“The fire is under investigation,” says fire captain Scott Douglas with the Phoenix Fire Department, who confirmed that the department was dispatched to the site at 10:13 a.m. Sunday morning. Douglas says it could take weeks for investigators to finish their report, or longer if it turns out that arson was involved.
The building is owned by SimonCRE, a national commercial real estate acquisition and development firm based in Scottsdale.
“As you can imagine, we were shocked to learn the news about the fire at our property,” a SimonCRE spokesperson told Phoenix New Times via email on October 25. “We are unsure what caused the devastating wreckage to the beloved historic building, but are looking into it and are grateful no one was hurt.”
SimonCRE bought the 8,800-square-foot building, which is located along a strip of Grand Avenue lauded for its cultural offerings and historic preservation, in 2017. The company owns additional buildings in the area, and dozens of properties in metropolitan Phoenix.
From 2004 to 2007, it served as an exhibition and performance space called the Paper Heart, according to an article published by Modern Phoenix, a group that’s been documenting Midcentury Modern design in Phoenix since 2003.
Before that, the 1954 building designed by architect Victor Gruen with Ralph Haver served as a car dealership and service center called Quebedeaux Chevrolet. Gruen is best known for pioneering shopping mall designs, and Haver for his iconic Midcentury Modern designs for residential and commercial properties.
It’s too soon to know how the fire will affect future use of the site, although it’s clear that Modern Phoenix founder Alison King had high expectations for the building.
“The property is perfectly poised to be a beacon of light and culture at the intersection of two of Phoenix’s most historic arteries: Van Buren and Grand Avenue,” she wrote in 2018. “With a healthy and thriving arts district along Grand, the Modern Phoenix community is eager to see the next and best use of this historic property.”