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HooverDam Feb 15, 2010 8:20 AM

http://www.azcentral.com/community/p...ntown0215.html

Quote:

Phoenix eyes new campus land buy
Surplus bond money to be used for vacant-motel site

4 comments by Jahna Berry - Feb. 15, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
The same week that Phoenix leaders imposed a 2 percent food tax to prevent layoffs and painful cuts to city services, City Council members agreed to spend $6 million to buy a vacant motel so Arizona State University can expand its downtown campus.

The city plans to buy the old Ramada Inn at 401 N. First Street with $5 million left over from a 2006 city bond that was enacted largely to help construct ASU's downtown Phoenix campus, plus roughly $1.3 million from the city-owned Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel's capital improvement fund.


The city and the motel property's owner, Phoenix-based City Centre LLC, have not finalized the sale but hope to before it is due to be sold at a foreclosure auction on March 2.

The city has been eying the property for years but was put off by the price, which was once as high as $30 million. Now, it wants to buy the property before it goes to auction, where it may lose it to another buyer. Records show City Centre owes its lender $5.2 million.

Until ASU officials decide what to do with the site, Phoenix plans to raze the motel and build an overflow parking lot with up to 250 spaces for the Sheraton.

The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved the deal Feb 3. The city-controlled hotel board approved the transaction on Friday.

"I felt this was a good purchase for the city at this time," said Councilman Bill Gates. "The city could acquire property important to downtown and important to the ASU campus."

But a taxpayer advocacy group said the city should at the very least use the extra money to pay off debt already incurred for the campus.

Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona Tax Research Association, said the hotel purchase also highlights government tactics to spend money on projects not specifically approved by voters.

Buying the Ramada Inn was not specified in the spending plan detailed on the city's Web site and to the media in the days leading up to the bond vote, city officials acknowledge. But it was part of early plans for the campus, city officials said. The vote gave the city permission to borrow $220 million to build various ASU facilities. The city sells bonds to raise money, which it pays off with property taxes.

But the taxpayer group concedes the city's deal still is legal because the property fits within ballot language for long-term plans for the campus.

Common issue

The ballot language for Prop. 3 indicates that Phoenix would issue bonds "for the purposes of improving and expanding high school, higher education and health science facilities by acquiring land and constructing, reconstructing, improving, repairing and equipping new and existing facilities, including . . . an Arizona State University campus."

Using bond money for capital projects not specified to voters is an issue that has been a problem for decades, said McCarthy of the Arizona Tax Research Association.

"They give the taxpayers a list of specific purposes when they approve it, because they don't want to tell them this is just going to be slush fund," he said.

The leftover bond money couldn't be used to fund threatened city operations because there are limits on how bond money can be used, but the city could have chosen to not spend it, McCarthy said.

Phoenix leaders defended the purchase, one they have wanted to make for some years but which had been too expensive. Now that the motel is in the pre-foreclosure process, the price has dropped significantly, they say. The city also had an agreement with the owner, City Centre, to develop part of the property for ASU.

Bond ballot measures are written broadly so cities have flexibility in case needs or project costs change, said Deputy City Manager Rick Naimark. The Ramada site was part of early presentations to the bond committee and was mentioned in the city's early intergovernmental agreement with ASU, he said. But the land sale wasn't part of later plans because the city couldn't afford the property, he added.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio is a frequent critic of city spending, but he backed the ASU deal.

"This fulfills to obligation of the ballot proposition that voters approved," said DiCiccio, adding that the land is within the "footprint" of the original vision for the ASU campus.

The decision "will be controversial," DiCiccio said, "but it is what it is."

ASU projects

Phoenix wrapped up ASU construction and land purchases in 2009. Projects included a $71 million building for the journalism school, a $34 million Civic Space Park, and a nursing-school addition.

The city borrowed more money to make the nursing school larger, increasing the addition's price tag from $19 million to $29 million.

At the time, city leaders thought they had run out of ASU bond funds.

However, after all the projects were complete, city officials learned that Phoenix had $5 million left over from the ASU bond because costs were less than expected, Naimark said.

ASU has not decided how it will use the Ramada property, said Richard Stanley, an ASU official who oversees planning issues.

The property may not be developed for three to five years, he said. It could be used for more classrooms, offices or to relocate the ASU law school, he said.

Budget crisis

The purchase comes as Phoenix grapples with a historic budget crisis.

Last week, the City Council voted to implement a five-year food tax on milk, meat, vegetables and other foods, which will generate an estimated $12.5 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30 and another $50 million for fiscal 2011.

It faces a $240 million shortfall in the general fund, which pays for basic city services. City leaders have asked police and firefighters to take salary cuts, and are considering cutting roughly $70 million in services which includes shutting libraries, closing arts centers and slashing parks programs.

To save money, the city has delayed construction projects that would incur extra staffing costs, but property purchases don't lead to higher operating costs, said city spokeswoman Barbara Frazier.

I'm glad the city got the Ramada Inn on the cheap, it'll be interesting to see if ASU does want to move the Law School. The Ramada in is part of of a 3 block span (Monroe to Taylor, 1st to 2nd streets) thats just total crap, giant structures that take up entire blocks, it'll be nice to see one of them replaced with something hopefully more urban.

combusean Feb 15, 2010 10:50 AM

The Ramada has a whole side of street-front retail spaces that are all locked up at the moment.

Don B. Feb 15, 2010 3:07 PM

It will be a parking lot for a long time before it is anything else. For some reason, I don't think this is a good thing.

--don

gymratmanaz Feb 15, 2010 3:15 PM

A parking lot will suck, but in the long run, another addition to DT ASU is a great thing.

HX_Guy Feb 15, 2010 11:43 PM

Quote:

Native American Connections plans 350-unit housing project
Phoenix Business Journal
Construction will begin this spring on an affordable housing community in central Phoenix.

Native American Connections, a nonprofit focusing on affordable housing and benefits to Native Americans, plans for the property to be completed in spring 2011 and include more than 350 units.

Devine Legacy on Central will be built at Central Avenue across from the Native American Community Service Center, which also houses NAC. Units will include flats, townhomes and lofts.

According to an NAC press release, the monthly rent will be set $200 below market rates. This will be NAC’s eighth affordable housing property in central Phoenix.
The Native American Community Service Center is at Central and Campbell so I'm trying to figure out where this thing is going to go because 350 units is a pretty large building.

Are they going to demolish the buying at Central and Minnezona? I remember a while back there was talk that the building would be demolished and something built in its place.

http://nitnelav.com/CentralandMinnezona.jpg

combusean Feb 16, 2010 12:14 AM

The west half of the Ramada property should be saved for now. Get the top units rented out affordably and the street-front retail spaces in business. It would do a lot to draw interest to the site so ASU can find a good private partner to build an academic mixed-use complex as a replacement when the economy allows.

HooverDam Feb 16, 2010 12:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HX_Guy (Post 4701396)

Does anyone know if this is a real historic building or just a newer building made to look old? Either way I've always liked it and thought it brought something to the eclectic mix of structures around that area and would hate to see it go, especially with so many dirt lots nearby.

combusean Feb 16, 2010 1:06 AM

That building was made to look old in the fifties and they didn't do a particularly good job. What gives it away are the windows: they look to be the wrong size for the period ithey're trying to emulate. They're metal too, and would look like absolute garbage if they were wood.

The design and slope of the roof with no attic vents makes it appear distinctly modern. I would be very surprised if this building was pre-WW2, and will eat my hat if I'm wrong. Fortunately, I don't wear a hat.

Vicelord John Feb 16, 2010 1:36 AM

As if that area isnt over run with drunk indians already. Oh well, north midtown = newest ghetto

glynnjamin Feb 16, 2010 3:44 PM

^I hate to say it but ever since they built that Catherine Arms navajo breeding ground on Fillmore, that ghetto Circle K across from my house has become more ghetto. I'm seriously pissed about all of the drunk indians I see standing on the corner every day now.

TAZ4ate0 Feb 16, 2010 3:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by glynnjamin (Post 4702204)
^I hate to say it but ever since they built that Catherine Arms navajo breeding ground on Fillmore, that ghetto Circle K across from my house has become more ghetto. I'm seriously pissed about all of the drunk indians I see standing on the corner every day now.

hmmm....They must be filtering down to my ghetto Circle K too, because just yesterday a bunch of them were hitting me up for spare change. I told them all I had was 15 cents to my name (not really the truth), but heck they even wanted that. :no: :haha:

Leo the Dog Feb 16, 2010 4:04 PM

Ramada Inn Redevelopment
 
I think this is terrible news for DT. The city should allow the property to go to auction. Maybe ASU will purchase it, or another private developer. If ASU doesn't take advantage of a great deal then, oh well. Lets build residential rentals. Why should the city buy something that has no plans what-so-ever, only to demolish it and have the "sit and wait" mentality (for up to 5-10 years)? What we're going to end up with is the parking lot they're talking about for Sheraton overflow parking during their events. The city (who owns the Sheraton) knows that parking is a problem there. There is going to be no rush at all to develop this cheap lot for the Sheraton. We are going to have yet another gaping hole in the core of DT, literally a stones throw from Chase/OCPE. Just think of the corner of 1st St and Polk, two corners will be surface parking lots.

When and if ASU decides to bring their school of law to DT, I have no doubt at all that they'll have the money to purchase/build their block. So far, nothing has stopped them yet. They'll either pass more bonds and/or increase tuition.

PHX31 Feb 16, 2010 4:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by glynnjamin (Post 4702204)
^I hate to say it but ever since they built that Catherine Arms navajo breeding ground on Fillmore, that ghetto Circle K across from my house has become more ghetto. I'm seriously pissed about all of the drunk indians I see standing on the corner every day now.

Is the Catherine Arms building open and occupied? I drive by it 3-4x a week on the way to the Y and I never see anyone coming to or going from it.

mwadswor Feb 16, 2010 4:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Leo the Dog (Post 4702222)
I think this is terrible news for DT. The city should allow the property to go to auction. Maybe ASU will purchase it, or another private developer. If ASU doesn't take advantage of a great deal then, oh well. Lets build residential rentals. Why should the city buy something that has no plans what-so-ever, only to demolish it and have the "sit and wait" mentality (for up to 5-10 years)? What we're going to end up with is the parking lot they're talking about for Sheraton overflow parking during their events. The city (who owns the Sheraton) knows that parking is a problem there. There is going to be no rush at all to develop this cheap lot for the Sheraton. We are going to have yet another gaping hole in the core of DT, literally a stones throw from Chase/OCPE. Just think of the corner of 1st St and Polk, two corners will be surface parking lots.

Agreed. Why is the city buying land/buildings for ASU in the first place? If ASU wants that property, shouldn't it be buying it itself? I have no doubt that if ASU wants to turn that property into a parking lot, they'll buy it and do just that How many hundred plans have there been to build something on the SE corner of University and Mill? Last time I checked, it's still a parking lot and a Chilis. ASU should be making that decision, though, not the city of Phoenix.

Quote:

When and if ASU decides to bring their school of law to DT, I have no doubt at all that they'll have the money to purchase/build their block. So far, nothing has stopped them yet. They'll either pass more bonds and/or increase tuition.
I hadn't heard of plans to move the law school until this article. If this is a serious plan, I think it's a terrible idea. The law scool has a couple of beautiful buildings in Tempe and parking lots around it that it could expand to if it wanted to. The law library isn't even that old, so it would really seem like a complete waste to abandon the building just to build a new one DT.

And the most important reason of all, I like the Tempe campus and it's in biking distance of my apartment, so if this is the plan they need to at least take a few years getting there act together. If I haven't mentioned it before, I start at ASU law in August :cool:

Vicelord John Feb 16, 2010 5:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PHX31 (Post 4702282)
Is the Catherine Arms building open and occupied? I drive by it 3-4x a week on the way to the Y and I never see anyone coming to or going from it.

Because they are never home. Always at circle k.

glynnjamin Feb 16, 2010 5:34 PM

Catherine Arms - It is open and occupied. There are at least 14 different people living in there...I see the same groups of about 5 walking to and from there at different times of the evening.

ASU Law School - I'm not in law and never needed a lawyer but it would seem to me that having the law school downtown would make more sense than Tempe. I mean...aren't all of the courts and lawfirms downtown (or within shot of CenPho?

Vicelord John Feb 16, 2010 8:25 PM

Looks like there is a seattles best coffee going in at the phelps dodge building. I dont know this for sure but the white sign is the exact shape of their logo.

http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d6...a/DSC_2879.jpg

HooverDam Feb 16, 2010 10:37 PM

First off about the City buying the Ramada property, the city bought all the land that ASU Downtown currently sits on and helped ASU build that campus. So if you're poo pooing the idea of the City/ASU using that mechanism again, I don't really follow (unless you're against the Downtown Campus which I don't think anyone is). Further the city used left over bond money that was designated for the ASU Downtown campus, the voters approved it, it HAS to be used that way. People always bitch about public spending in times like these but you have to realize certain funds can only be spent for certain things, which is why people hating on 'Her Secret is Patience" price tag and saying it should go to police, fire or whatever else was silly.

mwadswor, Mayor Gordon has been telling Dr Crow for some time to move the Law School downtown and like Glynnjamin said, it does make sense given the proximity to both the courts and downtown lawfirms which I assume ASU students would want internships with. Its odd to think if the law school moved the buildings at ASU would just be 'abandoned', ASU has plenty of programs in old cruddy buildings that Im sure could move into those buildings with some remodels or whatever.

Don B. Feb 16, 2010 10:44 PM

^ The problem is the ASU school of law professors don't want to be downtown. I don't get it personally because the courts are downtown, along with most of the major law firms (if not all), but what do I know?

--don

mwadswor Feb 16, 2010 11:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HooverDam (Post 4702853)
First off about the City buying the Ramada property, the city bought all the land that ASU Downtown currently sits on and helped ASU build that campus. So if you're poo pooing the idea of the City/ASU using that mechanism again, I don't really follow

I was unaware that that was how the rest of the DT campus was purchased and built. In that case, nevermind.

Quote:

mwadswor, Mayor Gordon has been telling Dr Crow for some time to move the Law School downtown and like Glynnjamin said, it does make sense given the proximity to both the courts and downtown lawfirms which I assume ASU students would want internships with.
I hadn't heard of any actual plans to do it before this. Gordon says lots of thinks, that doesn't mean they're actual plans. Does anyone know if there is an actual plan, or is it still just speculation?

Quote:

Its odd to think if the law school moved the buildings at ASU would just be 'abandoned', ASU has plenty of programs in old cruddy buildings that Im sure could move into those buildings with some remodels or whatever.
A library is a unique building that can't really be remodelled into classrooms or offices without great expense and totally underutilizing the building. This is particularly true of the ASU law library because of the open design and various architectural elements in there. It'd be like taking the bioscience building and turning it over to the music school (or vise versa)... it doesn't make sense. No, the building wouldn't be empty, but for all practical purposes it would be abandoned.


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