Thursday morning, over 100 of Central Phoenix’s up-and-comers and power players gathered in the parking lot of a splayed-open icon on Camelback Road, eager for the unveiling of the latest direction of one of the city’s most memorable spaces.
For 55 years, the legendary Beef Eaters served as a gathering place for all occasions: from business deals to bar mitzvahs, birthdays to first dates. Redeveloper Venue Projects’ latest plans for the space aim to take the best of the restaurant’s past and translate it into a new, multi-use vision to anchor the northern portion of the light rail corridor.
The Newton has arrived.
At the event, the excitement surrounding the announcements to come was palpable, with all attendees realizing the inherent value of the project, building, and the people involved in the revitalization.
Early arrivals could stroll to the former restaurant’s wide-open entry and peer at the gathered leather booths, what remained of the tiled bathroom, and the ever-present wood furnishings and railings for which the space was known.
Stationed at the front of the gathering audience were four massive, space-age leather chairs, pulled from the Beef Eaters interior; a wooden coat of arms adorned the podium.
For preservationists, these signs of the past served as a grand omen for what is to come.
Slightly after 10am, master of ceremonies and co-principal of Venue Projects Lorenzo Perez addressed the buzzing masses, speaking excitedly of the project’s construction as the culmination of three years of work. It was the “project that never went away.”
But a year-and-a-half after the initial deal between Venue Projects and one of its owner-tenants fell through, all the stars had finally aligned for what is likely to be one of Phoenix’s most anticipated and most ambitious adaptive-reuse projects ever.
Gathered to speak alongside Perez were co-principal of Venue Projects Jon Kitchell, Shannon Scutari of the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, Kimber Lanning of Local First Arizona and the nearby Stinkweeds record shop, and Councilman Tom Simplot of District Four, which represents the area around the project.
Perez officially christened the space’s new name, The Newton, in honor of Beef Eaters founder and revered Phoenician Jay Newton.
Of the former restaurant’s Valley connection, Venue Projects co-principal Jon Kitchell said “[We] can’t help but feel inspired by his legacy…Every time we tell people about this place, we hear a story.”
While the building sat vacant, its interior undisturbed since the restaurant’s closure in 2006, Councilman Simplot noted that he had the “same concern that we would lose this iconic building that anchored our neighborhood.”
When speaking of her own arrival along Camelback Road in 2005, Kimber Lanning emphasized “People said I was crazy.”
But in the words of Simplot, “[This project is] the realization of that new energy to Camelback Road.”
The space will house a bookstore and wine bar, restaurants, and co-working and event space, promising the diverse array of traffic for which Beef Eaters was known will continue for years to come.
The project represents a unique partnership between Venue Projects and its two co-owner-tenants, Changing Hands and Beckett’s Table, and new tenant The Lively Hood.
“It’s about going in with others,” said Shannon Scutari of the venture.
“We [Phoenix] will not thrive without creating lots and lots and lots of places…Beautiful weather doesn’t make us interesting.”
Scutari represented the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, a $20 million nonprofit partnership between over 20 government agencies, nonprofits, for-profit businesses, and educational institutions to fund transit-oriented development in the three cities along the Valley Metro light rail line.
“[They were] pivotal at a time when [we were asking] ‘How are we going to pay for [the project]?” said Lorenzo Perez of the Collaborative’s co-financing of the project.
Pairing adaptive-reuse and transit-oriented development, The Newton represents the power of the Valley’s light rail line, and the potential for creative business in Central Phoenix.