Attorney Terry Goddard leads a tour of the Monroe Abbey, April 21, 2016.

Attorney Terry Goddard leads a tour of the Monroe Abbey, April 21, 2016.

Before the June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine moves off our digital landing page, I share my editor’s letter from that issue, about a remarkable transformation occurring in downtown Phoenix, and the lawyer driving the change.

Here is a video of Terry Goddard describing the resurrection of the historic First Baptist Church:

 As my column opens:

Do you ever hear from new lawyers wondering what your “best case” was? Or your favorite legal memory?

Monroe Abbey column detail

Monroe Abbey column detail

That may be a hard question, but I’m guessing it doesn’t involve your biggest financial windfall. Or even the one that got written up in your law office’s client newsletter.

Instead, it may have been the case that allowed you to devise a great solution out of what had been a pile of rubble. Perhaps one that made a transformative difference for someone.

I’ve thought about that question a lot as I passed a beautiful hulking mass of a building in downtown Phoenix for more than 10 years. After many trials and tribulations—and even a blistering fire—the historic First Baptist Church is on its way back to making a useful community contribution.

To me, there’s no surprise that an attorney has been driving that preservation effort.

 Terry Goddard served as Phoenix Mayor from 1984 to 1990, and as Arizona Attorney General from 2003 to 2011. But it took more than good lawyering to see the potential in the 1929 building, which was ravaged by fire in 1984. Gazing in dismay at the empty shell, Goddard decided to take action. He founded a nonprofit—called Housing Opportunities Center—that purchased the church and saved it from what was almost certain demolition in 1992.

Today called the Monroe Abbey, the structure sat, safe but fragile, for 22 years—the amount of time needed to raise renovation funds. Finally, in 2014 and 2015, work began to better stabilize the building and make adaptive reuse possible.

Read the complete column here.

Follow the Abbey itself here.

Lobby at 111. West Monroe in downtown Phoenix

Lobby at 111. West Monroe in downtown Phoenix

Yesterday, I attended a downtown Phoenix chamber-type luncheon. When I first RSVPed, I was told the location was TBA. But it turned out to be a great choice, and not only because the space is a high-rise going through an adaptive reuse. It’s also my old building.

Well, not mine, of course. My employer’s. For years, the State Bar of Arizona officed at 111 West Monroe. Eventually, the leadership decided to buy rather than lease, and that’s how we ended up near 24th Street and Indian School Road.

And ol’ 111? I miss that building quite a bit. It not only had the midcentury charm that takes you back. It also participated in an urban vibe that is all too rare in Arizona. Our views from the 17th through the 19th floors were often spectacular. And it was nice to stroll out on the street to buy a hot dog or a cup of soup.

Since we moved out, of course, downtown has become even more vibrant (thanks to many great people, many of whom toil at Downtown Phoenix Inc., on whose board I proudly sit).

Yesterday, the event was held in the 19th-floor space, gutted and ready for tenant improvements. But while everything was open, I slipped down a floor to my old office (sigh). And I spied where the Communications Department used to wield our mighty pen (and website, also mightier than the sword).

Afternoon sun in my old office at 111 W. Monroe

Afternoon sun in my old office at 111 W. Monroe

And who would’ve guessed, but when I walked up the fire stairs one floor, the door to the roof was open! I enjoyed the breeze and the view, one eye peeled for an angry security guard. But I enjoyed my brief perch over the sixth-largest city in the country.

Below are some more photos, including the old boardroom. (Click to enlarge and widen the images and to view them in a slideshow.)

How many of you attended meetings or events at the old State Bar spaces?

A Flxible tour bus in front of Boston's Verb Hotel tells you something different is going on with this parcel's transformation.

A Flxible tour bus in front of Boston’s Verb Hotel tells you something different is going on with this parcel’s transformation.

“What does a big red bus have to do with adaptive reuse?”

That is how I open my Arizona Attorney column for the October issue (I’ll share the whole thing when it’s online). The bus comment relates to a recently refurbished Boston, Mass., hotel. The larger issue poked at the question of how laws and lawyers can work to make urban spaces more vibrant and dynamic.

One way to achieve adaptive reuse is to alter your laws and your code to encourage (or at least not disincentivize) it. That is something Phoenix has been at work on. You can see a brochure about the city’s own plan here.

Meantime, in Boston, its namesake university has a fascinating piece of journalism on its site that describes the transformation of a main street into what it is today. Once the site of scores of auto dealers and auto-accessories shops, it has become a boulevard welcoming to cars but also to cyclists, pedestrians, and the City’s iconic T subway.

On the site, writer Patrick L. Kennedy explores that street’s transformation. (The site itself is a marvel; click through, at least, to view the brief videos and the sliding-bar effect that lets you view the old and new streetscapes right next to each other.)

One of the fascinating old structures that might have met the wrecking ball in another city is seen below. The building once held an automobile showroom. Now, the BU School of Theatre makes its home there, and it left intact much of the impressive artifacts—one of which are gargoyle-like figures high on the walls that honor mechanics rather than supernatural beings.

Boston University School of Theatre building, once an auto-dealership.

Boston University School of Theatre building, once an auto-dealership.

Yes, that is a mechanic gargoyle in the Stone Gallery. It and many others line the high ceiling in a space now used for education.

Yes, that is a mechanic gargoyle in the Stone Gallery. It and many others line the high ceiling in a space now used for education.

In that magazine column, I was able to share only one image (that very cool decades-old Flxible tour bus, also pictured above). So I thought it would be terrific to share more images here from the Boston adventure. Here are a few more.

Currently, Phoenix seeks to emulate the success of places like Boston that have installed “parklets”—repurposed parking spaces that now accommodate non-car uses. Dozens of cities have already discovered that altering their laws to permit these spaces creates a more vibrant streetscape, which benefits the businesses nearby and adds to residents’ value.

This is just one example of many that businesses have taken when they install public parklets in Boston.

This is just one example of many that businesses have taken when they install public parklets in Boston.

Boston parklets, branded

Boston parklets, branded

A parklet reminder that the space has no predefined use.

A parklet reminder that the space has no predefined use.

The somewhat odd debate is occurring in Phoenix right now as to whether the city should have both public and private parklets. As seen in the images below, Boston’s are public—as are the parklets of 99 percent of the cities out there that have adopted this unique tool. (Is it an Arizona thing to imagine that higher benefits flow from passing public amenities on to the private sector? Hmm.)

In case there was any doubt, signage makes clear that all parklets are public (and not just for a business's customers).

In case there was any doubt, signage makes clear that all parklets are public (and not just for a business’s customers).

Also occupying former car space are wildly successful bike-share stations. They can be found at dozens of places around the city, which makes hopping on—and then off—an easy task.

Boston bike-share occupies space formerly used for cars.

Boston bike-share occupies space formerly used for cars.

Of course, adaptive reuse means businesses often live alongside—or above—residential spaces. This image shows multiple floors of retail and commercial (including below-grade) with residences above.

Business and residential together (and yes, that is Insomnia Cookies in the foreground). Boston streetscape

Business and residential together (and yes, that is Insomnia Cookies in the foreground).

And here is another former auto dealer that now markets bagels and other food through its massive plate-glass windows.

Boston adaptive use streetscape

Boston adaptive use streetscape

Finally, I couldn’t help but notice a former incinerator chute—not removed but left to evoke the past—in a university dorm.

Boston: The impulse to retain the past burns bright. An incinerator chute in a Boston University dorm.

Boston: The impulse to retain the past burns bright. An incinerator chute in a Boston University dorm.

 

Boston incinerator 2_opt closeup

Incinerator label closeup

Do you agree there is value in keeping and adapting the past? If you’re a lawyer involved in that effort, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Tomorrow, I’ll share another great adaptive reuse—here in Arizona, and with another legal angle.

Venue Projects Beef Eaters sign

Longtime lawyer eatery Beef Eaters Restaurant, about to be reborn via Venue Projects

Here is a Friday Change of Venue story that really goes above and beyond. Let me explain.

Change of Venue is my casual Friday, where I divest myself of the pressing need to remain focused on law and law practice. I mean, give a guy a break!

Today’s story is a little far afield. But as I examined it, I realized how lawyerly it was. (Just when I think I’m out, they puuuull me back in!)

The story relates to an announcement just yesterday. The shell of a former restaurant is being transformed into a space that will house three diverse businesses.

So right away I spot a problem. This story has “adaptive reuse” scrawled all over it, and there are few land-use topics that are more lawyer-heavy than that one.

Making it worse is the name of the former restaurant: Beef Eaters, in Phoenix. That venue was a prime eatery of lawyers when it operated from 1961 to 2006. So as much as I want to give you an attorney-free, protein-rich blog post today, I’m afraid I can’t do it.

Who remembers lawyer meetings at Beef Eaters? I do!

The wood-paneled restaurant near the intersection of Central and Camelback was often lousy with lawyers back in the day. At yesterday’s press conference, a speaker pointed out that Beef Eaters was a site where many of the business deals that shaped the Valley were hammered out (and a few lawyers got hammered).

I recall quite a few State Bar of Arizona Section meetings being held there. It was always a pleasure to walk into the banquette-filled dining room. (Ironically, because Sections always watched their pennies, we never ate beef while we were there; we were chicken-only diners.)

Anyway, in case you’re wondering, here is what is slated to move into the refurbished digs by November 1:

  • A restaurant being developed by Justin Beckett, the culinary mind behind the award-winning Beckett’s Table.
  • Another branch of Changing Hands Bookstore, the first outside Tempe of the nationally recognized independent bookseller.
  • A collaborative office, work and meeting space, called The Lively Hood (say it slow; you’ll get it.)

The project is being conceptualized by Venue Projects, the folks who adaptively reused numerous other spaces in town, including the restaurant now known as Windsor/Churn.

Lorenzo Perez of Venue Projects said, “We’re salvage-hounds,” as he waxed poetic about the walnut floors, antique chandeliers and masses of clear oak they discovered on the property.

Even the seats for the press conference speakers—described by City Councilman Tom Simplot as “Austin Powers chairs”—came from the property, and will likely find a revised home in the new space. (See the fantastic chairs below.)

Venue Projects L to R: Shannon Scutari, Kimber Lanning, Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot, Mar. 28, 2013.

L to R: Shannon Scutari, Kimber Lanning, Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot, Mar. 28, 2013.

Other speakers were builder John Kitchell, Local First AZ founder Kimber Lanning, and Shannon Scutari, of the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, which had pointed out that the Light Rail-adjacent parcel could be eligible for a significant amount of transit-oriented development funds (there I go with the legal stuff again). The architect on the project will be John Douglas, FAIA, who has designed, among other things, the Phoenix New Times building and the Heard Museum.

In honor of the Beef Eaters longtime owner Jay Newton, the project is called “The Newton.” And in synch with the project’s nostalgia, Lorenzo said he would like to hear people’s Beef Eaters stories. What events, happy or otherwise, did you attend there? Do you have photos of events and family gatherings? How about business (or Section) meetings?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

To prime your interest, take a stroll over to the website of Modern Phoenix, where they have captured the leather-bedecked interior, pre-construction.

Have a great weekend.

Sahara Inn, Phoenix

Let’s get the disclosure bit out of the way right up front:

I sit on the board of an organization—the Downtown Voices Coalition—that seeks to improve downtown Phoenix. Among the many things we have done is to advocate with the City on historic preservation issues—including on a building that the City itself owns—and right now is demolishing.

On May 5, I received my occasional missive from the City of Phoenix Public Information Office. It included a list of story pitches. One in particular, the last on the list, caught my eye.

“New Businesses in Old Buildings”

“The city of Phoenix Adaptive Reuse Program is one of the most comprehensive programs in the country to encourage turning older buildings into new businesses. This process is the ultimate in recycling and sustainability, and it helps our economy and offers new amenities for residents. Recent projects include The Parlor, St. Francis Place, America’s Tacos and many others.”

“Contact: Michael Hammett, at 602-495-5405 or michael.hammett@phoenix.gov.”

Demolition, May 12, 2010

All of the examples, of course, are private ventures spread across the City. But what happens when the property is actually City-owned?

Well, we found out about four hours ago. That’s when the heavy equipment moved in and began demolishing the vintage Ramada Hotel, originally known as the Sahara.

Demolition, May 12, 2010

The City gave some reasons for this irreversible action, but it really came down to the short-term need for more parking downtown (for the, you guessed it, City-owned Sheraton Hotel). And the long-term plan? A downtown site for the Arizona State University law school.

Having the law school downtown may be a great idea. But if there is one thing downtown already has plenty of, it’s a wealth of empty lots. Once again, a plan only made sense to powerful interests if it could be sited exactly on the spot where something cool already sits.

Cool? Well, yes. Marilyn Monroe stayed there, among many others. It was built by none other than Del Webb. And the structure itself is—was—a remarkable example of mid-century modern architecture. Hidden beneath some stucco was a change-inducing building, which could have contributed greatly to a bustling downtown, including ASU’s own students.

Phoenix Sheraton: Tall but underparked

This afternoon, though, we’ve got another empty lot, part of an enduring and painful legacy left behind by the City’s current leaders.

Adaptive reuse? Historic preservation? It remains dead last on this City’s list.

For some background—coming too late—here is an article from the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

And here is a great history of a downtown gem.