“You can’t negotiate fact”
Phoenix can expect more high-rise buildings as developers have at least three new projects in the works for downtown.
But at least one expert says Phoenix still lacks that one unique standout building that would distinguish the city’s skyline.
The three proposed high-rise construction projects are:
– Portland Park, a 14-story condo project at Portland Street and Central Avenue.
– Bioscience Partnership Building, a 10-story biomedical research center at Seventh and Van Buren streets.
– Luhrs City Center Marriott at the northwestern corner of Central Avenue and Madison Street behind the Luhrs Building. The California-based family developers plan to build a 19-story hotel with 320 rooms.
Downtown officials say there’s another planned high-rise on the northwestern corner of Central Avenue and Van Buren Street. However, Phoenix Planning and Development officials said they have not yet received paperwork on the project.
One downtown Phoenix representative said that development, called Phoenix Central Station, is an important one to watch.
“I would say thatthemarket and finance dictate what gets built,” said David Krietor, CEO of Downtown Phoenix Inc. “That’s why watching this project at Phoenix Central Station is important. … It will allow us to watch to see if there is a market for a high-rise.”
City zoning and height restrictions also factor into where developers can build high-rises downtown, he said.
Critics have long complained about downtown Phoenix’s lackluster appeal. The area has improved slightly, with much of the increase in traffic credited to the Arizona State University campus, which draws students to the area, officials said.
However, architect Will Bruder said downtown still needs three things: a pedestrian/bike lifestyle, a modern streetcar and a single distinct high-rise.
Bruder said San Diego has a “great downtown” where the airport and the high-rises are located close together. People walk or ride bikes, he said.
Phoenix architect Michael Rumpeltin also said the city’s high-rises could use more distinction. He believes Phoenix’s tall buildings resemble those in Chicago and Los Angeles.
“I think developers look for inspiration from other places such as Beijing, but it doesn’t speak to Phoenix, Arizona,” Rumpeltin said. “I agree with the saying, ‘look for more inspiration from the climate and culture of the place that building is in.’ ”
The San Francisco courthouse, for example, has design elements that might work in a Phoenix high-rise.
“The (building’s) footprint is very thin, that way, when you are in the building, you are closer to the skin of the building, you are close to the window and you rely on the natural light rather than electrical light,” Rumpeltin said. “There are also operable windows, they allow natural ventilation of the buildings. A typical (high-rise office) has fixed windows with no ventilation.”
He recommends developers look at high-rises in deserts such as Dubai and find out how they construct buildings to fit their climates.
Rajan Hansji, president of subsidiary Hansji Urban and owner of the historical Luhrs Complex in downtown Phoenix, said development starts with a vision. Often, the question starts with how you set yourself apart from the others, he said.
The Luhrs City Center Marriott, for example, could have become another glass high-rise, which would fit in with the nearby buildings. However, the developer chose a design that includes a brick facade, which matches parts of the block he bought, he said.
“We have the brick sample, and it’s a tone of red and gold,” he said. “It’s really cool.”
Hansji bought the property in 2007 for $28 million and has spent millions restoring the historical Luhrs Building and the Luhrs Tower, said Billy Shields, a spokesman for the Hansji Corp. The developer will demolish the Central Building, built in 1914, and replace it with the Marriott.
The interior design of the hotel will feature elements from Arizona’s pioneer era, Hansji said.
“There is going to be a story. That’s going to set us apart from the rest,” he said. “People will say it’s something that they have not seen before.”
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