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October 17, 2012


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Wow Jon, U sound pissed off!
Terry Goddard is having a fund raiser, maybe U could get Terry and Paul Johnson to call the mayor.
I fugured it was going this way back when they put up a building taller than the Westward Ho.

Before I go to sleep, this blog reminded me that when I was walking across America in 95/96 I was out there on Highway 82 in the panhandle with 82 cents in my pocket and the bank in a town of maybe 200 was closed but the Dairy Queen was open 24/7. I had some coffee and then caught a ride on down the road towards Lawton, OK with a book makers grandson that had just got caught up in a big MJ bust.

You can't find a Dairy Queen open in Phoenix, a town of Millions, at 3 AM?

and at 3 AM in the panhandle at nite U can see the stars, not in Phoenix.

I threw in a footnote at the end of Town hall fools.
good nite

The fight to save the Sun Merc reminds me of a similar case involving a historic structure that stood right where a developer wanted to build a hi-rise office tower in downtown Denver nearly 30 years ago. Unlike Phoenix, the developer reached an amazing compromise with preservationists and the city: He agreed to wrap the 45-story tower, which he named simply "1999 Broadway", around the beautiful and iconic Holy Ghost Catholic Church.


After relocating to Boston in 2004 from Phoenix -- where I spent the first 25 years of my life -- I finally was able to appreciate historic architecture like the Madison and St. James hotels. Denver has done an incredible job, of protecting its inventory of historic buildings, particularly those in the downtown area.
When Jon says Phoenix lacks soul, he's not kidding. It's a very antiseptic environment to me.

Please be aware that Mr. Crow loves PARKING LOTS/GARAGES....something else we do not need downtown. Especially when the site is within walking distance of Central Station/the Light Rail, at least 8 bus lines, & the Rapid & Express lines. The latest dream for the Law College includes a 200+ car garage (UGH!!)The proposed building at 2nd Ave & Van Buren also wants a garage. NO WAY do we need another parking lot/garage for any building downtown! I wish the city would put a moratorium on parking.

A friend called me and ask if it was true that the Taliban blew up the Madison hotel. Who has the Paris alley call box?

Yeah! 'University' of Phoenix closing down 115 of its sites:


I felt the same way that, even though the fight to save Sun Mercantile from the proposed "facadedectomy" succeeded, saving Sarver countless millions when the economy tanked, that he had a certain satisfaction when he was able to built his VIP valet parking over the bones of a historic building.

Crow's ASU Downtown in conjunction with former Mayor Gordon's "you say jump, we ask how high"development team took down the Sahara Hotel/Ramada Motel, an iconic solid concrete Mid-Century building designed and constructed by Del Webb.

There were plenty of historic structures that went under the ASU bulldozer blade, when lots of empty lots already surrounded it. Meantime the "School of Sustainability" decries the heat island effect and talks of ways to mitigate it. One pontificates whilst the other destroys.

I remember seeing the inside of the Madison Square Garden building on 7th Ave and Van Buren, just before they took it down. No one could know the incredible potential of it from the outside. I would suspect the same was true of the Madison.

Totally agree on the downside/blindside of ASU. I was trying to be "positive," the lack of which I am constantly pilloried.

I am seriously shocked you called Michael Crow a "saving grace" of downtown Phoenix. Sure ASU has helped to re-populate the downtown area, but have we already forgotten the gorgeous, yet neglected, mid-century Ramada that is now a half-used parking lot for a hotel that already has under-ground parking (and will eventually be home to yet another new ASU building: future law school)? Crow indeed loves parking lots, because they are nothing more than cash cows for a university already sitting on a ridiculous pile of money. ASU has fallen in line with the rest of the country's universities which continuously construct new buildings that house classrooms that remain mostly empty and dark for a very large majority of the time. Also those so-called "student apartments" going up on Roosevelt Row were too cheap to build under-ground parking, so there are also parking garages going up in that area. You are praising the same situation that you are condemning.

Off Topic:


Not sure how I surfed across this (after all I am a penny short of double nickels) but an interesting article on Libertarianism.

Ouch! The link on how Romney is like Bush shows Bush majored in History at Yale. I am so embarrassed. I really expect more from historians. Gingrich and D'Souza should have disabused me of that notion.

e-dog - I couldn't finish reading that rather long meditation on Libertarianism's failings in the context of the workplace - read a fair bit along, but for me it's just an extended and ugly beating of a long dead horse. (Another area in which its failings become clear is in the treatment of the commons and environmental ecology, but I digress.)

I've said before that that philosophy is the most immature one that has ever been given a scholastic hearing. I suppose for some it takes intervention, others some real-life experience but, for me, a brief thought-experiment after reading A-Shrug at the behest of a paramour entranced with the shiny object of Objectivism, did the trick. Thankfully, she was a whip-smart coed and understood the contradictions without too much resistance.

I understand the initial fascination - what freethinking young person wouldn't be drawn to "Liber-anything"? But to me, anyone who hangs with that philosophy for any length of time might as well hang a sign around their neck saying "I Willfully Refuse To Think Very Hard."

Sorry for the rant, but I'm really annoyed by the political drain from many young "progressives" that Ron Paul's candidacy has enacted. His history of racism makes it a two-fer of an insult.

So Right !!! Too many cities tear down the core instead of preserving it (and to create parking lots - for what? - is a crime).
The more I visit Baltimore, the more I'm pleased that new architecture has been integrated with the old, preserved and renovated buildings.
Maybe it's having lived in Europe that gives one an appreciation of "old" buildings. "course, that ain't 'merican (too nuanced, I guess)

Side-note: a follow-up comment in the previous thread attempting to provide further insight into the polling shift of women toward Romney.

Sorry to be a spoilsport, but after all the words, let's take a look at a couple of current photographs.

The Madison Hotel as it stands today:


The "more ornamented" St. James:


Perhaps I lack the imagination (and budget) of a restorationist. But really, remind me of exactly what is being lost? Certainly not the history per se; but a couple of ugly, decayed, former tenements; both commercial buildings; one built in a rather utilitarian "20th Century Commercial" style and the other "influenced" (just barely) by the Spanish Colonial style.

Both buildings stink of blight: to restore them would take bundles of cash that wouldn't provide a return on investment for...oh...how about NEVER! And for what? Just to satisfy a pack of mewling, sentimental urbanites that have taken up the issue as a cause celebre because they have nothing better to do? Isn't this a perfect example of what gives liberalism a black eye?

For a more sympathetic treatment than mine, here is the text from which the above photographic blow-ups were taken:


Emil, when a historic building hasn't been maintained, then of course it's going to fall apart, and eventually, look like shit. You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I disagree with you that both the Madison and St. James are ugly. I find beauty in most old buildings, even if they have fallen into disrepair. Perhaps this is because everything looks the same in Phoenix; the homes only start to look unique when you venture into the historic neighborhoods. To describe one of the buildings is merely "20th Century Commercial" architecture is laughable. From an outsider's perspective -- albeit, one who grew up in Phoenix -- your attitude toward historic architecture in Phoenix explains why much of it was bulldozed years ago to make way for strip malls and, well, more "20th Century Commercial" buildings. Tell me, do you appreciate stucco?

Put up a parking lot

Buildings: As Jon can attest, I am opposed to buildings higher than one story and prefer Cactus. So I suggest they blade the second ugliest building in Arizona, the Chase Field ball park and while they are there they can blade the Suns basket ball Stadium and put in botanical gardens. The ugliest building, the Cardinals football stadium. But saving old things and restoration is not the choice of those that own the gold and most others don’t care as long as it doesn’t interrupt their gladiator sports frothing. And It’s not gonna matter anyway as in a few billion years earth is going to flame out and all those military industrial real estate developers and religious types will move onto greener pastures to develop, like Mars.


Sorry and I've no problem with a bit of ranting. It was a long link and it took me a couple of reads to get thru. The links on the current state of affairs were depressing too. I'm often reminded while reading the web of the Kirkegaard quote "Having failed to use their Freedom of Thought, people demanded Freedom of Speech as compensation" (my preferred translation).

Gosh, no need for "sorry." I was a bit worried that I left the impression that I was annoyed by your linking to it. Nothing could be further from the truth! Guess I just wanted to get a couple of kicks in on the "dead horse" myself. :)

It looks like the David and Gladys Wright house will live to see another...owner! Can the City please get to work trying to designate the house and site as historic? I must say, I am not a fan of much of Wright's work but the historical significance to the city is unquestionable. Likewise for Tempe, Gammage Auditorium holds significant historical value even though it is so damn ugly and reminds me of the giant car-centric, mid-century blandness typical of the style; an old 50's Valley National Bank branch on steroids if you will...something only Le Corbusier or Robert Moses could truly love. Yet, it is unique.

Emil, as for the St. James and the Madison, yes those buildings could have been restored and made to look rather impressive for their size. The St. James (white stuccoed building, I think) just needed the brick to be exposed and it would have been much more charming. Adding period-style awnings to the windows and extending the sidewalk and adding trees would have given the buildings their historic character back.

Correction: The Madison is the white, stuccoed building and the St. James was built in the plain Spanish Colonial style.

Phxsunfan, always good to see that postive gene U got working. (The Mobile reading library does have a copy of "Positive Intelligence" by Shirzad Chamine if U would like to borrow such But that would require U meeting me at The Portland, I prefer Kung Fu Girl wine)

I like your comments on the (but "charming") restoration items and wonder if you might be able to locate the "call box" from Paris alley.
I would like to add that while blading of the ugly structures I mentioned above that I would like to add Tovrea's Castle, just leave the beautiful Sajuaros. They could put a whole hilltop of Sahuaros where the "castle" stands currently. The mil the city put into that dump was a real loss.



New articles about lack of preservation in Phoenix and Michael Levine

ChrisInDenver wrote: "To describe one of the buildings is merely "20th Century Commercial" architecture is laughable."

No it isn't. That's an objective term describing a specific architectural style:

"The Madison Hotel was built in 1909, reflecting a simple '20th Century Commercial' style in the words of the Arizona State Historic Property Inventory."


ChrisInDenver: "Emil, when a historic building hasn't been maintained, then of course it's going to fall apart, and eventually, look like shit."

When any building hasn't been maintained it's going to fall apart and look like shit. But those buildings haven't fallen apart. The Madison was nondescript when new. Just because something is "old" doesn't make it historic, or even notable.

As for the St. James, I'm having trouble finding any contemporary (circa 1929) photographs. Apparently they're going to preserve and restore the facade and the lobby.

ChrisInDenver: "Tell me, do you appreciate stucco?"

Like most building materials, it depends on the style (color, texture) materials, execution, context, and upkeep. Stucco has been around for thousands of years and it's traditional in Spanish Style architecture. It's also a way to keep the exterior of a home or other building looking clean and new since it is low maintenance, can be reapplied, and is intrinsically pigmented (i.e., doesn't require whitewashing or other external paint and is therefore more durable to erosion, more resistant to soot and other pollution, and is easier to clean).

I've seen some hideously ugly stucco, and I've also seen a lot of attractive homes with stucco siding.

The idea that stucco is inherently evil and that brick is intrinsically holy is childish nonsense.

Cal, I have no idea what callbox you are talking about. I do have a vague memory of one being mentioned in a Phoenix 101. I'm guessing it has something to do with crime or calling emergency services? Something of an early emergency, blue light callbox on college campuses today?

Emil, I too know that stucco can be attractive, especially when a building was designed with a stucco exterior in mind; however, when an old building was designed with a brick exterior, applying stucco for cheap upkeep almost always makes the building look nondescript. It is an afterthought and not an original design element.

Cal can tell it better than me, but Paris Alley was one of the most vice-ridden, storied and dangerous parts of the Deuce. The call-box was for the street cops back in the pre-cell phone days.

Nostalgia sets in at what age? It appears a number of us on this blog have the nostalgia effect. My dreamy nostalgia transports me to a place where I am a lone figure that has just reached the rim of the Grand Canyon about 1100 AD. Or the Pacific Ocean at the southern tip of what is now called San Diego.
Do I have fond memories of The Deuce, of course? Paris Alley is where the “Tootsie Roll was invented. An entrapment game set up by the cops and named after American Indian and Phoenix Police Officer Wilber Tootsie. Wilbur would put on an old long coat, spill some wine on the coat, and lay down in the alley with his arm containing a flashy watch in a visible manner. Along would come a “Strong Arm” robber that would attempt to rip off the watch and go to jail. Paris Alley had a call box for cops without phones or portable radios. A few blocks away in the west end of the county court house was the city of Phoenix Police station. A place with bullet holes from cop on cop shoot outs. How could this not be emotionally nostalgic? Sometime in the 70’s maybe early eighties someone took a few brass door knobs off the doors in the county buildings and about the same time the call box in Paris Alley disappeared. So the rumor is, “what cop took the door knobs and call box for their private museum.” I can relate as I am the guy that bought Nina Pulliams Cadillac.
The Deuce area is where Ernesto Miranda got cut open by a Mexican national that still visits Arizona, inside the Amapola Bar. I watched Ernesto bleed out while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. That was a call Jon missed out on in his Ambulance riding days. There are a thousand stories in the Deuce. The produce area produced the Duce. An area where labor was cheap, booze was cheap and a number of prominent families today rose out of the sand of the great Sonoran desert, what’s left of it.
So what does that have to do with today, 10/20/12 and the demolition of a couple of old buildings? To me it’s not about the tearing down of old buildings but it is about the erection of new ugly monstrosities. It’s the same sort of idiocy that tells someone to plant winter grass on top of the dormant Bermuda and pour a lot of Teddy Roosevelt water on it. WTF is wrong with just leaving the desert like you found it. You want to have a lawn that looks like a field in Tudor England, move to fucking England.
So am I upset over the Madison and the St James? No I am upset that Phoenix has a population of more than 200,000. Am I upset about Stucco and Brick, no but personally I prefer Adobe, Thick adobe walls and a dirt floor. And the term commercial style is that like the definition of a weed, “a plant where it is not wanted.” So I am back a few years to when I first noted there was a dude named Jon Talton. Jon you know I would blade it all and plant Saguaros.

From a retired Phoenix cop friend:

Just some further thoughts on this topic. I was also pissed off when they tore down the Greenway and El Rancho Hotels on Van Buren. I spent many a night at both locations on hot calls when I was on the Walking Beat. The bottom line is they could of invested and preserved them. This past summer me and my wife and several family members took a two week trip/tour to Ireland. I got to go to the city where my grandparents hail from, Bellycastle, County Mayo, South Ireland. I call it a city but it is so rural (located on the far west coast of Ireland, absolutely beautiful country and coast line,) it is more like a tiny town or village. Not too much has changed there in over 500 years. I got to meet second cousins and other family for the first time, it was a wonderful experience. The "new" church in town was over 100 years old as well as the "new" cemetery. So many of the old buildings and castles are completely protected, preserved and many of them have been rebuilt. The bottom line is that they treasure their culture, history and past. It is a damn shame that we can't be that way here in Arizona. Edmo...

The Tear Down


try this for Tear Down


"So many of the old buildings and castles (in Ireland) are completely protected, preserved and many of them have been rebuilt. The bottom line is that they treasure their culture, history and past."

They actually have a culture and history. In Britain, they don't consider a structure REALLY old unless it's pre-Norman, though there are plenty of fairly recent (e.g., Georgian) structures there with historical status.

A dinky, boxy, red-brick warehouse cum "hotel" built as a commercial venture -- round 'em up, bed 'em down, shear 'em, and get the next batch lined up -- in downtown Phoenix Arizona in 1909 or 1929 isn't really historic or cultural. Local preservation mavens are desperate to enshrine nearly every stray brick simply because there is so very little in the way of real history or culture here.

I like adobe construction too, but the surface coating of adobe is commonly stucco or else mud-plaster, to protect the adobe bricks (typically sand, clay, and straw, with quantities present in that order) from water damage.

"This National Monument was built with adobe bricks and "stuccoed" in the same manner a thousand or so years ago."


Here's a photo of resurfacing work in progress on an old adobe wall, which shows the surfacing material being applied:


Stucco is traditionally just lime, sand and water. Modern stucco adds Portland cement, and sometimes acrylic or glass fibers for additional strength.

"The race may come down to an even narrower slice of the electorate than the nine most contested states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. The outcome probably will depend on what happens in the 106 counties that Republican George W. Bush won in 2004 and that voted Democrat Obama in 2008, according to an Associated Press analysis.

The AP reviewed the vote returns in those nine states during the 2000, 2004 and 2008 elections to identify the counties that have swung between the parties and were most likely to do it again on Nov. 6."


How historic preservation turned Denver's skid row into a success story:


A very interesting link, Mr. Talton. The full story is certainly worth a look.

One sentence is worth pulling out to examine in isolation:

"No doubt, Denver’s investment in streetscape improvements and other infrastructure changes, such as removal of a viaduct passing over Lower Downtown, reinforced the private investment and contributed to LoDo’s success."

It would be interesting to see this described and quantified, because I suspect that this, much more than historic designation per se, contributed to the revivification of the area.

The talk of "scarcity and certainty" (particularly the latter) plays into trendy memes; but I doubt that many capitalists were lured into investing on the basis of certainty that parking lots and billboards would face zoning restrictions.

By contrast, the owner of a single lot would not be in a legal position to improve the infrastructure and appearance of whole streets, blocks, or neighborhoods extending beyond his property boundaries, and would not have the funds to do so even if legal entitlements were not an issue.

Furthermore, the creation of housing stock is central to any systematic revivification of a blighted area, since residents anchor any local businesses and draw in those further away by word of mouth recommendations. A downtown area that depends alone on out of town tourists and on nearby day-workers (who commute to the suburbs after hours) is not only highly restricted in the kinds of goods and services which provide a profitable return to investment, but is also likely to revert to a kind of ghost-town after sundown.

So, the question of tax policy (for property buyers, developers, contruction firms, and residents) needs fleshing out, to see what was available, what worked, and what had disproportionally positive results in obtaining the desired goals.

An excerpt:

"Contrary to opponents’ fears, the historic district designations did not stifle investment or reduce property values; they had the opposite effect, spurring private sector investment and spawning development."

"Before historic designation, Lower Downtown had a vacancy rate of 40 percent, and 30 percent of the properties had been foreclosed upon. In addition to widespread demolitions, blighted conditions prevailed. After the designation, dozens of historic buildings were renovated to accommodate offices, art galleries, restaurants, bars, housing, and retail uses. Conversion of warehouses into lofts began, and younger residents began moving in. Lower Downtown housing stock grew from 89 units to more than 600 within eight years. The last foreclosed property was sold to a private developer in 1993, and by 1995 the area was home to 55 restaurants and clubs, 30 art galleries, and 650 residences.

". . . How did historic district zoning contribute to LoDo’s success? The answer is simple: scarcity and certainty create value in real estate. Historic buildings are a scarce resource; we are not building any more of them. Small businesses and investors were lured to the area by its charm and unique character—and by the knowledge that those attributes would not change. Historic district zoning gave investors assurance that if they spent money rehabilitating a turn-of-the-20th-century building, their investment would not be undermined by the property owner next door tearing down a building to construct a parking lot, put up a billboard, or pursue other insensitive development.

"No doubt, Denver’s investment in streetscape improvements and other infrastructure changes, such as removal of a viaduct passing over Lower Downtown, reinforced the private investment and contributed to LoDo’s success. But it is also fair to say that though before historic district designation a building owner could basically do anything he or she wanted with a property in Lower Downtown, there was no investment because there was no certainty about where the neighborhood was going.

"Historic district zoning is frequently controversial, but over the years, study after study has shown that it almost always increases property values, ­commercial revitalization, business investment, and tourism. "


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