As rain drenched the myriad of locals and tourists gathered for pre-Super Bowl activities in downtown Phoenix on the evening of Thursday, January 29, a warm glow emanated from a pop-up Roosevelt Row welcome center set up inside Capture 12 gallery as people explored neighboring small businesses.
Across the street, in the house still painted with the name of the now-defunct Bodega 420, more than 50 people gathered to protest developments they worry will lead to the Roosevelt Row art district's demise. "Save Roosevelt Row," they chanted -- heading out with signs and mock coffin to traverse more than a mile in protest mode.
Perhaps they hadn't heard the news we first got from Scott Fisher, a principal with Baron Properties, a Colorado firm set to build residential units at the northwestern and southwestern corners of Roosevelt and Third streets.
Turns out, some plans to change Roosevelt Row already have been tossed out.
"Wood Partners," he told us via e-mail, "has apparently pulled its application and is not proceeding."
Wood is the company that wanted to purchase the complex at the northeast corner of Third Street and Roosevelt that's currently home to Paz Cantina 3rd St. Sushi & Bar, as well as neighboring property that's the site of two vintage homes and the lot that is used as the Roosevelt Row A.R.T.S. Market.
Jackalope Ranch made multiple calls to Wood Partners' Scottsdale office to confirm the news, but they weren't returned. Instead, attorney Nicholas Wood of Snell Wilmer, who represents Wood Partners, provided the following statement via e-mail from his client: "Wood Partners is no longer under contract to purchase the property located at the northeast corner of 3rd Street and Roosevelt. Other than that, Wood Partners has no comment."
While that corner property is spoken for, it's unclear as of this writing what, if anything, is happening with the adjacent homes and lot.
Even so, big changes are coming to Roosevelt.
Protesters organized after a recent City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission meeting failed to deliver the results they had hoped for: Actions that might slow or stop the demolition of buildings located at 222, 314, and 420 East Roosevelt Street to make way for multi-family housing structures with a modern urban feel far different than the street's eclectic, vintage vibe.
The 222 building houses GreenHaus, a gallery and boutique relocating soon to Portland. The 314 building is a home once occupied by the Wilcox family but now unoccupied. The 420 building is the former home of the Pappas family, and now houses the law practice of one of the protesters (who co-owned the Bodega 420 market that closed last year). The City of Phoenix issued a demolition permit for the home at 314 East Roosevelt Street on January 29, according to Michelle Dodds, historic preservation officer for the City of Phoenix.
An online Change.org petition posted in mid-December to gather and show community support for saving the 222 building now has more than 1,130 signatures. Originally, petitioners focused on saving the building because two of its walls have murals painted by Ted DeGrazia in 1950. But many also note the building's importance to the LGBT community, given its prior life as gay bar and entertainment venue.
However, there's no indication the 222 building will be saved.
Colorado-based Baron Properties has demolition permits, issued in mid-January, for both the 222 building and an adjacent office complex. According to the site review plan approved by the City, the developers plan to build a 111-unit residential complex with underground garage. Such permits require that demolition commence within 30 days or conclude within 60 days, although Dodds notes that permit holders can apply one time for a thirty-day extension.
"We're working on delaying demolition of the 222 building until after Art Detour," says Scott Fisher, a principal with Baron Properties. Current occupants Cole and Dayna Reed are moving their GreenHaus gallery and boutique to Portland. They expect to pack it up this weekend, which means Baron Properties will soon have the ability to work with the space.
The developer has agreed to remove the wall that currently hides DeGrazia's 40-foot long mural, and says representatives of the DeGrazia Foundation in Tucson are welcome to come and assess what it would take to preserve and relocate the mural (they've already agreed a smaller mural can be saved and donated to the foundation). Fisher says they'd also like to open the building up during Art Detour so folks can see the DeGrazia murals.
Still Bob Diehl, one of three people who wrote that Change.org petition, is hoping for something more. He called Baron Properties' Fisher last week to suggest a creative compromise: moving the 222 building, complete with DeGrazia murals, to a new site. Funding, he suggests, could come from the city and crowd-sourcing via a Kickstarter campaign. Dodds says she's heard people talk about trying to move other structures, too -- including the home at 314 East Roosevelt Street that's already slated for demolition.
But Fisher isn't considering the option.
Fisher says that if the 40-foot mural can't be saved, he says, Baron will hire a photographer to document it before demolition moves forward. They'll also be "honoring the LGBT history in the 222 building," perhaps by installing a plaque at the site of the former 307 Lounge or funding the compilation of its history.
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He's certain the new development at the corner of Roosevelt and Third Streets will have more art than what's currently featured there. Recently Fisher shared a rendering for the Linear development going up on the south side of Roosevelt, on a lot that's long been empty.
The rendering for their iLuminate complex, which is going in where Greenhaus and an office complex on the northwest corner at Third Street now sit, is being revised to reflect changes Fisher attributes to community input: an exterior mural, incorporation of the current front door at GreenHaus, and more.