The brothers held onto the property even during their hardest times.
Says Larry Yount: "I'd like to say that ten years ago, I knew Jerry Colangelo was going to buy the Suns, that the arena was going to be next door, that a ballpark was going there, and that I'm the smartest guy who ever walked. But that's not true."
Larry Yount says he and his brother bought the property "because the area around downtown convention centers always grows, and I thought Phoenix would be no different."
Three appraisers and two attorneys contacted by New Times say property in that area would have sold for about $20 to $22 per square foot in 1983. And there's no guarantee, Larry Yount agrees, that the property he and his brother own may sell for much more than that during a condemnation.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see a low return on some of the investments down there," Yount says, "but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try to get me a fair price--if this happens. The land values have got to be on the upside since what happened next door [the arena]. As far as I'm concerned, I'm sitting just fine, and I've got no great desire to sell. But I'm not gonna be the guy who holds up the deal."
@body:Contrast the R&G's empty warehouse and the run-down structures on the Younts' speculative block with three Jackson Street buildings also in the proposed path of stadium development. These buildings have some history. They also house thriving businesses.
Norman King bought his warehouse seven years ago to house his flourishing produce operation. The huge structure stands at 425 East Jackson, two blocks east of America West Arena. King moves tons of fruit and vegetables through this building every day. Battery-powered fork lifts whiz down the aisles of onions, which are stacked in net sacks stored three pallet-loads high. Truckloads of potatoes are loaded into the basement to be computer-sorted and boxed. Phoenix's first all-concrete structure, King's Onion House is built like a bomb shelter, and has in the distant past functioned as one: When King moved in, the basement walls were papered with civil-defense instructions. Erected in 1915, the building is known to historic-preservation authorities as the Lightning Delivery Company Building, after an early tenant.
"Right now the best use for this building is packing and distributing produce," Norman King says. "But if they decide the stadium is gonna go, I don't think I'll be able to stop them."
King's Onion House occupies one of several buildings along Jackson Street that house produce companies. This small warehouse district grew here because of its proximity to the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. Though most of the other produce operations now receive and ship their products by truck, King's Onion House still gets its deliveries via the nearby rail. Just east of the Onion House, on 601 East Jackson, is the Stern Produce building. Built in 1924 by the Arizona Citrus Growers' Association, it is the only building on the stadium footprint with much historical significance to preservationists. In fact, it's listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
Other older buildings on the stadium site have been altered or damaged in ways that make them less appealing historically, says Roger Brevoort, preservation planner for the City of Phoenix.
The Stern Produce building was designed by the firm of Lescher and Mahoney, considered to be among the most important architects in the early history of Phoenix. The downtown post office and the Orpheum Theatre are among other historic buildings drawn by the duo.
As important as its architecture, to historians, at least, is the Stern building's status as a reminder of the citrus industry's role in the local economy in the early 20th century.
Brevoort notes that the existence of one historic structure can't and won't scotch the stadium deal, but preservation authorities will encourage the developers to try to save such a building, or incorporate it into their plans, as the Baltimore Orioles recently did at Camden Yards.
Another example of such a use is the Suns' private health club, which operates in the restored Sun Mercantile Building, a historic structure located just east of America West Arena.
Stern Produce predates its current home, which it has occupied for about a decade. The business itself began in 1917, the year Bill Stern started farming in Phoenix, near what is now the intersection of Grand Avenue and Interstate 17. His grandson, also named Bill, now runs the company out of a basement office below the loading docks. Stern Produce employs about 70 workers to deliver fruit and vegetables to local restaurants. The workday starts early--Bill Stern the younger is in his office by 5:30--and most of the company's 30 or so delivery trucks are parked back on the yard by 1 p.m.