Note: This post wasn’t meant to reflect the destruction of any particular historic building in Phoenix, but more to comment on the predictable ebb and flow with how these scenarios always play out. Unfortunately, the hypothetical sometimes catches up to the reality.  

Several days ago the news broke that “Glasir Capital Partners” would demo a 120-year old local building. Nothing ever changes in Phoenix, so the narrative is almost beat for beat what occurred in real life. This city is so predictable.   

  • Allow land to be bought up by a developer, a building follows. The structure doesn’t break the mold, design-wise, but it’s clearly from an era when artistic expression was valued. So, this structure is at least 50 years old.
  • Building goes through decades of different store fronts and owners, but remains a beloved fixture to the local population & public.
  • Building gradually falls into disrepair, through either mismanagement, neglect or incompetence. It’s listed for sale and a out of town developer with an unlimited budget (and no personal stakes in the design) sees an opportunity to build. They buy the property, but most importantly the land it sits on…
  • Here comes the fun part where they reap the benefits, through decades of crappy, weak preservation laws in place, it’s easier for a developer/property owner to bulldoze a building than to preserve it.
    • It’s up to the building owner, who may have bought the building only for the lot potential, to submit the building for historic status with the city.
    • There’s still hardly any longterm tax incentive, with the federal funding being the mess that it is. Local bond money to preserve is paltry to nonexistent.
    • Adaptive reuse is a new concept to Phoenix. The state sponsored program has only been in effect since 2008. So, you can imagine how many local buildings are no longer with us using that date.
      • (The Newton is a triumphant success story, however, and is arguably better than the original Beefeaters concept)
    • Until recently, there was no waiting period between filling a demolition permit and carrying it out. Now it’s a 30 day waiting period. Seems so obvious, I know.
    • If a historic building is in particularly bad shape, it’s practically rubber-stamped for the wrecking ball, as is the case with the Clinton Campbell house.
  • Knocking down cool historic buildings has always been in vogue. Blame Manifest Destiny.
  • It used to be the thing to demolish significantly historic structures to build parking garages or some beige nightmare in the place of something actually unique (Al Beadle’s Mountain Bell building).
  • Not anymore! Keep in mind all they want is the land to build whatever eyesore they want to make money on.
    • As of now, cookie-cutter apartments are what’s popular. And locally they are the leading cause why local historic structures continue to disappear.
      • They could care less about the historic structure they own, the memories they contain, the stories of the people who’ve patronized it, owned it, the larger narrative of the time it was built, etc.
  • They either:
    • Bulldoze the building, name it some inappropriate, new age-y, luxurious name. There’s no semblance of what was there before in the design.
      • Cutthroat but honest.
    • If they want to fool a handful of people, they promise to save three walls and a key design trait of the original structure.
      • In their minds, this is what historic preservation entails even though it’s not.
    • Maybe give it the name of the business of what stood there before. See, they’re not heartless developers! They’re sentimental! 
  • Commission whatever local artist is willing to play ball to create an art installation that’ll go in front of this building to further the impression that the project is not just about selling crappy apartments, which it still totally is.
  • If you want to be stingy and wring an extra few million in revenue, demand that the city take on a GPLET Tax, which basically means the City operates the building for an extended period of time (but they’re also exempt from paying property taxes)!
  • Now the area is more denser, more surly (remember, this is Arizona, after all) version of Los Angeles with even less of historic record of the architecture.
    • There’s a lot of housing but not as many places to live…
  • Most people may not know your name but they know your legacy. And imagine what they think of you…
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