Project Profile: Berger Project

The Berger Project will be a 20-story multi-use tower located at Central and Adams, on the Southeast corner. New Orleans-based Berger Holdings bought the lot from the City of Phoenix in June for $2.8M. Berger won the bid over another development company which offered $700k more for the lot, but planned to build a 12-story hotel with no office space.  Phoenix opted for the Berger offer due to the multi-use and higher-density aspects of their plan, as well as a higher number of projected permanent jobs (230 over 45). Berger Holdings is partnering up with Sunbelt Holdings, which has a well-established presence in the Valley, for the project. Sunbelt has completed such projects as Marina Heights, the 20-acre complex along Tempe Town Lake.

The tower, will cost approximately $62 million and include 200 hotel rooms, 20 hospitality suites, 2 floors each of parking and office space, and 6100 square feet of ground-floor retail. In addition, the project will make targeted pedestrian and sidewalk improvements to promote walkability along Adams St, which the City considers an important tourism corridor.

laMadeleine at Luhrs Tower to open Aug 15th

A new restaurant is coming to the Luhrs Tower at 1st Avenue and Jefferson. laMadeleine French Bakery and Cafe will open its 3rd Valley location on August 15th, according to several restaurant and construction workers I spoke with.

The Dallas, Texas-based chain has been in business since 1983 and has 86 locations throughout the U.S, including 54 in its home state.

The restaurant opening is a positive signal for the historic Luhrs City Center, which has struggled to attract and maintain tennants ever since the construction of the Metro Light Rail. The only other active storefront is Serafina Coffee Roasters; a Subway restaurant in the complex closed earlier this year as the result to a corporate revitalization effort.

The restaurant will bring additional walkability back to the what has been for years a fairly desolate stretch of sidewalk.

Project Profile: Arizona Center’s Palm Court Tower

The Palm Court Tower is a project taking place on the Arizona Center property at the Northeast corner of Van Buren and 5th Street. It will consist of a 31-story Residential tower on land converted from what is now a grass lawn bounded by palm trees.

The building will cost $100M and will be designed by Will Bruder Architects. It will include 350 residential units ranging from studio to three bedrooms in size. The structure will also include 6 levels of parking, a ground-floor courtyard, and a swimming pool terrace.

Quick Facts

  • Address: 440 E. Van Buren
  • Type: Residential
  • Floors: 31
  • Units: 350
  • Height: About 375′
  • Expected completion: 2019

Arizona Center Update

The Palm Court Tower project is in addition to a $25M renovation currently underway at the 90’s-era Arizona Center. The multi-use facility was built during an earlier renaissance in downtown Phoenix that eventually fizzled out for lack of one essential ingredient: downtown residents. Come 2018 and that’s all changed.

The Arizona Center renovation, coupled with the new residential tower, signals a new chapter for a property that had become a cautionary tale.

Not only has there been an absolute explosion in terms of downtown housing in the last 6 years, but the Palm Court Tower will add 350 families who will need to look no further than the first floor of their own complex for a drink, coffee, entertainment, or a bite to eat.

 

Above: The Arizona Center, as it opened on Nov. 19th, 1990. Below: A rendering of what the Arizona Center is to look like after the current renovation.

Developer buys Sing High property

Sing High Chop Suey House, a very long-running restaurant located at 1st Avenue and Madison St, will close its doors after nearly 90 years in business on September 30th; the result of the recent sale of the land the restaurant sits upon.

Sing High has been serving Cantonese-style Chinese food in Phoenix since 1928, and has something of a polarizing experience – downtowners tend to either adore by the place, or avoid it completely.

The New Owner

A quick trip over to the Maricopa County Assessor website revealed the site’s new owner: Madison 27, LLC. The principal registered agent listed for Madison 27 is Rajan Hansji of the Hansji Group, which recently finished construction of the $80M Courtyard Marriott hotel just across the street.

The Marriott Project unfortunately required the demolition of the 100-year old Industrial Congress Building, also called the Luhrs Central Building.

Above: The Industrial Congress Building, built in 1914, now demolished. Below: The Luhrs City Center Marriott, completed in 2016.

The Sing High property will be exciting to watch in the coming months. Absent a community effort, however, the building that housed the restaurant is likely to meet the same end as its ill-fated neighbor.

The Luhrs City Center Marriott is admittedly boring from an architectural perspective, and missed an opportunity to honor the neo-classical and art-deco styles of its immediate neighbors. If we must lose the Sing High building, it would be nice to see something more interesting go up in its place.

Project Profile: The Link PHX

The LINK PHX is a 30-story residential project by Chicago-based CA Ventures that is going up at 3rd St and Pierce streets. The building will add 257 units and approximately 7000 square feet of retail space to the area around Roosevelt row and the ASU campus. Once complete, the structure will be one of the tallest in Arizona.

Each of the luxury units will include 9-foot ceilings, stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops, floor-to-ceiling windows, and in-unit laundry. 17 additional penthouses will include higher-end finishings as well as private balconies. Residents will also have access to a fitness center and a rooftop pool, deck, and grilling area.

The project is the first of a planned three-phase development that will consist of over 600 residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail.

  • Address: 702 N. 3rd St.
  • Floors: 30
  • Residential Units: 257
  • Office/Retail: 7000 sq. ft.
  • Scheduled Completion: Aug-2019
  • Type: Luxury Residential w/ 1st Floor Retail
  • Phase 1 of 3 planned.
  • Project Webcam: https://ueb.net/webcam34.html

Project Profile: Block 23

Block 23, located on the Northeast corner of 1st St and Jefferson, is the site of a multi-use project currently under construction by RED Development and Streetlights residential.

The multi-use project will add approximately 330 apartments to downtlwn, as well as 200,000 square feet of office, restaurant, and retail space. In addition, the area will get its first grocery store.

Block 23 has quite the history, being the site of Phoenix’s first city hall, as well as the beautiful art-deco Fox Theatre, as well as a J.C. Penney’s. For more on the history of the block, ThisCouldBePHX has a great write-up here.

Project profile: The Stewart

The Stewart is a 19-story residential high rise currently being built at 800 N. Central Ave (Central/McKinley). The building will provide 312 units of transit-oriented living and 9000 square feet of retail to the Roosevelt area.

The Stewart will also include partial sections the original building that housed a 1940’s Studebaker dealership as well as a long-running record store (1972-2009)

The dealership was unique in that it featured a glass-encased rotating vehicle carousel right on the corner.

The project generated some controversy when, in the midst of negotiations with the city and community over historic preservation, the developer suddenly demolished sections of the building, rendering it ineligible for inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places.

Construction is due to be complete in late 2018.

  • Address: 800 N. Central Ave
  • Residential Units: 312
  • Retail/Office: 9000 sq. ft.
  • Floors: 19
  • Type: Mixed Use (Primary Residential)
  • Project Webcam: https://ueb.net/webcam30.html

The GPLET saga continues

A high-profile case involving an economic development tool called GPLET, whose outcome may have significant ramifications for continued growth in Downtown Phoenix, continues to move forward.

Three of the six complaints in the lawsuit brought by the Goldwater Institute against the City of Phoenix in 2017, were dismissed by the Superior Court in May, according to court documents. This is a win for the city of Phoenix, which has used the GPLET program extensively to encourage growth in the downtown area.

What is GPLET?

GPLET stands for Government Property Lease Excise Tax. In short, it allows the city to let a developer build a private structure on city-owned land; the city then collects a lease and an excise tax from the developer while avoiding the more significant property tax that would otherwise be paid by a normal developer. These types of agreements can last up to 25 years in some cases.

But the program is not without controversy, and has become the subject of a lawsuit brought against the city by the Conservative Goldwater institute on behalf of Mat Englehorn, owner of Angels Trumpet brewpub. The institute contends that Mr. Englehorn was harmed by the city when it provided a large tax incentive to a developer to build a residential high-rise next to his establishment, located near 2nd Street & McKinley.

What’s at stake?

Opponents of GPLET assert that the city’s administration of the program plays favorites by offering large developers significant tax breaks that aren’t offered to smaller business owners like Mr Englehorn.

The city of Phoenix, on the other hand, contends that GPLET is an important tool to encourage development in blighted areas of the city. Several large projects, including CityScape on Central avenue and Jefferson, were built under the program. The program is typically used to attract higher-density development than would get built naturally by the market.

The case is being closely watched by potential developers as well as proponents of development who would like to see taller buildings and higher density in a downtown that has seen low and mid-rise projects dominate much of the available infill land currently being converted.

The case is currently pending Goldwater’s response to Phoenix’s second attempt to dismiss the Blight Designation part of the complaint, with a deadline of July 27th to respond.

To follow the case directly, the progress can be found here and the documents here.

Inaugural post

Phoenix is rising in many ways. Like the mythical bird after which the city is named, Phoenix is rising from the ashes of the 2008 financial crisis that struck the Arizona economy with particular force.

Downtown Phoenix now is well underway with an increasingly rapid transformation into a livable, walkable city core. Gone are the days when nary a soul remained in the area after 6pm; bars, restaurants, and other small businesses now dot the central corridor and hum well into the night. We’ve seen an explosion in the construction of mid-rise living, driven in parts by both the light rail and by the changing preferences of Millennials and Baby Boomers alike for a more urban, cosmopolitan style of living.

The increase in density has brought increases in culture, neighborhood identity and, of course, building height. Several neighborhoods around the downtown area have formed their own identities: Melrose, Roosevelt, Encanto, Coronado, Garfield, South Central, Downtown; and several high-rise projects are either planned or already under construction.

All this activity begs to be documented, encouraged in its positive aspects, and submitted for discussion.

This blog will, to the best of its ability, document and track infill projects in and around Downtown Phoenix, follow news related to walkability and transit, and provide commentary and a platform for discussion among those who take an interest in these subjects.

I bring you Phoenix Rising.