This Old $811,000 House

That's how much taxpayers shelled out for a historic house that will anchor a "serenity park." That's a lot of money, considering the sellers had offered to move the house--at their cost--to another park.

Neighbors said the development might constrain firefighters' ability to contain a blaze; Glendale Fire Department officials assured them that was not the case.

The activists also complained about the increased traffic, despite engineering reports that showed traffic projections to be well within capacity.

"I don't believe those [traffic projection] figures," Bill Stout says. "They keep having the development come in, and I don't think they've got the water. I don't think they've got the sewer. And, with the traffic, I don't think they know what to do."

Valley West Mall owners raised concern that the grocery store and shops planned for the corner would hinder sales and discourage tenants from moving into their mall.

Finally, after more than a year of meetings and tinkering, the city approved the Sands development plan late last year--but left out of the plan was the corner tagged for commercial development, the corner containing the Manistee house.

On that the community would not compromise.
The Sandses offered to move their family home to Sands Park or Sahuaro Ranch Park, which already contains historic buildings and has roots in the Sands family tree.

"We thought [moving it to Sahuaro Ranch Park] would have some historical significance," Marilyn Harris explains.

No dice. City officials feared that moving the Manistee house to Sahuaro Ranch Park would harm the historical integrity of the buildings already in place there.

Besides, Glendale had a different idea.

In 1990, Arizona voters approved a ballot initiative establishing the Arizona State Parks Board Heritage Fund. It provides $20 million a year in Arizona Lottery proceeds for cultural and recreational activities. Half is allocated to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the other half goes to state parks.

Within the state-parks share, grant money is dedicated each year in three categories--historic preservation; local, regional and state parks; and trails. Each of the three is administered separately, but all grants are ultimately approved by the State Parks Board.

The Heritage Fund has been a regular target of legislators who would just as soon raid the fund and spend the money on something else.

The Heritage Fund is now the lifeblood of Manistee Ranch--which could make the fund vulnerable to a new round of legislative assaults.

In response to the ground swell from neighbors and local historic preservationists, Glendale Mayor Scruggs formed a task force to save the Manistee house.

"I didn't want this to spin out of control into something negative," Scruggs says. "I wanted to meet this head-on."

Moving the house at little or no cost to taxpayers would not have prevented it from qualifying for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Despite the Sandses' offer to move the house, Glendale activists ruled it out from the start. It just wouldn't be the same in a different setting. And the corner wouldn't be the same with a shopping center, even though the northeast and northwest corners of the intersection are already home to commercial development.

"One of the real significant losses would be its setting," Dick Coffinger, president ofGlendale Downtown Development Corporation, told the Arizona Outdoor Recreation Coordinating Committee, which reviews grant applications.

"If you ... try to relocate it on a small downtown lot or on a park that it was never historically located on, from the historic preservationists' point of view you lose a great deal of the significance of the property."

With the task force behind it, the Glendale Historical Society, a nonprofit organization, last June applied for a $347,463 historical preservation grant from the Heritage Fund to buy the 1.9 acres of land where the house sits. The city is required to match the grant, and to do so it put up the house and $140,000, both of which the Sandses agreed to donate.

The application and accompanying gushy articles and letters of support pushed all the right buttons. The State Parks Board was assured that the project had universal support in Glendale. It would bring local and out-of-state tourists (one writer even suggested it would draw Super Bowl visitors). It was a migratory stop for birds. It would somehow involve low-income youth and minorities in historic preservation.

Each Heritage Fund application is reviewed by Arizona Parks Department staffers and awarded points in a series of categories. The potential projects are then ranked by their scores and funded from the top down until the money runs out.

So, if a high-dollar project is near the top, projects with low scores are out of luck.

The state also gives priority to restoration projects that are in imminent danger--the mission is to preserve.

All of this was good for the Manistee Ranch application. Not only is the house nearly a century old and architecturally significant, it was about to be bulldozed for a shopping center.

The Manistee project ranked fourth out of 83 applications. And the State Parks Board awarded it $241,620, the largest-single Heritage Grant ever given for historic preservation.

But the deal with the Sands family was all or nothing--buy the total 5.4 acres of land from the house to Northern Avenue or don't buy it. The Sandses already had another buyer for the property.

So, while the historic preservation grant for the 1.9 acres under the house was making its way through the application process, the City of Glendale applied for a separate Heritage Fund grant for the purchase of the 3.5 acres of land in front of and surrounding the house for a park.

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