By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The Hayden Square condominium project sits atop the roof of a parking garage. For the last six years, water has seeped through the roof of the garage, dripping on cars parked below and damaging their paint jobs. The association of homeowners asked Benton repeatedly to fix the leaks, but little progress was made.
Finally, last fall, the homeowners' association filed a lawsuit naming Benton and others after the company insuring the garage structure threatened to cancel its policy because of fears of possible damage to the integrity of the structure.
The homeowners complain Benton authorized substituting a rubber waterproofing membrane with a lower-cost waterproofing additive mixed into the cement. The subcontractors allegedly botched the application, aggravating the situation, according to David Leppert, a condominium owner who spent a year representing other homeowners in negotiations with Benton.
Homeowners are incensed that the city has selected Benton to lead its biggest development effort in history, while a relatively minor problem at an earlier project remains unresolved.
"I think John needs to clean up one thing before going on to another," says Leppert. "I feel like there are things there that are left undone."
Benton says the homeowners at Hayden Square have a legitimate complaint about the leaking garage. But he has filed suit against the subcontractors, and hopes to reach a settlement that will cover the cost of repairs at the condominiums.
Benton's most recent foray into the Tempe redevelopment arena was also a disaster. In March 1992, the city and Benton revealed a plan to build a 1,000-seat western-music center at Tempe Beach Park. The city put the proposal on the fast track, seeking rezoning of the property within 30 days. But opposition grew rapidly, and by the time a public hearing was held, a small army of opponents was ready to gnaw the eyes out of Benton and the city staff for trying to commercialize Tempe's oldest park.
The city and Benton quickly backed off the proposal. "I completely misread the community at large," Benton says. "It was a lousy idea."
Benton is now attempting to distance himself from the Tempe Beach fiasco, saying it was the city's idea to put the music center on the site. But his own development plans called it "ideally suited for corporate offices and a public arts-and-entertainment component."
Hoping to avoid another Tempe Beach ambush, Benton says he has aggressively circulated his Rio Salado development plan, dubbed Hayden's Ferry, to civic groups throughout Tempe. Tempe city planners also are promoting the project and Benton's development proposal, and giving tours of the area almost daily. "There is no organized opposition to the project," Tempe assistant planning director Dave Fackler says.
The project passed a milestone three weeks ago when the Tempe City Council approved an agreement allowing the city manager to sign an exclusive, long-term development agreement with Benton's group. The next step is to get water in the ditch, hopefully before the Super Bowl comes to Tempe in 1996.
While visions of the Goodyear blimp hovering above Sun Devil Stadium and sending images of Tempe's grand Town Lake to millions must excite Benton, the Hayden Square debacle lingers over him like an albatross. And like the sailors of old, who chanted and prayed for wind to fill their empty sails, Benton has resorted to convincing himself Hayden Square didn't fail.
"Hayden Square did work. Hayden Square is there. Hayden Square is working," he says in a mantralike response to the obvious question, "What happened?"
@body:The Rio Salado Project first came to life in 1966 when an Arizona State University architecture class under the baton of James Elmore began researching uses for the Salt River, which had all but vanished from memory, not having flowed since the early 1940s. Students were seeking ways to spur economic development along undeveloped land in the center of the metropolitan area.
They scoured the banks of the Salt River from Granite Reef Dam northeast of Mesa to the confluence of the Salt and Gila rivers southwest of Phoenix. In March 1967, the students presented their plan to return water to the Salt River and to build a series of parks, businesses and industrial areas along the entire 38-mile length of the river in the metropolitan area. The plan even included building a series of canals and locks that would link Phoenix with the Gulf of California.
"The primary consideration was to exploit this reservoir of valuable land that was already available in the heart of metropolitan Phoenix," says Elmore, who is now retired.
The class hoped development along the river would slow the leapfrog development that had already gripped the Valley in the 1960s. "We really thought that this was a way of keeping the cities in the heart of the metropolitan area instead of out at the periphery," Elmore says.
A year later, his students narrowed their focus to a proposed Rio Salado development in Tempe. "It was parks, commercial and residential development of different kinds all up and down the river," he says. The idea was presented to business and civic leaders at an all-day conference in 1969 at the Safari hotel in Scottsdale, where it was enthusiastically received.