Late last year, True North Holdings announced that it would be creating a mixed-use development called Ro2 in Roosevelt Row, the downtown Phoenix arts district located in the Evans Churchill neighborhood.
Now, they’ve requested demolition permits for four buildings, according to Dorina Bustamante, a consultant for the Phoenix-based real estate development company, which goes by True North Studio.
The buildings planned for demolition are located on First Street, north of Roosevelt Street. They include the former sites for The Firehouse and Bud’s Glass Joint. But the city can't make a determination until a demolition notice has been posted for 30 days. That posting went up at the effected properties on August 31.
The Firehouse, an arts and music venue operated by artists Michael and Joanna 23 from 2001 to 2016, closed after the previous owner announced he would be selling the building. The artists launched an online crowdfunding campaign, but were not able to raise the $500,000 needed to buy it. That building is located at 1015 North First Street.
Bud’s Glass Joint opened nearby at 1025 North First Street in 2012, but has since relocated to another Roosevelt Row building on Fifth Street south of Roosevelt Street.
If demolition plans are approved, True North will build a new office tower on the site. The new building will include “ground floor commercial uses, district parking, and a rooftop amenity deck,” Bustamante says.
Preliminary plans filed with the city’s office of planning and development include a 19-story office building with parking, to be situated between First and Second Streets south of Portland Street. Portland Street is located one block north of Roosevelt Street.
Phoenix City Council approved the True North development in November 2017, after issuing an RFP in June. The RFP called for developing seven lots of city-owned land along Second Street, to include a property called the Knipe House. True North submitted the only proposal, according to city records. They were awarded the contract, and paid the city just over $3.5 million for the land.
The Knipe House is being renovated rather than demolished. The grounds are home to the Growhouse Urban Agriculture Center, which started as Roosevelt Growhouse, but had to leave its Sixth Street location in early 2017 after that lot was sold.
None of the buildings proposed for demolition are eligible to be considered for historic designation, according to Michelle Dodds, historic preservation officer for the city of Phoenix.
None of these properties were noted on a 1988 historic resources survey of the Evans Churchill area, and city's position is the same today. "I don't believe any of the properties slated for demolition were considered eligible," Dodds says. "In looking at them today, we still concur with that finding."
The city looks at several factors when evaluating whether a building qualifies for historic designation — including whether it's associated with a historic individual or event, and whether it has significant architectural, landscape, or aesthetic features. In most cases, buildings have to be at least 50 years old to qualify.
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Several other buildings have been demolished in Roosevelt Row in recent years, as rampant development has transformed the area.
Two buildings on Roosevelt Street east of Second Street were demolished in 2015 to make way for a multilevel apartment building. One building served most recently as an art space called GreenHaus, and previously housed the city’s first gay bar.
Kimber Lanning, founder of Local First Arizona, took a different approach. After learning the Wurth House was slated for demolition, she arranged to have it relocated from the north side of Roosevelt Street to the south. Today, it sits just east of Third Street.
Were any of the buildings at issue here deemed historic, True North wouldn't be pursuing demolition permits, Bustamante says. “If they had historic significance, True North would have found a way to incorporate them.”