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.

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The old Phoenix City Hall, still standing, was replaced by a new building in 1994. (Photo: Jarod Opperman for The New York Times)

The old Phoenix City Hall, still standing, was replaced by a new building in 1994. (Photo: Jarod Opperman for The New York Times)

Does Phoenix have any history worth preserving? Over the decades, scores of historic preservation advocates have insisted that Yes, yes it does.

Their tireless work and the fragility of the evocative built environment make a great article in last week’s New York Times all the more appealing. It is titled “Phoenix Rediscovers Historic Face Worth Saving.”

Attorney Mark Briggs is rightly mentioned in it, as he is a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. He is cited along with the civicly-related bond money that supports historic preservation (and which is rapidly running out).

But kudos to the great preservation advocates in Phoenix, some of whom were quoted in the story: Jennifer Boucek (Preserve Phoenix), Alison King (Modern Phoenix) and Will Novak (Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition).

Michelle Dodds, the city’s historic preservation officer, rightly was quoted right at the top.

One speed-bump in the otherwise solid journalism occurs when the passive voice slyly creeps into a paragraph low in the story:

“There have been losses downtown, such as the Hotel St. James, built in 1928, that was demolished, save for its facade and lobby. The boarded-up property is now surrounded by parking spaces.”

It “was demolished,” eh? I’m sure someone mentioned that it was razed pretty recently by the Phoenix Suns, which wanted to make way for (yet) another surface parking lot, this one for its VIP ticketholders. (That demolition and the city’s reaction to it are the source of a lawsuit.)

Hat tip to journalist (and now Harvard student) Eugene Scott for pointing me to the NYT story.

How about a law office in an old cigar buidling? Puff on that idea! NHBAR historic building 1

How about housing your law office in an old cigar building? Puff on that idea!

How do we tell the story of law offices in historic buildings?

That’s something we’ve considered and attempted over the years at Arizona Attorney Magazine. I think (hope) that many of our readers agree with me that the life of the law may be illuminated by exploring the spaces we use for attorneys’ work. And when those spaces are vintage ones, we also manage to tell the story of our state.

Over the years, a lawyer I respect has urged me (a few times) to do such a story in the magazine. A history buff myself, I’m on board. But our challenge continues: There is no statewide inventory of historic structures that are now used as law offices.

So I keep beating the drum, urging lawyers to contact me with their buildings’ stories. (Send your information and photos to arizona.attorney@azbar.org.)

Meantime, I checked my mail this week and was greeted by a bar publication whose own exploration has yielded great fruit. Congratulations to the New Hampshire Bar Association for this month’s feature on historic law offices.

I spoke previously in praise of the NHBA’s premier publication. And now they’ve done it again. (Enough with the talent, already.)

In “Preserving the Past,” NH Bar News Managing Editor Kristen Senz and staff showed the results of scouring the highways and byways to find the best offices representing the topic.

Here is how their hard-copy pages came out. Note the great photos paired with the well-researched and detailed copy.

NHBAR historic law offices 1_opt

NHBAR historic law offices 2_opt

But this is 2014. So even if they’re writing about a 1700’s-era Colonial, publishers know they have to meet readers online too.

So if you don’t happen to have a print version of NH Bar News sitting around your office, you can go online to see the featured structures—and even more that wouldn’t fit in the publication.

You can view and read about all the historic buildings here. Well done (once again), New Hampshire Bar!

And now, you Arizona lawyers can help us tell the stories of your own vintage law offices. We’d love to hear from you.

Ornament on historic Tucson, Ariz., courthouse

Ornament on historic Tucson, Ariz., courthouse

Just a short item today pointing you to a long article—but you didn’t want to work too much today anyway, right?

I recently was sent a story by Tucson Judge José Luis Castillo Jr. He has penned an essay online that tells us much about legal history and what preservation really is (and what it is not).

He writes about the history of Arizona’s oldest working courtroom. Read his article here.

“Working” is an important word, because much of what makes it vital as a teaching tool may be endangered. Jump to the closer paragraphs of his piece, if you must, to read his insightful conclusion.

But give yourself the time to read the whole thing. There, you will see the role a room has played in our history—and even in Hollywood.

Have a great weekend.

 

Venue Projects Beef Eaters sign

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

Yesterday, I shared a story about historic preservation in Phoenix. And today, via the power of Craigslist, you may own an upholstered and cushy part of that history. You deserve it; take a well-earned seat.

Before I get to that, let me take you back to 1961, when the Beef Eaters Restaurant opened in Phoenix. From then until 2006, it was one of the go-to locations for prominent attorneys and their clients.

Today, it is being refurbished in a great collaborative effort. I wrote about that here.

Last night, scanning my Facebook stream, I saw a post by Modern Phoenix and by Lorenzo Perez of developer Venue Projects. Alerting those of us who like our history combined with comfort, they posted a photo of dusty but sumptuous Beef Eaters booths and suggested they could be in your own space.

*Like*

*Click*

Much to my pleasure, that click took me to Craigslist, where the following post appears:

“The iconic Beef Eaters Restaurant booths need to go asap! Some are in great shape and some are in need of repair. These booths are black high back leather 60’s style. 6’6″ Long x 4’6″ Wide. By appointment only to review the booths for purchase. Price is negotiable per booth.”

View the post for yourself here.

What settlement conference wouldn't go better when parties are seated around a Beef Eaters booth?

What settlement conference wouldn’t go better when parties are seated around a Beef Eaters booth?

Not to be competitive or anything, but which lawyer or law firm will be the first to purchase a booth? Who in town will be the bravest and coolest law firm? Which law office will possess the hippest collaborative work space, the one the Mad Men themselves only wish they could claim as their own?

Over at my house, I’m taking a tape measure to our walls to see if we can shoehorn in a booth of our own. It may or may not work for us. But if I still worked in a law office, I’d draft a purchase contract fast enough to make your head spin.

Who’s with me?

historic home Louis Emerson House

Louis Emerson House, Phoenix.

This past month, the Arizona Republic has been engaged in a noble bit of historic preservation: highlighting the most-endangered historic buildings in Phoenix.

Yesterday, the Republic staff featured the Louis Emerson House. As they note, “The Queen Anne/Eastlake style home is one of the few remaining residences in the Evans Churchill neighborhood. The Louis Emerson House has been relocated before to make way for the Arizona Center retail development. It is listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register.”

I was pleased to see that an attorney, Robert Young, owns the home.

“He believes two occupants lived in the house before 1902, but that is the year Louis Emerson and his wife Clara moved in.”

Young says, “Louis Emerson was a meat cutter for the Palace Meat Market. He used to advertise ‘Meat fit for a king.’” Young said he believes Emerson died in the 1920s. Clara remained in the house until the early 1930s.

That recurring feature got me thinking about other historic structures occupied by lawyers and law firms. Downtowns throughout Arizona are dotted with them, but they may be a declining resource, if the Republic series is to be understood.

Seeing the Emerson House reminded me of a feature story we published in Arizona Attorney back in 2001. It was a pictorial spread of great law offices housed in unique spaces. In that article, we covered and photographed a law office housed just up the street from the Emerson House. It is called the Oldaker House, at 649 North Third Avenue.

You can see the whole story here.

What do you think? Should we revive that feature and locate a new great list of attorney spaces?

Meanwhile, I point out that my Editor’s column that’s about to be mailed includes a contest of sorts. Send me a photo of your law office and/or desk, and I may send you a prize (read the column to find out what). (The whole thing is in the spirit of a previous blog post.)

Looking forward to seeing your space!

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, center, speaks, alongside fellow panelists Grady Gammage, Jr., and Christina Sandefur. Phoenix, Ariz., March 20, 2013.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, center, speaks, alongside fellow panelists Grady Gammage, Jr., and Christina Sandefur. Phoenix, Ariz., March 20, 2013.

It doesn’t take much to frighten people. In fact, when it comes to those charged with designing livable and dynamic urban centers, all it takes is three numerals to make the blood run cold.

2. 0. 7.

As in Arizona’s Proposition 207, now enshrined at A.R.S. § 12-1134.

That law, requiring government to compensate private property owners for any diminution in value that flows from government action, makes quite a bit of conceptual sense. But according to a few panelists last night, the result of the law has been a municipal failure of nerve.

That was a message that arose at a panel discussion including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. (It was sponsored by Women Design Arizona and Blooming Rock Development, and I previewed it here.)

All of the panelists were in general agreement about what the law says. But the law’s effects—especially in a city that is, as the Mayor said, among the “king of vacant lots”—drove the discussion.

“We already have one of the weakest historic preservation ordinances in the country,” Mayor Stanton said. Given that, “Isn’t it time to look at everything” that affects neighborhoods, including Prop 207?

Attorney Grady Gammage, Jr., opened by pointing out that “Arizona is not a place that’s especially hard on property owners.” Despite that, and due to a backlash against the Supreme Court case Kelo v. New London, voters opted for Prop 207. As a result, Gammage said, “Arizona is the only state that may have to compensate when any incidence of government action may alter a property’s value.”

Flowing from that, Gammage and the Mayor agreed, we’ve witnessed a “chilling effect” in city halls. Fearing lawsuits, city attorneys and the councils they advise live by the admonition, “Don’t do anything unless you can get everyone to sign a waiver of their Prop 207 rights.” And Gammage—a development lawyer and historic-property advocate—added, people never like to sign that document, so “it’s screwed up our ability to get development done.”

Disagreeing on the direness of the situation was Christina Sandefur, a Goldwater Institute attorney. She pointed out that cities may still regulate as much as necessary for health and safety. And if there are instances in which even small decreases in property value must be compensated, what’s the moaning about? Pay the small amount.

During the Q&A, the topic of waivers arose again. And for me, that led to some musing on what it means to be an effective lawyer. First, the waivers.

Gammage explained that there are two kinds of Prop 207 waivers. The first is called a Section I (as in i) waiver. It is sought in advance of any kind of development change. Municipal attorneys most often want these signed by all affected neighbors. And in the example of attempts to designate a neighborhood historic, those attorneys usually advise city councils that the neighborhood opinions must be unanimous.

As Gammage said, “We don’t do nothin’ without it.”

But, he added, there is an alternative: the Section E waiver. With that waiver, government does the best planning it can do to create a livable city. They make the designation, even if it’s not entirely unanimous, and then they wait to see if they receive a demand letter. In the worst case, the city may decide it’s best to waive out of the designation the one or two property owners that raise a stink.

Just like you, I’m sure, I live in a neighborhood. And in my neighborhood, 100 percent of the folks don’t agree on anything. The idea that we must stall any new ideas or development while we await the magician’s trick of unanimity means that nothing occurs—and that a city may remain the king of vacant lots.

I asked the panel if there should be changes in city attorney offices. All of the panelists were very circumspect on that question. And, to be fair to counsel, Mayor Stanton pointed out that the views of city attorneys and all staff “reflect decades of views” voiced by Council members. Lawyers follow; they don’t lead. They dispose; they don’t propose.

But as we sat in the empty lot of the Downtown Public Market, surrounded by food trucks and farm-to-table produce on a beautiful spring evening, I had to wonder.

That empty lot, and dozens of identical ones that surrounded us, are zoned for a pie-in-the-sky 500 feet of development. As Gammage pointed out, those massive structures will never be built in any of our lifetimes. And yet property owners hang onto these lots for generations, in case Phoenix suddenly morphs into Dubai.

In a Prop 207 world, panelists agreed, city leaders are unlikely to move to downzone anything, let alone declare a neighborhood historic. And so there is more and more room for food trucks.

Panelists mentioned that city attorneys are largely an elected bunch, so that may have something to do with their over-caution. But every speaker last night is an attorney, so they understand that lawyering is not an off-the-shelf commodity. Lawyers are not widgets, all identical, ever replaceable by another.

Because that’s the case, it may be worth examining who leads the law departments at the nation’s most progressive cities. Are they visionary, or belt-and-suspenders types? Do they counsel stasis and safety, or dynamism and risk-taking? Do they view their job as foreclosing the possibility of any lawsuit, however remote? Or as collaboratively problem-solving, willing to offer a variety of options and best practices?

Gammage alluded to those kinds of possibilities, including “creating attractive alternatives to property owners. Provide them benefits they can opt into.”

Yes, council-folk and mayors lead cities. But surrounding yourself with creative staff may help you get a city you’re proud of.

Until then, panelists concluded, we lumber on with our overriding fear of litigation, and a chilling effect that hampers development.