downtown phoenix real estate
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.
Following Ken Cook’s purchase last year of the DeSoto Building in downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, the community’s curiosity soared. What what would be done with the historic 1928 building on the prominent corner of Roosevelt Street and Central Avenue?
The question has now been answered. The classic structure that originally housed a car dealership will now be known as the DeSoto Central Market. Part indoor market, part café and eatery, the market will draw on the model embodied by famous markets from around the world, such as the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, Eataly in New York and Chicago, or, in some respects, the Union in Phoenix’s Biltmore Fashion Park.
“We want to keep that traditional market feel that you can find in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles,” said new tenant Shawn Connelly, who will also manage the market. “Everybody I’ve spoken to about the concept has been excited. I truly feel that something like this will be a catalyst for other growth around this area,” he said.
While maintaining the history and integrity of the building, the interior space will be modeled to feature multiple vendor spaces, a bar and lounge area, and a mezzanine for offices and multi-purpose space.
The market will encompass many functions, but most notably will serve as an incubation hub for “food-preneurs” as Connelly puts it. A portion of the vendor sections will be built as ‘mini-kitchens,’ with everything required to run a restaurant, allowing burgeoning restaurateurs to become completely operational, while avoiding the startup fees of a traditional stand-alone restaurant.
“What we’re trying to model it after is almost like a food truck kitchen,” Connelly said.
The market portion will feature staples such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and will hopefully have a few artisanal purveyors, Connelly said, such as a baker, or dedicated cheese vendor or meat butcher.
The micro-restaurants will serve walk-up customers inside the market, and through outdoor take-out windows along the north wall. The parking lot will be transformed into an eating and lounging area for the cooler months. The nearby light rail stop and urban neighborhoods will hopefully make it an ideal destination in downtown, Connelly said.
“The best use of the space is to make it a great outdoor area,” Connelly added.
“What we envision using it as is a multi-purpose space. Maybe during First Fridays we can bring in other temporary tenants, or during the fall have a pumpkin patch festival…different types of things to where we really try to highlight what’s going on during that particular season.”
If all goes well within the market, the hope is that the owners of these smaller restaurants will one day be able to take the next step by moving out of the space and opening a restaurant of their own.
“What we’re trying to do is really embrace the entrepreneur, people who are passionate about the food industry. We want them to do well and then graduate…and hopefully open up another location. The hope is to expand beyond our walls and make a name for themselves,” Connelly said.
This is the first entrepreneurial outing for Connelly, who began cooking at 17 and continued throughout college, where he majored in logistics management and marketing. After a variety of roles within the the food industry, from kitchen to corporate management, he decided to take a chance on his love for markets.
“I’ve always had a passion for development, food, and markets in general.”
Maintaining a historic building while infusing new activity into the area seems to be the recipe for success in downtown Phoenix. Connelly plans to finalize the interior design soon, and is hoping to open the market by the end of 2014.
“I love Phoenix and I want to be here. I like what’s going on downtown, and I want to be part of the revitalization.”
For tenant inquiries and market info, please email DeSotoCentralMKT@gmail.com.
Renderings by Motley Design Group
Editor’s Note: This story has been edited for clarity since publication.
In downtown Phoenix, our affinity for refashioning the old into new is evident on every street. An old house becomes a new bar, and the classic charm creates something that a new building could never quite capture. It’s part of the city’s unique flavor.
And so, in the sweeping renaissance of our downtown area, add the DeSoto building on Roosevelt and Central to your list of new favorite places. Business owners hoping to create something new in a classic space are quivering with anticipation.
Formally C.P. Stephens DeSoto Motorcars, the DeSoto building is experiencing a long-awaited rebirth at the hands of a new owner and a historically minded architect.
Built in 1928, it was the original home of the DeSoto car dealership, but has housed an array of car companies, motorcycle shops, stores and agencies since, finally turning into a warehouse of sorts. A recent foreclosure sale put it on the market, and ultimately into the hands of the bank. From there, it became a tough sell to prospective buyers due to the age, and less-than-pristine structural status of the classic building.
But after Washington-based developer Ken Cook expressed interest, he asked Bob Graham of Phoenix-based Motley Design Group to take a look. It was Graham’s opinion that the building could be restored.
“Most people went in there … and they ran away screaming,” Graham said. “Most prospective buyers were trying to buy it purely for the land value, but Ken came in with the idea to keep the original building intact, and renovate the space to house new tenants.”
Cook made an offer to the bank, and began the process of restoring the original building with Graham’s help. The restoration became a very involved project, due both to the repairs that were needed and the commitment to maintaining the historical integrity of the space.
“Ken, as the owner, obviously is the driving force. But we designed the project for him, using all sorts of incentives to try to make the project work,” Graham said.
“We were able to get a City of Phoenix building grant from the Historic Preservation Department, and we are also using historic preservation tax credits from the federal government. Basically, any way we can figure out to sweeten the pot and make the project work. As we got into it, we found the details of what the history of the building was, and we’re really trying to leverage that history as being a really big selling point.”
In a twist of fate for a building that was created to sell cars, Graham said he hopes that tenants will exploit the location’s nearness to the Roosevelt light rail stop, and draw traffic from the busy transportation connection. They will have to, as the space only feature 11 parking spots as current plans stand.
“We need tenants that are going to be able to capitalize on light rail, pedestrians, ASU students, whoever. So if they’re appealing to that crowd, then I think it will be fine. We’re not looking for typical suburban use that people will drive for.”
Graham noted that while the exterior renovation will be done within the next two months, the interior renovation would not begin until tenants are secured. The building will house between one and five tenants comfortably, and they are planning on customizing the interior design depending on the needs and final number of tenants.
While the history of this particular building is garnering more attention than a typical restoration project, for Motley Design Group, restoration is their bread and butter. The company is one of the few architectural firms in Phoenix that focuses on historic preservation projects.
“Historic preservation is kind of my specialty. Not many architectural firms around town do it, because, well, we don’t have that much old stuff compared to other cities,” Graham said.
“I think most people like old buildings. The reason that we have so many new buildings in Phoenix is because we’ve torn down most of the old ones. From a developer’s standpoint, it’s a lot riskier to do a historic project than just to build a new one.
“But in this case, I can’t imagine that the end product would be seen by the public as being a nicer thing if it were a brand new building.”
For more information on the DeSoto Building project and tenant leasing options, visit the site.
DPJ magazine’s June/July issue is hot off the presses and ready to celebrate a HOT summer. Pick up a copy at one of 300+ locations in and around the Greater Downtown area. Just a few of the issue highlights:
- Welcome | Meet Guest Editor David Leibowitz and read about his love of Downtown Phoenix
- All-Star BUZZ | Check out the rundown of MLB All-Star Week Festivities, taking place right here in July
- All-Star Regular | Read Leibowitz’s interview with Arizona D-Backs’ Luis Gonzalez and get his take on Downtown
- Paving the Way | J. Seth Anderson’s gets the scoop on a cool new parking lot innovation
- Core Values | Tazmine Loomans gives an account of her interesting conversations with the mayoral candidates
- Eats & Drinks | Justin Lee explores the core and more, helping identify the ideal culinary itinerary for locals and visitors alike
- District Beat | Courtney McCune takes the pulse of the city in a new section that celebrates the haps that make Downtown great
- Centerfold Map | Peruse a four-page, pull-out map and visit some new places on your next First Friday adventure (or any day of the month!)
- Stay up to date on all of the latest Downtown buzz and events, including Phoenix Convention Center’s record summer, the opening of the new Torch Theatre…and more!
If you haven’t picked up an issue, click below for an online view!
For those individuals that are seeking the ultimate urban Phoenix living experience, I can think of no better place than the chunk of Downtown Phoenix that the U.S. Postal Service calls ZIP code 85004.
Virtually everything Downtown Phoenix has to offer can be reached on foot or by bicycle living in this ZIP code. The diversity of “things to do” and “places to go” is overwhelming. In terms of types of dwellings, everything can be found here, including apartments in “luxury high-rise” buildings; recently built loft-style condos and apartments; small, affordable live-work apartments; and even bungalows in historic neighborhoods.
The 85004 ZIP code is bounded by Thomas Road to the north, Buckeye Road to the south, Central Avenue to the west and 7th Street to the east. Within this part of Downtown lies many of our large cultural and sporting venues, such as the Heard Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, Burton Barr Central Library, the Herberger Theater, Phoenix Symphony Hall, US Airways Center and Chase Field. Wow!
Consider the Downtown arts scene, with an extensive assortment of locally owned art galleries, gift shops, wine bars and restaurants in and around Roosevelt Row. Here is a limited list off the top of my head: Eye Lounge, Made, the Lost Leaf, Conspire, Modified Arts, Nine|05, the Roosevelt Tavern, Moira Sushi, Carly’s Bistro, Revolver Records, Matt’s Big Breakfast, PastaBAR, The Turf, Sens and the Breadfruit.
What’s next? How about shopping at the Phoenix Public Market? Or here’s a good one. People often complain that they would move Downtown if there were a large grocery store nearby. These people must have never driven by the Safeway at 7th Street and McDowell.
Bored yet? Why not take in a movie at the Arizona Center, with its 24 screens, or eat at one of the many restaurants there. Have a friend coming in to town for a conference at the Phoenix Convention Center? He or she can stay at the new Sheraton Hotel, attend their conference and then come visit you, without even needing a rental car.
I almost forgot about our new Civic Space Park across from the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus. If you attend ASU or the U of A/ASU Medical School, it might be convenient to live in 85004.
I haven’t even mentioned places like CityScape or all of the restaurants in the Downtown core between Van Buren and Jefferson streets. I also haven’t mentioned destinations in the Warehouse District, such as Alice Cooperstown, Coach & Willies, AmenZone Primal Fitness Training and the forthcoming Deuce in the Anchor Building.
Last but not least, in the still somewhat undiscovered Central Park neighborhood, just south of the Warehouse District, lies some varied and unusual housing options as well as eye-candy places like the Bentley Projects.
I will leave the summarization of living in 85004 up to you, the reader. Clearly, there is something here for everyone.
Lyle Plocher is a licensed Arizona real estate broker with the Urban Connection Realty Team at HomeSmart. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.