Crack Addicts, Political Shenanigans and Indian Relics

Only in Phoenix is this a formula for a real estate hustle

Oddly enough, the amount of square footage for homeless service buildings increased only marginally, from Dollin's projection of 126,000 square feet to 161,000 square feet.

Winslow says the geographic size of the project grew as proponents got on board the concept of a "college campus" design with lots of open space and areas for homeless to congregate.

In addition, as discussions continued about the design for the campus, two more homeless service providers beyond the four that had already endorsed the downtown site expressed interest in being included in the project.

Homeless housing advocate Louisa Stark says the county's homeless plan fails to provide what is needed most -- more low-income housing.
Todd H. Lillard
Homeless housing advocate Louisa Stark says the county's homeless plan fails to provide what is needed most -- more low-income housing.

"When we added more agencies, we needed more space," says CASS executive director Mark Holleran.

Orcutt/Winslow's design notably features freestanding buildings for most of the half-dozen service providers along with 211 secured-parking spaces for employees and volunteers -- more than 100 additional spaces than Dollin's proposal. The plans, however, ignored the one-half block of county-owned land north of Madison that is currently used for surface parking and could accommodate a parking structure.

The Orcutt/Winslow design includes wide plazas and open space with only 28 percent of the 14 acres used for mostly one-story buildings.

If this campus for the destitute of soul and body was as gracious as any state university, that was by design.

"We wanted people to feel like they were on a college campus," says St. Vincent de Paul executive director Steve Zabilski.

"Feel" aside, designers also say there was a practical reason for dispersed buildings.

The freestanding buildings, Winslow says, allow the charities to maintain their identity -- which is important in their fund-raising efforts.

Not that the design was entirely visionary; certain realities intruded.

A six-foot-high fence would surround the site with secured gates leading into employee parking areas.

The plazas would serve as staging areas where the homeless would gather before meals -- out of sight of downtown workers.

To keep the homeless from appearing in public, designers want the campus to provide as many services as possible within the walled compound.

"The campus is a city within a city," the Orcutt/Winslow report states.

And like a city, it also is inefficient.

Rather than consolidating duplicative services, the Orcutt/Winslow plan includes two buildings housing separate charities to provide meals:

• St. Vincent de Paul would continue to serve lunch from a new 21,700-square-foot facility.

• The Catholic charity Andre House would be the dinner provider from a separate 16,400-square-foot building.

The Andre House and St. Vincent would each house 1,200-square-foot kitchens, according to the plans.

While such duplication appears to be wasteful, project proponents say it is necessary to satisfy the demands of the charities that donate food and other services to the homeless.

"It's two different groups providing two different meals," county project manager Neil Urban says. "They have a very strong sense of identity and strong sense of mission and they can't compromise that for certain expediencies."

With the completed Orcutt/Winslow site plan encompassing the lumber yard property in hand, the county began taking formal steps to acquiring the land owned by Supervisor Stapley's friend and former business partner, Duke Cowley.

On August 28, 2001, county administrator David Smith ordered his staff to obtain an appraisal for the lumber yard, which he still referred to as the "O'Malley" property. The appraisal set the stage for the county's eventual filing of a condemnation suit on March 20 to acquire the land.

No sooner had the condemnation suit been filed than the county, once again, reversed its course on the design of the homeless project.

Instead of hiring Orcutt/Winslow to fine-tune its "campus" concept into a final design -- a concept that justified the purchase of the Cowley property -- the county hired another firm that is proposing a far more compact and less expensive project.

The April 8, $194,000 contract to BPLW Architects was awarded after BPLW submitted a plan that would consolidate all the homeless service providers under one roof.

Suddenly, the sprawling campus concept is out; the compact shopping mall concept is in. And the need for Cowley's land diminishes.

BPLW says the building "shell" can be constructed for $5.1 million, with homeless service providers responsible for an additional $8.5 million in improvements -- for a total cost of construction of $13.6 million.

This is substantially less than the $19.3 million the expansive Orcutt/Winslow project was projecting.

The county has allocated $7 million for the project -- including acquisition of the Cowley property.

Like Orcutt/Winslow, BPLW estimates 161,000 square feet of space will be needed by the various homeless service providers, including the duplicative food service charities. But under the BPLW plan, the building footprint could be condensed to four acres if all the buildings are single-story.

Far less area would be needed if multiple stories are used.

So far, only the CASS homeless facility is planned to have multiple stories. Zoning in the area allows up to eight-story buildings -- although waivers are needed to go beyond four stories in the Capitol Mall district.

Combining a kitchen, a health-care building, the 400-bed shelter and the learning skills center into a multiple-story building could greatly consolidate many homeless services into a smaller geographic area and possibly eliminate the need for any of Cowley's property.

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