As an independent chronicler of all things downtown, DPJ takes a comprehensive approach to covering the urban living movement in Phoenix and, with this Conversation series, spotlighting the people who make it move.
“Ultimately it’s the people that have made the difference.”
Mike Ebert, a founding partner of RED, the development company responsible for building CityScape, has a heartfelt passion for downtown Phoenix. Originally from Nebraska, he moved to Arizona thirty years ago to attend ASU, where he majored in real estate and finance. For many years RED’s development activities were focused in suburban locations but, in the mid-2000’s, he and his partners at RED, which has property in 10 states west of the Mississippi, began noticing an overall trend toward downtown development, which inspired the desire to work on a development here in their home state. We sat down with Ebert at an outdoor table at CityScape on a beautiful spring day to get his perspective on the future of downtown Phoenix.
In addition to spotting an urban trend, Ebert’s appreciation for great cities was part of what inspired him to want to create CityScape. “New York City is the most inspiring place in the United States to visit from a walkability experience,” he said. “It is my favorite city to visit. Certainly there is San Francisco and several other great American cities,” he continued. “All of these cities always help inspire you.”
One trip to New York, in particular, helped galvanize his thinking about developing CityScape. “During the deepest part of the recession, when we were just starting construction here in 2009, I was walking by Rockefeller Plaza. I’m not one to stop and smell the roses, but I stopped and read a plaque there and learned that during the 1930s, Rockefeller had developed 6,000,000 square feet, which is a big portion of Manhattan.” The realization that Rockefeller had invested so much in the city during the depths of the Great Depression fueled his confidence in the CityScape project. “It reinforced that we were going through a tough time as a community, but there was a much brighter day ahead of us.”
“That’s what I’m most excited about, is being a part of and supporting the entrepreneur developer, the smaller projects that are going to make this downtown area truly special.“
What has made the biggest difference in the development of downtown? “Ultimately it’s the people that have made the difference,” he said. “For much of my career as a developer you just hoped people didn’t oppose you. This (the development of CityScape) was the first time in my life where people were rooting for us. That helped change a lot of my view of community, cooperation and the things that happen when people are working together.” As he puts it, “it was the first time people who didn’t have a direct interest were working for us.”
He is quick to appreciate what a great job the city has done to enable development in downtown, but firmly believes that the private sector has to finish the job. “Cities are very good at doing the big items: infrastructure, light rail, and the university, but the cities aren’t the ones that can finish it, that can make a neighborhood of downtown.”
The next phase, from his perspective, needs to be undertaken by entrepreneur developers. “That’s what I’m most excited about, is being a part of and supporting the entrepreneur developer, the smaller projects that are going to make this downtown area truly special.”
Ebert sits on the board of Downtown Phoenix Inc. and has been involved in its formation from the beginning. He believes that this new structure is critical to long-term outcomes for downtown. DPI will allow the definition of downtown to expand beyond the boundaries of the current Downtown Enhanced Municipal Services District (Downtown Phoenix Partnership) to include neighboring areas such as the Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood, the Evans Churchill neighborhood (home of Roosevelt Row) and others. This expanded definition of the geography of downtown will create a stronger, unified voice.
“I believe head to toe that the most talented people in the state live and work downtown in education, healthcare, law, sports, travel, and hotels. The hope with DPI is that we will give those talented people a clear picture of what they can be involved in downtown. If we ignite that group of talented people and connect them, they can move mountains.”
His experience with the outpouring of support for CityScape appears to have been the seed that planted his appreciation for the tremendous value of people working together. “We’re seeing for the very first time tremendous collaboration in a pro-community way.”
The biggest challenge going forward from his perspective is the vacant lots in downtown, most of which are owned by the city and the county. These vacant lots make it challenging to create true walkability, which is key to a vibrant downtown.
“I believe head to toe that the most talented people in the state live and work downtown in education, healthcare, law, sports, travel, and hotels…If we ignite that group of talented people and connect them, they can move mountains.”
“People like crowds, people like seeing other people,” said Ebert. “We’ve got virtually no serious crime down here to speak of, but you always have that perception of safety if you have vacant lots. My hope is that DPI can help encourage the development of the vacant lots, and encourage private investment, which will help with shade and walkability.”
Because they are such important landowners, according to Ebert, “the city and the county can have a big hand by just working with the community to put those properties they have into production.” For Ebert, encouraging this will be a big part of what DPI can do over the next several years to make a difference.
What is the most important quality that he brings to DPI? “I hope it’s passion,” he said. “We’ve got a great board. They were put together for all the right reasons. Being the only real estate developer, I have a passion for the development of downtown,” he said. “Not just our development, but development by others. We do need the private sector to step up and have a pro-downtown agenda.” He believes that DPI should have the strongest voice in the development of downtown.
With both the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl coming to town next February, Ebert believes we have a real opportunity to increase the number of people who will want to live, work and play in downtown. He points out that the NFL historically has not had events that they controlled or sponsored until the last three years in Indianapolis, then New Orleans, and last year in New York City. “The fact that it’s (Super Bowl Central) going to be in the core of downtown after those three experiences speaks volumes about where downtown is. It’s one of those affirmations of where we’re going.”
For Ebert, a key factor in the success of those events and the after-Super Bowl positive impact for the cities, particularly in Indianapolis, was their “great culture of volunteerism.” He believes that they really communicated a level of hospitality that was attractive to people. “People like to feel welcome,” he said. “There’s not more to do there than here in downtown Phoenix. They didn’t have any secret sauce that we don’t have.”
In conclusion, Ebert noted that membership in DPI will be very important going forward. “We have a passionate group,” he reiterated, “but it needs to be larger. We need to let people know, if you want to be involved in the community and serve, join the membership group. As it grows and members start collaborating, it will have a big impact.”
The City of Phoenix has taken a step forward on developing the Phoenix Central Station transit center site, a key downtown development area on Van Buren between 1st Ave and Central Ave. City staff recommended entering into negotiations with Smith Partners, LLC on their proposal for a mixed-use, high-rise apartment complex for the location.
Between October and December of last year, City staff met with various stakeholders, including the Citizens Transit Commission, Valley Metro, Downtown Phoenix Inc., Downtown Phoenix Partnership, Phoenix Elementary School District #1, Roosevelt Action Association, Evans Churchill Community Association and the Downtown Voices Coalition to develop the special requirements and evaluation criteria for the RFP for the site.
The RFP, which called for a “multi-modal, mixed-use, high-rise, transit-oriented development project,” was issued on December 24, 2013 with proposals due on February 24, 2014. By inviting development on this highly visible, strategic downtown site, the City is seeking to “further implement the strategic downtown vision, enhance the public transportation system, and maximize the return on the $4 billion in public and private capital that has been invested in downtown Phoenix over the past decade.”
“This is a prominent development site with tremendous opportunity, but it also presents some very complex challenges due to its physical location, transit facilities and operations, and legal and financial Federal Transit Administration requirements,” said Economic Development Program Manager Eric Johnson. “The City sought highly-qualified proposers, and was fortunate to receive two proposals considering the complexity, size and necessary resources needed to propose for such a project.”
The proposals were reviewed by a panel of 12 downtown stakeholders. After convening on March 4 and again on April 2, the panel proceeded to interview the two proposers on April 22 and determined their consensus scores, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal.
On May 2, Hank Marshall, the Acting Community and Economic Development Director and Maria Hyatt, the Acting Public Transit Direct signed off on a memo from Deputy Economic Development Director Scott Sumners requesting that they concur with the evaluation panel’s score and recommendation to move forward with the Smith Partners, LLC proposal.
A key element of the winning proposal was a Class A high-rise apartment building with 476 market rate studio, one and two bedroom apartments. Estimated monthly rents will range from $800 to $1600 per unit.
The building will include a 24-hour doorman, concierge services, laundry and dry cleaning services, a fitness center, a media/theater room, a resort-style swimming pool and spa, an outdoor fireplace and indoor secure parking.
The proposed high-rise will be built to serve urban professionals and individuals seeking a full-service, highly secure living environment. The ground floor of the building proposal includes office space and a service component for the transit operations, and 24-hour flexible co-work space for start-up businesses.
Gross Square Footage:
- 348,965 SF Residential
- 117,100 SF Common Area/Mechanical
- 8,000 SF Amentity/Leasing
- 4,850 SF Co-Working Offices
- 4500 SF Transit office
Number of Rental Units: 476 market rate rental units
Number of Parking Spaces: 526
Building Height: +/- 390 Feet, 34 Floors \
Number of Construction Jobs: 200
Number of Permanent Jobs: 15-20
Estimated Construction Cost: $72.3 million
Estimated Project Cost: $82 million
City staff will commence negotiations with Smith Partners in the coming weeks. Pending successful negotiations, staff will present recommended business terms for consideration by City Council subcommittees, the full City Council, and the Federal Transit Administration.
DPJ will report back on the progress of this important development in a key downtown location.
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ARIZONA SUPER BOWL HOST COMMITTEE SIGNS LEASE AT RENAISSANCE SQUARE
Hines, the international real estate firm, announced today that the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee has signed a 7,535-square-foot lease in Renaissance Square, a two-building, 965,000-square-foot Class A office complex located in the hub of downtown Phoenix.
Super Bowl XLIX is scheduled to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015, marking Arizona’s second Super Bowl in seven years.
Hines Managing Director Chris Anderson said, “We are honored that One Renaissance Square is the official headquarters building of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee. They are an outstanding addition to an already world-class tenant roster.”
“Renaissance Square is one of the premier office buildings in Phoenix, and we are thrilled to call it our new home for the next year. We look forward to hosting the world’s biggest single-day sporting event in 2015, all the surrounding activities, and the 2015 Pro Bowl,” said Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman David Rousseau.
One and Two Renaissance Square were designed by the architecture firm Emery, Roth & Sons, Inc., and were completed in 1987 and 1989 respectively. One Renaissance Square is 25-stories tall, and Two Renaissance Square contains 27 stories. The buildings are clad in red granite, connected by a pedestrian sky bridge, and boast numerous on-site amenities.
Renaissance Square is leased to large corporate tenants, such as Bryan Cave LLP, Ernst & Young and Quarles & Brady LLP, as well as many GSA tenants and prominentlocal businesses.
The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee was represented in lease negotiations by Brad Anderson of CBRE. Jerry Noble of Cushman & Wakefield represented Hines, the building’s owner and property manager.
Photo courtesy of Hines.
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EDISON MIDTOWN BRINGS MODERN URBAN LIVING TO PHOENIX’S CENTRAL CORRIDOR
$22M midrise building is first major downtown project slated for key neighborhood since 2008
Midtown Phoenix is getting a hip new neighbor. Scottsdale-based Deco Communities has closed on a key parcel of land that will be transformed into Edison Midtown, a new urban contemporary condominium in the heart of Phoenix’s urban core. Located at 2346 N. Central Ave. the address says it all, Edison is central to Midtown’s buzzing scene filled with food, arts, culture and history Demolition of the vacant office building on the site will occur in the summer 2014 and the $22M redevelopment is slated for a 2016 completion date. Developed exclusively by Deco Communities, Edison Midtown will be the first major residential development announced for the Central Corridor since 2008.
“The Edison Midtown project taps into the soul of the city, utilizing the unique identity of the neighborhood to create an authentically local living space that caters to the tech-savvy, community-oriented Gen Y consumer that lives and breathes the urban lifestyle,” said Rob Lyles, partner for Deco Communities. “Our outstanding team of architects and designers has worked diligently to curate a thoughtful living experience that is true to the virtues of Phoenix’s downtown dwellers,” he said. “ Downtown Phoenix is experiencing a surge in housing demand spurred by the recent $4.5 billion investment by the public and private structure in infrastructure, transportation, education and tourism. Deco is excited to have the chance to provide housing that both starts to address this demand and does so with a design that is true to the modern Phoenix aesthetic.”
Fueled by imagination and innovation, the Edison Midtown will include 80 unique residential units, many with stunning Instagram-ready views of the horizon and city lights. The city’s best indie coffee shops, bars, live music venues, funky boutiques and museums are all just steps away. The units will range from approximately 800 to 1,350- square feet. Each residence will enjoy contemporary kitchens with opening shelving and repurposed countertops, gas appliances, 10 foot ceilings, steam showers, spacious walk-in closets, wood flooring and large balconies perfect for entertaining and soaking in the extraordinary city views. Pricing will start in the high $200’s.
With a mix of modern amenities and charmingly retro design inspirations, Edison Midtown speaks to the heart of the Gen Y urbanite. Brought to life by the award-winning Los Angeles architecture firm Harley Ellis Devereaux, lead architect Daniel Gehman drew inspiration from the past and present of the iconic Midtown neighborhood, its Willo district roots, and its urban dwellers. As a result, the building is designed to be a confluence of community, the kind of place that fosters socializing and sharing and integrates seamlessly with the vibrant community around it. With a pulse exactly where trendy meets classic meets cool, Phoenix-based interior design firm Private Label will style the interiors.
Drawing from inspiration from illustrious hangouts such as the Ace Hotel brand found Palm Springs, Portland, London and LA, the contemporary building is styled with a hat tip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s early designs and rises 5 stories above a two-level underground parking structure offering 145 private parking spaces. With the project’s close proximity to the Light Rail and just steps from the Central/Encanto Light Rail station, Edison Midtown residents can take advantage of Phoenix’s best urban transportation system or bike the city with ease.
Designed to foster a sense communal living, Edison Midtown will be a hub of activity with an array of social amenities including a garden-inspired courtyard pool and spa, a “cross-fit” style fitness center with yoga, secure bike storage, Wi-Fi common areas, electric car charging stations and more. The ultimate urban sanctuary, the Edison Midtown will afford residents a superior work, live, play lifestyle at the center of the thriving city.
At the heart of Midtown Phoenix, Edison Midtown residents will be just steps away from downtown’s epicenter boasting a mix of premier nightlife, music, shopping, cultural destinations, sporting events and hip restaurant options. Nearby destinations include the Phoenix Art Museum, Pane Bianco, Lux Coffee, Hula’s Modern Tiki, US Airways Center, Crescent Ballroom, Vovomeena, the Phoenix Symphony and more.
Reservations for Edison Midtown will open in Summer 2014. To get on the list, visit www.LiveatEdison.com or call 480.850.2026.
Image rendering courtesy of Deco Communities.
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The Space_Between Vacant Lot Activation
This temporary vacant lot activation project, part of Phoenix Urban Design Week, will bring a new community space to Downtown in the shape of a backyard patio where residents, visitors, downtown employees and students can play, relax and commune. Join us and offer your suggestions for the space – a team of designers will be on hand to translate your vision and input from adjacent stakeholders into a site plan that the Downtown Phoenix Partnership will then implement.
Thank you to Valley Youth Theater for hosting us in their venue, can’t wait to have some of that creative energy to spill out into a great plan for the site! Feel free to invite anyone who may be interested in this project, more details and RSVP on Facebook.
Photo by Sean Deckert, courtesy of Downtown Phoenix Partnership.