I am often the first to criticize real estate developers, especially if they are so focused on the bottom line that they are willing to cut corners in ways that negatively impact the community. There are a lot of profit-focused developers out there that have detracted from a healthy and vibrant urban fabric. But, there are good, conscientious developers out there too who do projects with the community in mind. In the Phoenix metro area good developers who’ve done projects that greatly benefit their communities include Venue Projects, Sloane MacFarland, and Desert Viking Companies, to name a few. Fairly new and unknown to the development scene in the Phoenix-metro area is Urban Development Partners.

Who is Urban Development Partners?

Urban Development Partners (UDP), headed by partners Todd Marshall and Charles Huellmantel, is responsible for building the type of product Phoenix has been looking for to jump start a new direction for the city – transit-oriented and mixed used development. Thus far, they have delivered Encore on Farmer in Tempe and now Encore on First in downtown Mesa, both dense, transit-oriented housing developments. These developments offer seniors a new way of living – the urban lifestyle where they don’t have to rely on personal transportation. This is a big deal in Phoenix, which is such an automobile-oriented city and there aren’t a lot of housing options that allow for a car-light or car-free lifestyle.

These projects also serve as affordable housing for seniors, where people who live there can’t exceed a certain income. At first, some in the cities of Tempe and Mesa were skeptical about how bringing affordable housing to their city centers would do to their images.

Since there is no built-in rental assistance, at either Encore on Farmer or Encore on First, residents must not exceed the maximum income, but like market rate rental also need to demonstrate a minimum income, which is quite helpful to those on a fixed income. UDP’s housing developments have added much needed urban vibrancy to the respective city centers and will be catalysts for more arts, culture, and retail spaces. A recent Americans for the Arts study shows that a whopping 43% of the cultural audiences in Phoenix are over the age of 65. Bringing seniors to downtown Phoenix will boost the arts and culture scene, not deplete it.

What’s the deal with The ROW?

The ROW is the next development that Urban Development Partners is proposing in the Phoenix metro area. It is located in downtown Phoenix on 2nd Street and Roosevelt. The lot is owned by the City of Phoenix, who recently put out an RFP for developers for the site, which Urban Development Partners won.

Some people questioned the city process of selecting UDP saying it wasn’t transparent and did not include the community. However, both the the Roosevelt Action Association and the Evans Churchill Neighborhood Association assert that the city’s selection of UDP and its proposal was in fact a transparent and inclusive process.

“We support the process that set a defined and publicized criterion and then allowed for the public to bid on a concept. From what we have gathered, this process was completed in a professional, confidential, and effective manner.  Thank you for your conduct and the processes that allows for threatened sites such as the Knipe House as well as avoiding speculators to sit and hold the site,” says Mark Davis, president of the Roosevelt Action Committee, in a letter of support to the City of Phoenix. And Kevin Rille, the president of the Evans Churchill Neighorhood Association has also spoken up in support of the selection of UDP and their proposal, saying,

“A process for the development of City owned parcels in neighborhoods such as ours is important. In this case, having defined requirements set out in advance publicly, accepting resultant proposals from a variety  of developers, and then having them reviewed by a diverse panel of stakeholders appears both sensible and  equitable. For the L.G. Knipe House and associated properties the process was completed effectively, with integrity, and by a competent panel with relevant background, expertise, and keen interest in the future of our neighborhood and downtown.”

The proposal is for the adaptive re-use of the Knipe House, construction of a new building to brew craft beer, a dog and bike friendly beer garden and designated areas for local artists to display their work.  Also included are multiple residential buildings including a 5-story building for independent seniors. The ground floor units will be designed as live/work artist studios.  The residential units on the east side of 2nd will have no age or income restrictions. The proposed development also includes a significant enhancement of both sides of 2nd Street along the project edge with additional onstreet (diagonal) parking and pedestrian friendly sidewalks with no vehicular access from 2nd and abundant shade.

What’s the deal with the petition against The ROW?

There is a Change.org petition against The ROW development that starts off by asking – “Are you allowed to be here?” How a mixed-use, mixed income, and multigenerational housing development such as The ROW prevents anyone from being in the area is a mystery.

It also asks – “We all grow old but then why when we reach a certain age are we isolated and insulated from our own community?” In fact The ROW is giving seniors the option of living in the city, amid people of all ages, instead of out in the suburban senior communities that are so prevalent in the city.

It goes on to state, “The City of Phoenix Office of Community Development recently stated they intend to recommend the award of city owned land to a developer whose proposal outlines RESTRICTED senior only housing. If this award is made, anyone under the age of 55 years old would NOT be allowed to live in this 2 city block project.” The ROW is not restricted to senior only housing. The lease holder of the age restricted building must be 55 but it does not affect other household members. There are portions of the development that offer housing options to people of all ages. So the statement that people under the age of 55 years would not be allowed to live at The ROW is false.

I urge you not to sign this petition. It is riddled with false and sensational statements and is working against a project that promises to be very good for the future of downtown Phoenix.

Why Phoenix can’t afford to squash The ROW

Downtown Phoenix is filled with empty lots that continually stall the creation of what could otherwise be a bustling downtown where people like to hang out even on the evenings and weekends. All the people who have dedicated themselves to making Roosevelt Row into a vibrant arts district that attracts people of all ages, incomes and background, like Cindy Dach, Greg Esser and Wayne Rainey, deserve a lot of credit for making downtown a better place. The ROW is the next level of revitalization that the area needs that will only build on the foundation of what the arts district has put in place. The ROW is a project that will actually deliver new residents, a thriving 3rd place, and will be the initial phase of the promenade leading to the revitalized MT Hance Park in the next few years. It is to be built by conscientious developers with an excellent community track record, and is designed to be transit, pedestrian, and bike friendly.

Thus far, that lot has sat empty for decades, creating a vacuum that sucks energy generated by the exciting activity going on around it. Now, there is an opportunity for this vacant lot to become a fantastic mixed use development that will improve the urban experience of the entire area.

If Phoenix wants to grow smart, not just grow out, then developments like ROW are exactly what the city needs. According to Smart Growth Online, “growth is ‘smart’ when it gives us great communities, with more choices and personal freedom, good return on public investment, greater opportunity across the community, a thriving natural environment, and a legacy we can be proud to leave our children and grandchildren.” The ROW gives people a choice that is not widely available in Phoenix – quality, transit-oriented, affordable housing in downtown Phoenix. And it gives people more personal freedom because it enables them to rely on their cars less and be able to get around using other modes of transportation. It gives greater opportunity across the community as it adds people to the mix that will patronize local galleries, museums, music venues, coffee shops, restaurants and retail establishments in the downtown community. The ROW could be a project that catalyzes other dense, mixed-income, transit-oriented housing projects in downtown Phoenix, and what better legacy for the area than that?

The ROW promises to help take downtown Phoenix to the next level. Let’s not stop the positive evolution of downtown because of false propaganda. This is a solid development that will help the area immensely. It may not be everything to everyone (what is?), but it is a big step forward and fills in a gap in a downtown with many gaps to be filled. Squashing this development will just mean squashing the forward momentum that is happening in downtown. There is a City of Phoenix subcommittee hearing regarding this project happening on December 4, 2013 at 9:30am at City Hall on 200 W. Washington. Get involved and show your support for The Row!

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9 Responses

  1. Bob Graham says:

    And don’t forget that the Knipe House will be at risk until it is put back in use. Halting the development will put redevelopment of the lot off by AT LEAST six months and probably longer – possibly years – giving time to transients and vandals time to again damage the Knipe House, potentially beyond repair.

  2. Wayne Rainey says:

    Taz – you are either intentionally lying or completely ignorant of the facts here in Phoenix or both. This project is a horrible idea and in fact IS age restrictive (do you think the lease holder will live somewhere else or are you just lying?). I have toured Encore on Farmer (something I ‘ll bet you have not done) and know from where I speak- it does not fit Roosevelt. The alarmist rhetoric you are spreading ‘take this or it will sit empty,’ is the same thing we’ve all heard before and its just not true. Phoenix IS ready and rising now and can be and should be choosy about what fits where.Senior only housing is already more concentrated in this area than almost any section of Phoenix. I really don’t understand you. You have repeatedly said you gave up on Phoenix but like a jilted ex you keep crank calling long distance. What’s up -Portland not feeling you?

  3. Bob Graham says:

    The claim that the project is age restricted has been debunked as a radical overstatement.

    Some units are not restricted in any way, and for the others only the leaseholder must qualify. Yes, of course the leaseholder would live there (that’s the point!) but their spouse , child, or friend could live there too – with no restriction whatsoever.

    I think that everyone who knows her also knows that she is neither ignorant nor dishonest. I HAVE toured Farmer and can back up everything in Taz’s piece. The project is right for the area and in no way would it be settling for an inferior product. The development group has the horsepower to get it done and a proven record with no black marks.

  4. John Coll says:

    This is an excellent, well thought out piece and I credit the author with turning me around from my initial opinion.

    However, requiring that “some” leaseholders be 55 is in fact an age restriction. Allowing younger family members to live there does not nullify the restriction. I would be interested in knowing how many units require a 55 year old on the lease and how many units do not. … Here, I think the restriction might actually create a more interesting diversity. One of the problems with the Row is that parts of it seem to be too much of a high school kids’ scene.

    Taz’s piece has more substance than just a lesser of evils argument, a vacant lot being the greater and an ersatz development being the lesser. It’s not as if a Ruby Tuesdays, a Hooters or another Circle K is going in.

  5. Walt Lockley says:

    Wayne Rainey I’m kind of surprised at you.

    As the owner of monOrchid you’re certainly entitled to as much alarm as you’d like to express about your new neighbors, and your emphatic preference for an empty lot. You’re entitled to worry about how this might turn out. You’re not entitled to your own facts about the project’s stated age and income restrictions.

    Are you concerned about your property values? Or the demographic mix on Roosevelt? Or somebody telling you to “turn it down!” in a legally enforceable way? Or what?

    In any case insulting Taz undercuts your argument. Taz is perfectly capable of having a groovy loving relationship with two cities at once. Comparing one to the other sheds light on both. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Ease up.

  6. Wayne Rainey says:

    Walt – After attending the city council meeting today I have concluded that there is just no way to know what is being proposed next door. Taz in her article accused me of making false and sensational statements and that is not true. The description of the project that is being recommended by the city is being modified so often I cannot track what they want to build now and I am deeply interested. What is insulting is someone that lives in another city presuming to know the real details of what is going on here and weighing in with a judgmental and accusing opinion piece. And lastly I’ll ease up when the city listens to the stakeholders in the neighborhood because everyone of the adjacent landowners oppose the project (proposed in the RFP).
    Anything else?

    • Living in Roosevelt says:


      As someone who is living in downtown and involved in community development, I am disgusted with how you have approached this project and how you continually drag it out like a bad break-up, hoping to have a second chance. You have highlighted the worst parts of this city and have created a divide among it’s residents. This is why cohesion fails to happen; people like you acting on their own accord. This is all a classic example of someone who lives in a world, or in this case, a city of scarcity, trying to defend and hold on to every little morsel available. We do not live in a world (city) of scarcity. There is abundance, my friend. How many vacant lots are there? How many other projects will happen? Are you going to try to pigeon hold all of them? Let me know if you do so I can leave and you can run this city like the good ol’ boys do.

      Peacefully yours,
      Your neighbor

  7. Dante Mancini says:

    While I agree that the project looks good from many perspectives the one I can not get around is the age restriction. And it is age restriction. If I told you that I was building a project that allowed women to live in a few of the units and they could live in all units if they were living with a man you would be outraged right? Because it is restrictive. The age restriction is the one and only problem I have with this project. It is however, a major issue. I look around downtown from my apartment downtown and see a mix of all ages. The buildings I see the least interaction with are the 55+ communities that are already downtown.

    I convinced my 57 year old mother into living down here and and my 76 year old grandmother to live down here as well. They love it. They enjoy the ability to go where they please and they enjoy the diversity in age, race, sexual orientation, and economic status. That exists now. We don’t need to place deed restrictions to make that happen regardless of whether or not we already have.

  8. Beth says:

    I saw a short interview with Wayne regarding his concern over age-restricted residential projects in the area. It is clear to me from that brief interview and his concern for the aging community getting poked in the eye that he is likely in the 55+ age range and does not have any insight into those who might likely be his peers…perhaps in denial about age and aging. He needs to take a cold hard look at his own biases and then….go look in the mirror.

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