Big changes are coming to the Eye Lounge in coming months as the urban landscape continues to shift in the Evans Churchill neighborhood that is home to much of Roosevelt Row.
Eye Lounge is operated by members of its artist collective, whose members have included some of Arizona’s most accomplished artists through the years.
Current members include Gina DeGideo, a photographer who’s optimistic about renovations that soon will be underway.
"We're definitely embracing the changes," she says.
Eye Lounge is located in a building purchased nearly 20 years ago by artists Greg Esser and Cindy Dach. The married couple have been instrumental in creating the Roosevelt Row arts district.
They’re now working with Megan Greenwood on a brewery project that will include both renovations to the Eye Lounge building and construction of the new Greenwood Brewery and Taproom, which they’re hoping to open in spring 2020.
The building is on the south side of Roosevelt Street near Fourth Street, in an area that’s undergone rampant development in recent years.
Greenwood Brewery is being built just west of the Eye Lounge building, which is also home to MADE Art Boutique. That means visible changes will soon be underway, for both the gallery and boutique.
“Overall, we hope to complete construction in four months but it may take up to six months,” Esser told Phoenix New Times in a recent email.
The contractor is Tempe-based Temac Development, whose other projects have included Paz Cantina & Cafe in Roosevelt Row.
“We are pushing for a March opening for the brewery and taproom,” Esser says. They’re hoping to keep both Eye Lounge and MADE Art Boutique open during the construction process, although Esser says it’s likely some closures will be necessary for things like utility work.
The exact timing will depend on city processes for permits. The city approved its site plan just last week.
Esser posted a 30-day demolition notice on August 30. But that’s for partial, rather than total, demolition of the building. They’ll be tearing out existing storefront bays that were filled with block, stucco, and windows with security bars back in the 1970s, he says. Then, they’ll rebuild on the existing footprint, and include storefront windows.
“Reopening this part of the building to the sidewalk has been our dream since we acquired the property nearly 20 years ago,” Esser says.
The project includes shifting the entrance for Eye Lounge from Roosevelt Street to Fifth Street. Both Eye Lounge and MADE will get reconfigured, as a portion of the building becomes part of Greenwood Brewery and Taproom.
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The Eye Lounge entrance will be situated just south of the current entrance for MADE, although the rendering includes Eye Lounge signage just north of the MADE entrance. There's already a second door that connects MADE with Fifth Street, although it's not currently in use. That's the door that will lead to Eye Lounge once renovations are completed.
DeGidio expects the changes to have a positive impact on Eye Lounge. "We'll have more breathing room being off Fifth Street, where we'll also have a courtyard," she says. "And we'll make even more improvements once the initial renovations are completed."
Eye Lounge members have been meeting with Esser for many months, working to assure the transition is as smooth as possible for both artists and gallery visitors. Soon, they'll welcome several new members, whose works will be featured in a group show slated for this fall.
"We're keeping an open mind," DeGideo says. "And we're really excited about moving the project forward."