10 Vacant Buildings Around Phoenix That Should Be Music Venues

The old Circles Records and Tapes location on Central Avenue.
The old Circles Records and Tapes location on Central Avenue.
Benjamin Leatherman

If there's one thing that Metro Phoenix has no shortage of, it's vacant buildings. Thanks to the Great Recession and the ever-fickle whims of consumers, and the normal failure rate of any business, our area is littered with scores of available spaces or shuttered enterprises.

Some will eventually be reborn as new projects or concepts, including those devoted to nightlife or featuring live music. It's no secret that we're big fans of both adaptive reuse and local music venues, so its groovy whenever the two intersect and a new concert joint or rock bar opens some formerly vacant space. That goes double if it happens to be in some vintage building.

While we're aware that many historic structures around town have been needlessly demolished in the name of progress in recent years, many of which have had a special place in our hearts, many of these gorgeous throwbacks probably could have been rebooted or rehabbed into something unique and special.

Some of the best music venues in the Valley are housed within vintage or long-standing buildings -- Crescent Ballroom (natch), Lost Leaf, Trunk Space, Yucca Tap Room, Club Red, Dressing Room, Nile Theater, or Tempe Tavern -- and we'd love to see more.

In fact, we've got several vacant or largely unused locations around Metro Phoenix in mind that would serve as excellent venues or music-oriented projects, if only the right well-moneyed visionary would come along and snatch 'em up.

What's left of the Hotel St. James.
What's left of the Hotel St. James.
Benjamin Leatherman

Hotel St. James Current value: $630,000

Part of us died inside when the old Madison Hotel and most of the adjacent Hotel St. James got the wrecking ball treatment in 2012 from the Phoenix Suns, which owns both properties and planned to raze them completely in favor of parking lots for the nearby US Airways Center. Thanks to the fervor raised by local preservationists, however, the team decided to spare the "architecturally significant" portions of the St. James (pretty much just its façade and lobby), but hasn't done much with it since. Why not renovate it into a lounge or gin joint that could host jazz artists, folksters, troubadours, or similar acts and be a destination for folks going to or coming from the arena? It certainly would be a more fitting use for what's left of the historic edifice.

The soon-to-be-demolished Industrial Congress Building.
The soon-to-be-demolished Industrial Congress Building.

Industrial Congress Building Current value: $899,800

Meanwhile, there's another tragic situation unfolding less than a block away: the two-story Industrial Congress Building, which is adjacent to the equally historic Luhrs Building and celebrated its 100th birthday this year, is about to be demolished to make way for a planned Marriott Hotel. Although the corporate masters and number-crunchers at the multi-billion dollar chain would disagree, it's definitely a crying shame. Not only because of the loss of another historic space, but also because of its wasted potential.

It might've made for a neat mixed-use space with retail shops or cafes on the ground floor with perhaps a roomy dance club or lounge upstairs that offered incredible views of downtown via the numerous windows that ring the second floor. Maybe a speakeasy-like establishment, owing to its formative years in the prohibition era, could've thrived there. Nightlife and live music is already flourishing at the neighboring CityScape or the newly opened Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour. Alas, such wishful thinking is ultimately all we can do at this point, since the building is about to be reduced to rubble in the name of progress.



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