series. The first goal is to help customers learn how to transform seasonal items into simple, delicious summer recipes; over and over we see this is best accomplished through a personal demonstration at market. The second goal is to help our customers learn which restaurateurs are actively engaged in sourcing locally and show that we, as a market, support these restaurants.
“The idea of a summer chef series came from a conversation I had with Chef Justin Beckett,” says Bo Mostow, Uptown Farmers Market Manager. “He wanted to get involved and I wanted to implement an educational market component. We see so many folks who don’t know the name of certain vegetables, let alone how to prepare them. So, together we worked out the details.” Mostow continues, “What started as a small, fun project quickly grew as we threw this idea out to the neighborhood, local businesses and chefs.”
While the Summer Chef Series is still in development, the current chef line up includes Chef Jimmy Ducas and Chef Joe Hobsen of Lon’s at the Hermosa, Chef Rebecca Tillman of The Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak, Chef Justin Beckett of Beckett’s Table and Southern Rail, Chef Wade Simpson of Bistro on Wheels, Chef Matt Fenton of Tarbell’s and Chef Bernie Kantak of The Gladly and Citizen Public House, with additional chefs in talks for August.
C-CAP has created an internship for this series, and will have students on site assisting the Chefs with demonstration and sampling. In addition to the weekly demonstrations from local chefs, the Summer Chef Series will feature a raffle for four $50 gift certificates to the featured restaurant of the day. All products & recipes used in the chef-driven demonstrations will be locally produced and highlighted on recipe cards.
“Initiatives such as the Summer Chef Series provide us a forum to highlight exactly what farm to table food means, “says Chef Joe Hobsen of Lon’s at the Hermosa, “while at the same time educating the community and practicing Michael Pollan’s concept to ‘shake the hand that feeds you’.”
On October 26, 2014, Christine Mackay started as the Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Phoenix. It’s a big job overseeing several large divisions. She served in the same role for the City of Chandler for six years, but a city the size and complexity of Phoenix is a whole new challenge. We sat down with her to discuss her first ten months on the job and to learn what’s next.
DPJ: How do you see your role within the City of Phoenix?
CM: My role is to recruit companies and recruit the workforce that attracts those companies. My job is to help create the quality real estate that they want, a workforce that they want, an educational system that they want, and then they can’t say no.
For me, first it’s been about cataloging all of the assets that exist and really understanding those assets. I grew up here, I’ve been here my whole life, but I only came into Phoenix to go to GPEC meetings or a basketball game and then I went back to my suburb. No joke.
Two weeks before I got the call from Paul Blue asking me to coffee, my city council in Chandler was interested in looking at adaptive reuse on some of the old buildings in Chandler. Phoenix had done such a brilliant job with their adaptive reuse that we took a bus tour to see what had been done. I got to see Angels Trumpet, the Vig, Cibo, the Duce, and Luci’s Market. I got to see all this stuff and I went, ‘I’ve lived here my whole life, how did I not know this was here?’
Now, all I can think about is Phoenix. It’s a dynamic, exciting, cool market, and it just needed help telling its story. So many people are beginning to understand and tell the story: brokers, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, etc. and doing a remarkable job. It’s become much more than just a local story, it’s getting national play and national attention.
DPJ: What is your approach and what steps have you taken so far?
CM: My approach is to ‘take no prisoners.’ This is a big, bold, vibrant city and it needs to take big, bold, vibrant steps. This is the sixth largest city in the country and it wasn’t competing as the sixth largest city in the country. So, in the beginning it was about getting a marketing plan done, getting our website done, and getting our strategy set.
This isn’t a ‘fire, ready, aim’ situation, this is very strategic. We got our website done so that it was more attractive to site selectors, corporate real estate executives, thought leaders, and decision makers. We also made it very attractive to that knowledge workforce that wants to find a new place to live.
DPJ: Tell us a little more about that knowledge workforce and what’s attracting these people to Phoenix.
CM: I represent all 517 square miles of Phoenix, but the central city is our unique environment, it is the heart of metropolitan Phoenix. When you look at the way things are going, where a workforce wants to live, where a workforce wants to be, where they want to evolve – it’s in an urban environment. The days of a large house with a pool and a backyard in a suburban market are few and numbered. People want to connect in lifestyle. They’re tired of spending their weekends taking care of their yard and their house. The central city offers an incredibly vibrant lifestyle that the suburbs can’t duplicate.
DPJ: How do you see the connection between Downtown and other parts of the central city, for example, Midtown?
CM: Let’s look at Midtown. When I started, the commercial vacancy rate in Midtown was 38% and now it’s 23%. It’s a nine million square foot market, so that means we’ve brought in 1.3 million square feet of tenants in just 10 months. By the end of the year we will be into the teens.
Midtown has been a kind of ‘red-headed stepchild’ of the central city. Downtown has sports, the central government, CityScape, the Orpheum, etc., but no one had really cataloged the assets in Midtown. It’s just as unique as Downtown, and just as cool as Downtown. Where Downtown is hip, vibrant, cutting edge, thought-leading, sports-minded and fun, Midtown is just a little bit more sophisticated. It’s arts, culture – the Heard Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Opera. The two areas complement each other incredibly well.
DPJ: What are the city’s plans for Midtown this next year?
CM: We have money in the city’s CIP (Capital Improvement Program) budget for 2015-16 for Midtown to really engage and connect with Central Avenue, and with the 3rd Street Promenade. Currently the buildings along Central, which were mainly built in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, turn their back on Central, but that’s not the way buildings succeed today.
The city is looking for ways to make those connections, including public sidewalks that go right up to the entrances of the buildings; crosswalks in mid-blocks so people don’t have to go all the way down to the next light to cross to the other side; small landing places with shade; and comfortable seating spaces. For the 3rd Street Promenade, which is anchored by Steele Indian School Park on the north, we’re focused on creating shade and trees and making it both walkable and bikeable.
DPJ: What about the northern end of Midtown and into Uptown. How would you describe what is happening there? Where do you see the boundaries?
CM: Any developer would say Midtown goes between the 7s from McDowell to Camelback. So to me, Midtown stops at Camelback and then Uptown starts on the north side of Camelback. When you go into Uptown, you go into a much more suburban market that includes single story houses, and ranch houses with big lots and mature trees.
But look at the area around the Camelback and Central intersection, with all the activity that’s going on there today, like Vintage Properties (Uptown Plaza), the Newton, the BMO building. There’s just so much.
The city owns a little strip of land in that area near the light rail station, on the western side of the empty triangle parcel at the southwest corner of Camelback and Central. We’re going to put out an RFP to dispose of it. Starting in July and August we’re going to hold neighborhood meetings in that area to let everyone know what will be happening on that site.
In addition, the developer who owns the southwest corner is looking at some new development plans for there. The neighborhood had some opposition to what he’d wanted to do before, so he’s really scaled it back to make it more palatable, but the neighborhood will need to have their input, so we’ll see what they say.
DPJ: We’ve heard that there is a comprehensive parking concept being developed. Can you tell us about this?
CM: When I got here the thing I kept hearing from the brokers and the building owners was that they couldn’t bring companies down here because they couldn’t park them. These buildings used to have 300-500 square feet per person and park at two to three per thousand. But, today, even the financial institutions only have 170 square feet per person in their new model and you’ve got to be able to get five to seven per thousand in your parking to make it work. And, until the central city is the favored darling of urban development, we’re still competing with places like Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Austin, Denver, and Salt Lake City. Places where they can surface park for free.
We have a lot of vacant space – 2.6 million square fee. of vacant space between Midtown and Downtown. And we don’t want to just fill the buildings, we want to bring the right companies with the right work force. To attract these companies we need temporary solutions until public transportation becomes more common place. We’re getting closer and closer to that, but in the interim we have to provide places for these people to park within four minutes of their building or the companies won’t look at you.
We decided to catalog all of the parking in Downtown and Midtown: everything from Buckeye to Camelback and between the 7s. Now, when a building owner calls and says ‘I can do this lease but I need 200 parking spaces for five years,’ I can say ‘here’s six places within a four minute walk where you can buy parking and here’s who you can call.’ And they do.
We’ve now done six transactions where we’ve helped people find parking. We’re going to the city council in September to ask permission to post private transaction information on a public website. Then we will be able to post all of the contacts for all of the buildings, along with rings around the buildings to show a four minute walking distance, and information on who to contact to lease parking in those areas.
Over time we won’t need as much parking, because people will get so used to mass transit that it will do what it is intended to do. But, we’re not there yet because we don’t have all the mass transit connections. As time goes on and we finish making those connections, everyone, or at least a great proportion of people, will move around by mass transit.
DPJ: Are you taking a similar approach to parking in the Roosevelt Row/Evans Churchill area?
CM: In Roosevelt Row for certain….I’m working with Councilman Nowakowski to identify some city-owned sites where we can get some parking up for the next three-to-five-year term while we figure out a structure and what needs to go there. Businesses will die if we don’t get them some parking by end of summer; it’s a ‘now’ priority.
DPJ: What are the main challenges/opportunities you see coming next?
CM: More parking is the challenge that we need to overcome first. It will be a game-changer. Then, I believe what you’ll see next is downtown pushing to the south. When you look at the Warehouse District…that’s the next cool, hip place. The development of the Warehouse District is going to be amazing. Absolutely amazing.
DPJ: Any final thoughts about your first ten months on the job?
CM: I am so excited. There’s so much opportunity. The city has done an amazing job since 2007-2008 in driving downtown development, but the vibrancy of downtown really changed with the Super Bowl. Our own citizens in metro Phoenix got on light rail to come downtown for the Super Bowl events and figured out how cool that part of town is.
So, that’s what we’ve been doing for the last 10 months: setting the stage for what we want to accomplish and putting the tools in our tool belt to say ‘now we’re ready, let’s go!’
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.