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April, 2012

  1. Seventh street corridor looking at transformation

    April 27, 2012 by Connor Descheemaker

    In the past several years, the Downtown-to-Midtown corridors along the 7’s have seen some major changes.

    First, the legendary Emerald Lounge and original location of the Lost Leaf were forced to vacate their quarters in an historic brick building on the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and McDowell. The two local establishments would in time be replaced by a Starbucks and a Pei Wei, most recently joined by another neighborhood-favorite in SideBar.

    More recently, along the north side of McDowell leading into Seventh Ave., the local flower shop, antique market, and Willo Bakery left the neighborhood. Then finally, the death blow came with the departure of My Florist Café and its famed grand piano, leaving many wondering about the impending fate of the “My Florist” sign which had dominated the corner for decades.

    Currently, the property is in the throes of being remodeled, with a handful of temporary tenants in place and a Habit Burger outpost in development, just as the next-door property was leveled.

    Across the street, the nondescript beige plaza once used for Tom Horne’s campaign headquarters was redeveloped into a fast-casual chain dining mecca, with a flashy new paintjob and expanded footprint. Where the small modern furniture outpost known as D.A.’s Modern once held sway, there is now a Five Guys Burgers, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Chipotle Mexican Grill, How Do You Roll? Sushi and locally-based chain ZoYo Neighborhood Yogurt. The first non-franchised tenant for the plaza is only now arriving in the form of Vovomeena, a new breakfast concept from DJ Fernandes of Tuck Shop and Astor House.

    Now, a new major redevelopment is in the works at Seventh Street and Roosevelt.

    Looking eastbound along Roosevelt Street toward Seventh, where the proposed development will be located. (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    Though details are still cloudy at the moment, this past Tuesday the Garfield Organization Revitalization & Economic Development Committee focused its monthly meeting on a new proposal that would transform the entire outlay of Seventh Street from Portland to Garfield.

    The development is confirmed to include a massively expanded Circle K, replacing the current, smaller one already on the corner. As many as 20 pumps will now fill the corner, with hinted-at plans to create a restaurant plaza similar to the one at Seventh Avenue and McDowell.

    Among the potential casualties for the new construction are the Llantera shop, bus depot, a barber shop, laundromat and most notably, the popular Tacos de Juarez, which features a well-known mural by local artist and neighborhood resident Lalo Cota.

    Although none of the buildings are technically historic, this vital thoroughfare (already featuring three gas stations within two blocks, mind you) would be permanently reshaped. A gas station would now welcome residents and visitors into what is supposed to be Phoenix’s arts hub, and one of its oldest, most vital neighborhoods, Roosevelt Row and Garfield, respectively. A potentially-vital multi-modal transit corridor would be dedicated to the automobile for the long term.

    Though nothing is set in stone at the moment, based on Phoenix’s history with such developments, things will begin moving very quickly.

    And so, readers, what are your thoughts? I will continue to update you as plans for the development are revealed. Please feel free to notify me in the comments or via E-mail what has changed in the plans, along with who to contact with regard to questions on the development.

    Blogger’s Note: The initial post read that the first local tenant to occupy the plaza at 7th Avenue and McDowell would be the new Tuck Shop venuture. It has come to my attention that ZoYo Neighborhood Yogurt is a locally-based chain currently in the process of expanding and franchising nationally. The post has been edited to reflect this error.

  2. Chambers building seeing new life?

    April 20, 2012 by Connor Descheemaker

    Vanishing Phoenix is back!

    This week we return with a brand-new profile on one of the few remaining structures in Phoenix’s historic Warehouse District: the Chambers Transfer & Storage Co.

    The historic Chambers Transfer & Storage Co. as it is seen today (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    Not to be confused with the other Chambers Transfer & Storage Co. on Jackson Street between Central Avenue and First Street (built in 1925), this particular structure sits almost against the also-historic Union Station, on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Jackson Street.

    Built in 1923, Chambers Transfer & Storage was one of the many cottage industries which sprung up Downtown with the arrival trains in the city. Built before the completion of Union Station and the connection of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific rail lines, the structure anticipated the economic boon the rail was sure to be.

    Named for the Chambers Co., the structure is said to have been built on spec by the O’Malley Lumber Company. Phoenix historical record, however, never confirms whether the lumber company ever actually occupied the space, as the structure was used by Chambers beginning in 1924.

    The style of the structure is known as Spanish colonial revival, a style very rare within the Warehouse District. This Spanish influence is most clearly reflected in the tower-like structures which dominate each edge of the building, with the most prominent one placed right on the corner, prompting passersby with a commanding stimulus to visit. The over-100,000 square-foot structure is the only known project both designed and built by T.B. Stewart Construction Co., a highly-regarded contracting firm during the ‘20s. The company utilized reinforced concrete for the building’s structure, then coating it with tan brick to enhance its visual appearance.

    As was the case with many commercial structures built in this era, the Chambers Building (as it is known locally) was constructed as a mixed-use development. Warehouse space would dominate the back of the building and the upper two floors, while the main floor facing the street would feature prominent retail, drawing visitors just exiting the train at Union Station.

    According to an early newspaper ad for Chambers Transfer & Storage, the company occupied “four modern warehouses” in the area, along with the 126,500 square feet of storage space offered at the Chambers Building. The warehousing operation of the company integrated with the freight and distribution needs of the train station, with Chambers Co. specifically focusing on importing goods to Phoenix from far-off locales.

    Till the 1990s, The Chambers Company (later renamed Chambers Moving & Storage Co., before merging with Mayflower trucking) remained the property owner and main tenant. But, after seven decades of continuity, new plans were eventually put in place.

    The structure's high windows, now filled with concrete (Connor Descheemaker/DD)

    During the 1990s, with the arrival of America West Arena (now US Airways Center) and Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field), the Warehouse District experienced a brief renaissance. Artists displaced by the sports stadiums’ construction filled the remaining warehouse and loft spaces, and a group led by the IceHouse art space proposed redeveloping the entire area into an arts district, similar to Roosevelt Row today but on a grander, city-supported scale. With the Chambers Building’s proximity to the marquee Union Station, it garnered a large amount of hype to be transformed into a hip, new housing or studio complex.

    However, as reported by a 2000 Arizona Republic op-ed column, it was not meant to be. As part of a reported $150,000 exterior renovation, the building’s magnificent windows were “filled in with concrete” and the interior was leased by Telecom Center, a telecommunications company who chose the building due to its sturdy construction.

    In the decade-plus since, the Chambers Building has remained a telecom center, with the property owned by Maricopa County, notorious for its decades of abusing and tearing down historic properties.

    But small signs of life exist. For decades, the property has been listed on both the Phoenix Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places. To this day, the property remains occupied by the Telecom Center, and in solid ownership by Maricopa County.

    Blogger’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that the new Ra-Apparel clothing company was occupying the upper floor of THIS Chambers Building. Upon further research, the upstart business is working in the upper floor of the OTHER Chambers Building on Jackson Street near First Avenue. Vanishing Phoenix apologizes for the misleading information.

    Blogger’s Note: All information in this post, unless noted, came from the 1984 Junior League of Phoenix Historic Phoenix Commerical Properties Survey, never replicated. The study documented all current and potential historic properties in the Phoenix area. A big thanks to John Jacquemart and the Phoenix Historic Preservation Office for their help in accessing this invaluable material.

  3. Busy, Busy, Busy!

    April 13, 2012 by Connor Descheemaker

    Photo Courtesy of Connor Descheemaker


    All week, Phoenix Urban Design Week has been taking control of Vanishing Phoenix. Unfortunately, that means no real new post for the week.

    However, that doesn’t mean the week is without preservation and history news!

    Make sure to check out all of the week’s Phoenix Urban Design Week coverage here. Especially take note of this story on Monday’s events, which included lectures by the authors of Images of America: Downtown Phoenix, and Sloane McFarland, principal of Martha + Mary, a local development firm devoted to fine-grain adaptive reuse projects (you might know him from this project best).

    Thanks for your understanding, and we’ll see you back next Friday!

  4. Preserved Beauty on Display

    April 6, 2012 by Connor Descheemaker

    As the spring wraps up and temperatures start to rise in the Valley, festivals and tours attempt to get in one last outdoor hurrah.

    These past two weeks were prime examples of such festivities, featuring two major historic property tours, one hosted by the AIA’s Arizona branch, the other the legendary Modern Phoenix Expo + Home Tour.

    Each event brought out dozens of attendees, with one catering to more industry-centric folks, and the other welcoming anyone interested in the Phoenix’s midcentury design peak.

    The Reincarnation Tour

    Restoration Place/Cannon Design a.k.a. Knights of Pythias Phoenix Lodge #2, built 1928 (Photo courtesy of Connor Descheemaker

    March is labeled Eco Month for the Arizona component of the American Institute of Architects. To commemorate the occasion, each year the AIA-AZ curates a full month of events flaunting the importance of “green” building and eco-friendly design.

    The main event of the month’s activities was the Reincarnation Tour, a daylong fete centering on the key phrase, “Reuse is the Ultimate Recycle,” which guided the entire day’s festivities.

    The event featured a panel discussion with four major figures in the world of adaptive reuse in Arizona, followed by a full-day self-guided tour of local success stories of adaptive reuse.

    The discussion itself took place in the celebrated FilmBar, a ‘60s stamp factory-turned-indie movie theatre, performance space and bar, designed by local AIA architect Taz Loomans (who also happened to be sitting on the panel for the day). Other panelists were Michael Levine of Levine Machine Development, LLC, owner and renovator of numerous buildings in Downtown’s Warehouse District, including The Duce and Bentley Projects; Brendan Mahoney, Senior Advisor for Economic and Community Development to Mayor Greg Stanton; and Cindy Dach, Acting Director of Roosevelt Row CDC and property owner/renovator in the Roosevelt District.

    Topics for the discussion swirled from speaker to speaker, including notable rants by the ever-intriguing Michael Levine, long-known for his hard-nosed Brooklyn-born attitude.

    Some choice quotes from the day:

    On Phoenix’s inability to fully grasp adaptive reuse—“What we need to [ask is] how do we create a structure that makes adaptive reuse the most economically sensible choice.”—Brendan Mahoney

    On the inherent qualities of old buildings—“These buildings embody a lot of character that hard to generate…you can’t fake history…No matter how great of an architect you are, you can’t fake it.”—Taz Loomans

    On temporary reuse generating economic activity in Roosevelt Row—“The businesses reported such an increase in traffic with the sunflowers!”—Cindy Dach

    On how to get people to understand the need for preservation—“[We need to learn] how to give some intrinsic value to the land.”—Michael Levine

    Crescent Ballroom a.k.a. F.L. Hart Garage, built 1917 (Photo courtesy of Connor Descheemaker

    Following audience questions and some mingling, the group of 60+ dispersed to the city to view Downtown’s greatest examples of adaptive reuse. Due to prior commitments, I was only able to view the first of five “zones” of buildings grouped around the light rail. However, in just that short time, I was able to view the Phoenix Public Market, Crescent Ballroom, A.E. England Building in Civic Space Park, Restoration Place/Cannon Design (built as the Knights of Pythias Phoenix Lodge #2) and Matt’s Big Breakfast, all decades-old structures which have found new life thanks to visionary architects and business-owners.

    Modern Phoenix

    In 2003, Modern Phoenix was founded as a massive web resource bank and message board documenting midcentury design in Phoenix, especially in relation to architecture. As time went on and interest in the site grew, founder Alison King sought a new way to reach the many fans of midcentury modernism in the Valley.

    After much deliberation, King made the decision to hold the first annual Modern Phoenix Home Tour + Expo in 2005, hosting 120 of the Valley’s biggest “MoPho’s”, a term coined to represent fans of Modern Phoenix and midcentury modern design.

    Fast-forward to 2012, and Modern Phoenix is in its eighth year, now drawing over 1,000 design enthusiasts spread out over a week’s worth of activities.

    Hundreds attend the Expo held at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, which features midcentury-style artisans, historic preservation groups and authors alongside a half-dozen presentations on various issues related to architecture and modern design. And hundreds more gobble up tickets many weeks in advance to attend the Best of Phoenix award-winning Home Tour, centering on a different historic neighborhood each year.

    At Saturday’s Expo, the highlight of the day was the keynote lecture, which explained the enigmatic history of the long-developed-but-short-lived Rose Pauson House, built by Frank Lloyd Wright for a woman of the same name. Though the house burned down under two years after its completion, its remains stayed put for decades and the iconic design became part of the lore of Phoenix and Wright.

    The lecture was led by Pauson’s own great-nephew, who presented his great-aunt’s many photos of the home alongside Wright’s many designs and architectural plans. However, adding a unique twist, the lecture featured a two-person performance utilizing some of the many letters (personal and professionl) exchanged by Pauson and Wright during the years of the house’s construction.

    Sunday’s Tour focused on the Marion Estates development and its surrounding area near Phoenix’s Arcadia neighborhood. Major highlights from the tour included:

    Frank Lloyd Wright’s Boomer House, 1953 (Photo Courtesy of Connor Descheemaker)

    Ralph Haver split-level Evertson House from 1959 (Photo Courtesy of Connor Descheemaker)

    Alfred Newman Beadle’s 1959 Healy/Fearnow Residence, updated by Beadle himself as one of his final project before his death. (Photo Courtesy of Connor Descheemaker)