Architecture and Design

Why Kimber Lanning's Wurth House Renovation Matters for Downtown Phoenix

Lynn Trimble
Partial progress made on removing graffiti from the Wurth House.
Lately there’s been a flurry of activity around Wurth House in Roosevelt Row. Built in 1911, the home is located just west of Modified Arts, an art gallery that doubles as the Phoenix office for Local First Arizona.

Kimber Lanning has been giving the house what you might call a makeover. And it’s the extreme variety, one that's been underway for about two years. Lanning also owns Modified and the record store Stinkweeds. She founded Local First Arizona, a nonprofit that supports and promotes locally owned businesses, in 2003.

Named for a onetime owner, the Wurth House was originally located on a lot on the opposite side of Roosevelt Street. By the time Lanning got involved in 2015, it was an eyesore, covered in graffiti and at the center of a downtown Phoenix controversy.

At that time, the structure was one of three homes in the way of new development. Originally located at 314 East Roosevelt, the Wurth House was slated for demolition by owners Sam and Debra Moyer.

But it’s the only one that survived.

The two other properties, located at 222 and 420 East Roosevelt, were torn down to make way for what’s become the iLuminate apartment complex and a mixed-use development that’s still under construction.

But Lanning convinced the Moyers to donate the home so she could have it relocated and renovated. Since then, she’s been doing just that, mostly with her own funds and about $28,000 collected through various fundraisers.

click to enlarge
East- and north-facing portions of the Wurth House during mid-February 2017.
Lynn Trimble
In recent weeks, the house has undergone significant improvements, starting with concrete and lumber. Next up is plumbing and electrical work. And, of course, drywall. In total, the renovations will likely run $225,000 to $254,000, Lanning says.

“It’s about two-and-a-half times what I expected it to be,” she says, “because construction costs have gone up.”

But the result will be a 1911 home saved from demolition, and that matters to Lanning. She’s hoping the Wurth House becomes a shining example of renovation and prompts others to find ways to save old buildings instead of destroying them.

"The City needs to know that older buildings are really important, especially amid so much new development,” Lanning says.

Without naming specific properties, Lanning says she's not a fan of multilevel apartments where ground-floor space gets filled with elliptical exercise equipment rather small businesses that help enliven the downtown scene.

Lanning estimates that the structure will be ready for occupancy in about two months, and hopes it can become the new headquarters for Local First Arizona. But that decision will be up to the Local First Arizona board of directors, who will vote on the issue in coming weeks. Even with a move to Wurth House, Local First Arizona will still have a Modified Arts presence, she says.