Architecture and Design

What We Know About the Housing Complex Replacing Paz Cantina on Roosevelt Row in Phoenix

Alliance Residential Company, a Phoenix-based firm that has previously developed mixed-use properties in metro Phoenix using the Broadstone brand, plans to build a multi-family residential complex in the heart of Roosevelt Row.

It's the latest in a slew of changes slated for the downtown Phoenix arts district.

A preliminary site plan posted on the website for ORB Architecture in Phoenix reveals that the development — which includes four-stories of residential units in addition to retail, recreation, and other spaces — will be situated between Roosevelt and Portland streets, and between Third and Fifth streets.

Community members will see visible development-related changes in early to mid-November. Michael Reyes, who owns Paz Cantina located at the corner of Roosevelt and Third Streets, says November 8 will be its last day of operation at that site — although Reyes says he’s struck a deal with Alliance to have space in the new development once it opens in 2017 (they’ll operate via food truck and pop-ups in the interim).

Adrian Fontes says the house at 420 East Roosevelt Street, which he touts as the childhood home of Thomas J. Pappas, also is being demolished to make way for the Alliance development. Fontes co-owned the Bodega 420 business formerly located there but since has operated his law practice from the site.

Ted Decker, who has curated several art exhibits in the shipping container galleries currently located just east of Third and Roosevelt, confirms that the containers will be moved to a site behind Modified Arts after November 2015's First Friday.

The Alliance development is being built on 10 parcels, according to an October 23, 2015, article published by the real estate tip sheet newsletter Business Real Estate Weekly (BREW), which notes that “the developer is expected to pay $10.3 million ($72.50 per foot) to acquire the multi-family site.” BREW reports that the deal is being brokered by Cushman & Wakefield, which recently brokered the sale of Papago Plaza and an adjacent office complex in Scottsdale for $12.5 million. 

New Times reached out to Tim Lewis, City Partner-Southwest for Alliance Residential Company, by telephone and e-mail — but messages requesting information about the development were not returned. As of October 31, public records on the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office website indicate that none of the 10 lots is currently owned by Alliance Residential Company.

Most of the lots are owned by one of two limited liability corporations. Four, including the lot where Paz Cantina has been located for a year, are owned by 4th & Roosevelt LLC and five by Southwest Investment Funds of Arizona LLC. The lot at 314 East Roosevelt Street is owned by Samuel H. and Debra L. Moyer of Scottsdale, according to County Assessor records.

Earlier this year, Kimber Lanning, founder and executive director for Local First Arizona, moved the house located on the 314 East Roosevelt Street lot across the street to a lot she owns just west of Modified Arts in order to save it from demolition by owners who apparently feared further protests aimed at preserving the house in that location could jeopardize their ability to sell the lot.

At one point, Wood Partners was in negotiations to buy and develop land in the area. That purchase didn’t move forward, a fact some attribute to vocal opposition by advocates of preserving the current character of Roosevelt Row, who included Fontes.

Roosevelt Row has grappled for years with the issue of how to preserve the unique character created and fueled by artists and other localists even as big changes have transpired nearby and developers have eyed the arts district as ripe for development. Roosevelt Row was one of four U.S. neighborhoods recognized with a 2015 American Planning Association Great Places in America Award.

In March 2015, two buildings on the northwest corner of Roosevelt and Third Streets, were demolished to make way for a multi-story residential complex called iLuminate, which is being developed by Baron Properties. They are also building a multi-story residential complex called Linear on the southwest corner at the same intersection.
Baron Properties demolished both a commercial office building at 1002 North Third Street, which was formerly home to the Church of Scientology’s Arizona headquarters (now located in the Arcadia neighborhood), and a building located at 222 East Roosevelt Street.

Most recently, the 222 building housed a business called GreenHaus, which has since relocated to Portland. But for many years before, the building was the site of Lounge 307, a bar and entertainment venue frequented by members of the LGBT community during the early days of the AIDS crisis.

On January 16, 2015, the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Committee met to discuss the possibility of a historic preservation overlay for the properties at 222, 314, and 420 East Roosevelt Street, but no overlays were subsequently granted. Hence, the buildings couldn’t be saved from demolition on those grounds.

The Alliance development is just one of many projects taking place in Roosevelt Row. So far, it hasn’t been met with protests. Before the 222 building was demolished, there was community uproar over the prospect of losing Lauren Lee’s Three Birds mural located on the building’s east-facing exterior wall, and a pair of interior murals painted by Ted DeGrazia in the early 1950s.

When the building currently occupied by Paz Cantina is demolished, the community will lose a mural by Angel Diaz and Thomas Breeze Marcus that channels a 1941 self-portrait by Diego Rivera, collaborative murals by Tato Caraveo and JB Snyer, and murals painted by Tucson-based Rock Martinez and Colorado-based GAMMA during the 2105 Paint PHX mural event. Paz Cantina also has recent murals by Jesse Perry and Lalo Cota, and planters painted by artists including Jeff Slim, Kyllan Maney, and Sabrina Peros.

Michael Levine is currently renovating the Beth Hebrew Synagogue located at 333 East Portland Street, which sits next to a portion of the planned Alliance development site. Kimber Lanning is working to renovate and repurpose the Wurth House. And Greg Esser has plans to repurpose shipping containers to create an artist live/work space between Eye Lounge and Modified Arts on East Roosevelt Street.

Neighborhood organizers are also working to create a formal structure for managing Roosevelt Row, which USA Today named one of the country's "10 best city art districts" in 2014.

Plans to establish a Roosevelt Business Development District (BID), an organization paid for by a special property owner assessment and governed by a board of directors, are moving forward. The BID would provide essential services such as security, maintenance, marketing, economic development, and special events within the designated geographic area.

On October 20, the Phoenix City Council Downtown, Aviation and Redevelopment Subcommittee recommended that the Council establish the district. A final City Council hearing and vote on the BID is scheduled for December 16.

It remains to be seen how well the Alliance development will be received by the community. Although Fontes led a January 29, 2015 protest march against the proposed Wood Partners development, he’s taking a different approach to Alliance plans.

“At some stage you have to be more pragmatic,” says Fontes. “I can’t always be the ideologue.” Fontes says he realizes that property owners have the right to sell their properties, but hopes developers building in Roosevelt Row will recognize the role creative types including artists, musicians, and poets have played in creating the neighborhood’s value.

The preliminary site plan posted on the ORB website includes four street-facing areas labeled as art plazas, plus two designated for retail, and one for a leasing office. There’s nothing specifying where a restaurant/bar such as Paz Cantina might go, although Lanning says she has worked with the developer to “create some cutaways for a restaurant.” Reyes says Paz Cantina will have 6,000 square feet of space that includes a stage and art gallery when it relocates to the new Alliance development.

Fontes believes Alliance has the potential to create a national model for big developers partnering in positive ways with local community members. “He can help create a new model of engagement with the community,” Fontes says of Lewis. He’s been a fan ever since Lewis took him up on an invitation to sit on the stoop at 420 East Roosevelt Street for a couple of hours and talk with local folks who passed by.

But Lanning has a different perspective, noting that Alliance and other big developers typically have “some basic models” in terms of the types of buildings they create in various communities. It’s not enough to have nooks for hanging art on the wall, she says, and mandating retail space can backfire when developers create it but don’t lease it out. 

“We’re looking for a vibrant streetscape and engagement with the street,” says Lanning. Whether Alliance will achieve it remains to be seen.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble