The monOrchid in Roosevelt Row has a new owner. Wayne Rainey recently sold the creative space to Jonathon Vento, principal developer for True North Studio. It’s one of several properties Vento has purchased in the area, for projects that include retail, office, restaurant, hotel, and creative components.
“It’s time for the monOrchid to take the next steps and realize its full potential,” Rainey says. “Jonathon will take monOrchid to places that I have only imagined.”
Rainey founded monOrchid in 1999. It’s located inside a former warehouse, built by Del Webb in 1937. The building, which comprises 14,000 square feet, currently houses exhibition, event, office, and co-working spaces. It’s also home to Be Coffee, a restaurant called The Dressing Room, and the Phoenix offices for True North Studio. True North Studio is part of True North Holdings. The real estate development firm Vento founded in Delaware in 2016.
“MonOrchid has been a linchpin of the downtown Phoenix arts scene for almost 20 years now,” Rainey says. His own creative pursuits include fine art photography. “It’s satisfying to look back over a volume of time so full and ripe with potential and progress.”
Several small businesses, including The Bosque, have been launched inside monOrchid. And quite a few Arizona-based artists have exhibited work there, including Lalo Cota, Douglas Miles, Randy Slack, Beth Ames Swartz, and Marilyn Szabo. Currently monOrchid is showing works by Matt Priebe, and Antoinette Cauley’s art show opens in March.
The building’s exterior has several murals created by Arizona-based artists, including Sky Black, Lauren Lee, Kyllan Maney, and JB Snyder. Most prominent is a mural on the west-facing exterior, inspired by the I Have a Name Project and conceived by Jon Linton along with Rainey and the mural’s artist, Brian Boner. Snyder’s mural on the east-facing exterior is a popular backdrop for selfies and other photos.
Vento has already installed a 20-foot-tall sculpture shaped like a dress form, which was installed outside near The Dressing Room on Friday, February 15. It was created by Pat and Mike Murray, also known as the Maker Twins, whose Spectacle business is located in The Armory building on Grand Avenue.
Currently, True North Studio has two opens calls for artwork for the Cambria hotel it’s developing with Choice Hotels on the northwest corner of Portland and Third streets. It’s also creating a mixed-use project with the working name Ro2, which will include renovations to the historic Knipe House that’s surrounded by Roosevelt Growhouse gardens, and has a trio of new restaurants in the works.
Vento conceived the Ro2 project with Rainey and Mike Davis, who owns the property on the northeast corner of Roosevelt and Second streets that currently serves as a pop-up park. Vento’s plans for the development include a vertical farm created by multimedia artist and fourth generation farmer Matthew Moore.
It’s all part of a massive shift taking place within the Roosevelt Row arts district, which is roughly bounded by Fillmore and Moreland streets between Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue. Several developers, including Denver-based Baron Properties and Scottsdale-based Desert Viking, have changed the urban landscape in Roosevelt Row in recent years.
Baron Properties built two multilevel residential buildings at the intersection of Roosevelt and Third streets in 2016. For one, they demolished a creative space called GreenHaus, which previously housed the city’s first gay bar, complete with interior murals by Ted DeGrazia and an iconic Three Birds mural by Lauren Lee.
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Desert Viking’s adaptive reuse project called The Blocks of Roosevelt Row began with renovations to the Flowers building on the southeast corner of Roosevelt and Fifth streets. The project displaced two galleries, but went on to open in 2017. Now there’s controversy over Desert Viking’s demolition of a bungalow on Fifth Street, because the developer got city funds to help with that part of the project.
Rainey lives in the Evans Churchill neighborhood, and expects to stay involved moving forward. “I’ll continue to work on issues and projects in downtown and I’ll still be working in and around monOrchid, but with a new role,” he says.
Rainey supports Vento’s vision, and feels optimistic about the future of Roosevelt Row. “I am convinced it is the right thing and the best way to ensure the integrity of our vision, by integrating it into the larger ecosystem that True North is building.”
But there’s something more personal at play here, too. Rainey’s son William was born last year, so he’s got another reason to care about the city his family calls home. “I want for my son what I want for all of us – an interesting, sustainable and inspiring city to grow up into.”