A new development called Roosevelt Land Yacht Club could be coming to downtown Phoenix. It’s a new take on affordable artist housing, conceived by a trio of creatives in Roosevelt Row.
The development would comprise Airstreams or other vintage travel trailers, integrated into a steel structure that would wrap around an existing parking garage on the northwest corner of Roosevelt and First streets. The multilevel structure would be situated on a 15-foot strip of land between the garage and adjoining sidewalks. At this point, that land is covered in grass.
It’s in the conceptual stage at this point, but True North Studio is getting ready to start the design review process with the city of Phoenix, which will have to approve the design and issue needed permits before it all comes together. The design also includes architectural elements and landscaping.
Jonathon Vento, who heads the True North Studio real estate development company housed at monOrchid, conceived the project with artist Wayne Rainey and architect Alison Rainey. Wayne Rainey recently sold monOrchid to Vento, but plans to stay active in the downtown Phoenix arts scene. Alison Rainey is a principal with the design firm Shepley Bulfinch.
The Roosevelt Land Yacht Club is one of several Phoenix projects True North Studio has in the works. Most notable is the first Meow Wolf hotel planned for Third Street south of Roosevelt Street, which will also include a large exhibition space and music venue.
Vento recently purchased the multilevel commercial building at 1001 North Central Avenue, along with the garage just east of the building. It’s one of many properties he’s acquired in downtown Phoenix in recent years.
The Ten-O-One building was recently listed on a commercial real estate website called Loopnet, which indicated that it will include office, retail, and micro-retail space – plus an outdoor event venue. The listing's rendering included a large-scale mural featuring a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt on the building's exterior.
That building, and the Roosevelt Land Yacht Club, are part of a multiblock, mixed-use project with the working name Ro2. The larger project also includes the renovation of Knipe House, where True North Studio plans a boulangerie-style eatery called Josephine’s. At one point, Roosevelt Growhouse planned to use the historic home for retail and education programs.
“It’s all conceptual at this point,” Vento says of the Roosevelt Land Yacht Club. He figures it will take about six months to work through the city’s plan review process, and hopes to break ground on the project by mid-2020.
The working plan calls for about four stories with 30 units comprising silver Airstream travel trailers. Vento says the rental units will have about 350 square feet of living space, likening them to the average size of a studio unit in a high-rise apartment.
“They’re really iconic and they’re popping up all over the place now,” Vento says. “Our plan is to create an urban vertical housing project by using Airstreams.”
Basically, they want the project to be half housing, half work of art. “We’ll work with artists on painting and designing the exteriors, so this is constantly refreshed,” he says. It’s possible that they’ll use a different type of trailer, as development specifics take shape.
"This is an exciting opportunity for the creative use of a skinny underutilized strip of land between the edge of the existing parking structure and pedestrian way,” says Alison Rainey. “We’re transforming an unused, wasted space into something that will benefit the community.”
Affordable housing is a hot topic in downtown Phoenix, including the Roosevelt Row arts district where large developments have displaced creative spaces in recent years. The Downtown Voices Coalition, which brings together people in area neighborhoods, is exploring both affordable housing issues and ways to support the downtown arts scene.
“I met Wayne about four years ago, and he’s always been passionate about affordable housing,” Vento says. “The three of us sat down together about a year ago and came up with a plan.” That’s how the project began, inspired in part by concepts including freedom, escape, and renewal.
The trio drew inspiration from major cities on bodies of water, after wondering how a desert city could create a similar effect. Then, they added a playful twist that’s reflected in the development’s name and design. “We decided to have a little fun with it,” Vento says.
He’s not sharing details about what it might cost to live there, so it’s hard to know whether people will consider the units affordable. And it’s impossible to know how artists may feel about renting the small spaces, where finding room to create work could pose a challenge.
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Still, they’re optimistic about its potential. “We’re excited to share a wild idea for additional housing in a place where creatives need a place to live,” Vento says. “It’s meant to be affordable for all artists.”
There’s also a bigger picture, according to Alison Rainey.
“This project will have a positive impact on the urban environment,” she says. “It’s the innovative treatment of these types of spaces that will define the experience and urban landscape of downtown Phoenix."