The city of Phoenix is about to begin a very important project. Every ten years the city makes updates to their general plans. “The General Plan provides comprehensive direction for the growth, conservation and redevelopment of all physical aspects of the city through goals, policies and recommendations. This document is intended to be both long range and visionary and to provide guidance for actions over a long period of time.” 
It is important that the city here from impacted citizens on this plan. While the last 6 years of the greatest economic and development boom has brought unprecedented reinvestment and redevelopment to the downtown area and notably to the amazing Roosevelt Corridor.  RateroReporter is concerned that along McDowell Road the “Artery” of some of the most important Historic Districts has seen during the same period of time not a single new development, but the revision of many parcels west of Central to predevelopment dirt and those businesses east of Central leaving with no new tenants arriving.  How was this possible during that time of such prosperity?  What can we learn from the past, so that as we slowly return to economic stability and growth that this important area will be caught up in the next cycle of redevelopment to the benefit of those living in the surrounding Historic neighborhoods? 
Please plan to attend and support those members of the Encanto Village Panning Committee who share in reinventing a new vision for our area of Phoenix on Monday, October 5th 6:15PM at Phoenix College.

Historic Preservation Should Be a Uniting Process
September 22, 2009

Historic preservation should be done in cooperation with the community and the developers who have the resources to invest in and the knowledge to enhance our neighborhoods while keeping in mind their historical significance.

Far too often we read the stories of neighborhood battles won and lost leaving the true causalities:  the residents of these neighborhoods and the reputation and image portrayed of the Historic Preservation Department.

The Midtown Messenger’s August 24, 2009, editorial article relates “trauma” to the process of the proposed Encanto Parkside Project at 1302 West McDowell Road by Scott Haskins, an out-of-state developer.  “The site is now one of many bare lots dotting downtown and midtown,” the article says.  Were the envisioned upscale condos and associated high-end amenities such a drawback or would they have been more of a compliment to the well manicured F. Q. Story and Encanto-Palmcroft historic homes that this project would have bridged along McDowell Road?

The article quotes Mike Sklar of Sonata Properties saying that “while he’s confident the property was a good acquisition, he has no plans for it currently.”  As a holder of vacant property and not a developer, the profitable acquisition comes from speculation and not from the benefits of development of that land i.e., the lost  additional annual property tax revenue that would have been generated by a project that was worth millions in taxable value at a much higher rate than vacant land   Subcontractors and manufacturers could have turned millions of taxable dollars into the coffers of the City at a time when that revenue is so desperately needed..  Also, consider the taxable incomes that the “workforce,” which the article seems to be so concerned with, would take home to their families in these difficult economic times.  Also should have been considered is the positive environmental impact of having 87 units of housing at this location, this kind of smaller footprint, with pre-existing infrastructure, green development and the support for the existing local businesses.

The article continues to quote Sklar, “I have had people inquiring --it could work as workforce housing, assisted living, or office space.”  Doesn’t McDowell Road have enough workforce housing development that stretches as far as the eye can see that is continually dotted with “For Rent” signs and move-in specials?  That is what slowly over time, became the blighted, crime-infested property that was demolished. Such an upscale project would have enhanced this location, eliminating the blight that existed that troubled the surrounding neighborhoods at this location for years.  The Encanto Village Planning Committee, the Phoenix Planning Department and the City Planning Commission all approved of the Parkside Project.  Then along came a handful of individuals who were determined to stop any kind of positive redevelopment at any cost. Offering no solutions just challenges for the developer.  A reflection in one of these challenges was the image of the Historic Preservation Department’s designations post purchase, as a tactic to stop the development.  The existing structures had no contributing historic architectural value.  It had been known for years by the sign out front “Rentertain Apartments.”  The structure as historic workforce apartments are like saying that the big box Wal-Mart will be of historic significance because it supplied the workforce of America in the 1990s.  When the historic overlay is used in this manner, it cheapens the value of the overlay designation and distracts from other more important locations such as the 1950s kitsch structures east of 16th Street on McDowell Road that actually need to be preserved as contributing factors in a historic context.  With the limited resources of the HP Department and the need to overcome the Prop 207 hurdle, the choices need to be made with broad community support.

Without development we get pre-development, which is dirt.  Without preserving the sense of neighborhoods and community we simply get empty homes and vacant businesses serving no one. McDowell Road is currently a example of this.

It is portrayed as a victory that we now have a defeated Mr. Haskins who will most likely take his future investment dollars and ideas to another state and set a precedent that I only hope other developers will not follow.  With this scenario we have preserved nothing but dirt.
The Encanto Citizens Association and its handful of members need to set aside the 1969 battle mindset and to join with those of us who over the years have purchased historic multi- residential property.

It is time to say no to the war mentality and those who benefit from it and make it their sole purpose for action and say yes to cooperative rebuilding and reinvestment/development.  It is time to ask:  at what cost do these private victories for a select few, who appear to have the ability to use the City and its process to trump the process itself, impact the rest of us.