Personal Space

Ben Bethel's Embassy Penthouse Commune

Photo by Claire Lawton
Ben Bethel (right) with John Werkema (center) and Daniel Bryant (left) on the wrap-around patio of their penthouse. See more shots in our slideshow.
After Ben Bethel graduated from University of Arizona in computer programming, he headed north and sold his computer to pay the deposit on a condo at Fourth Avenue and McKinley Street in downtown Phoenix.

Almost twenty years later, he's moved up in the building and currently lives in one of the penthouses. He laughs, but is definitely serious, when he calls his place the Embassy Commune -- the 4,300-square-foot space has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a theater and "eight-or-so" roommates, "depending on who's dating who," Bethel says.

When he's not running around the Clarendon Hotel, which he bought in 2004, he's on the 1,600-square-foot balcony, usually with a few of roommates, taking in the view.

From the balcony, he says he's seen the city grow and change. He points out the new satellite that was just installed on one of the buildings on Central Avenue and says how cool it is to see the transistors blow up whenever a dust storm rolls across the city.

Inside, the style is "temporary eclectic," Bethel says, because each roommate has brought his or her own pieces of art and furniture that decorate the walls and floors.

Bethel has plans to completely renovate the place -- reflooring, painting, and replacing the astroturf on the balcony -- but says he's waiting for his hotel business and the economy pick up.

He says he and his roommates used to throw big parties, but they admit to settling down and living more low-key lifestyles. That, and Bethel's moved most of his parties to the Clarendon.

The "commune" doesn't have any official rules (other than not touching the last beer) and while Bethel has seen his roommates come and go, there's usually one constant: "everyone gets along -- we're white, black, Hispanic, straight, gay, single, coupled ... everything except Republican."