City council approves Arizona Hardware Supply Co. to build new tower

This article was written and published by Downtown Devil – The Front Page of Downtown Phoenix, and reproduced here with permission from the editor.

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The Phoenix City Council approved several zoning changes Wednesday that will allow the owners of a historic downtown structure, known as the “Arizona Hardware Supply Co.” to build a 26-floor mixed use tower called The Blue.

The site on the southwest corner of 1st St. and Jackson St. is located in the city’s Warehouse Historic District, and the zoning changes were opposed by the city’s Historic Preservation Office, calling it an “unprecedented case” of the city removing historic designation from a building still standing.

By removing the overlay that the historic preservation has placed on the zoning district, increasing the height allotment of the area in accordance with Phoenix Sky Harbor, as well as national, air traffic standards, and creating an extended easement that funds the conservation of the remaining walls from the original structure, the city council reached an agreement that properly incorporated the historical architecture throughout the development of Phoenix.

Council members voted unanimously to allow the project to move forward, saying the building’s owners, The Arizona Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), offers opportunities that city council members find valuable for the community.

“Even though we are the fifth largest city in the country, I think that we have a lot of young people as well that can definitely take advantage of everything that OIC does,” Councilwoman Betty Guardado, District 5, said.

Besides continuing to serve as a center of operations for the Arizona OIC, the new building will involve hotel space, condominium units for permanent residency and retail spaces in order to increase the span of access to living situations and other services for Phoenix residents. Despite the several benefits that the new building would provide to the city, people had mixed opinions about the construction’s effect on the historical preservation of Phoenix.

“Our mission is to help others help themselves, and this project will help us to attain that mission,” CEO of Arizona OIC Dr. Jean Blue said.

Supporters at the meeting argued that the OIC regarded their overwhelming impact on the local community throughout the civil rights movement, and the discussion portrayed the group as a significant contributor to the development of minority and working-class communities in Phoenix.

“It has been a tremendous success with 65,000 students and 47,000 job placements, and the success has meant so much to so many because they really serve people who need it the most,” Nick Wood, a lawyer at Thunderbird Legacy Group, said.

On the other side of the debate regarding the new project, the Historic Preservation Commission shared their concerns regarding the interruption of flight schedules due to the height of the building, but those issues were cleared with the respective national and Phoenix Sky Harbor authorities.

Historic preservationists voiced strong opposition to the plan, noting it was the first time in 35 years that the city had removed a historic preservation easement and the move will set a bad precedent when it comes to preserving old buildings in historic Phoenix neighborhoods, due to the changes made for the Thunderbird Legacy Group Development.

“We felt strongly that revoking the Historic Preservation (HP) easement and HP overlay zoning as requested would set a terrible precedent and essentially end our historic overlay and grant programs as we know them,” Bill Scheel, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission for Phoenix, said.

The city’s Historic Preservation office also noted that with a proposed height of 1,367 feet, the building might require airlines or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to modify flight paths over downtown Phoenix for planes landing or taking off from Sky Harbor Airport.

Council members praised plans that call for preserving three remaining walls of the old warehouse building and approved three zoning variances that will allow changes to the structure and a height variance allowing the developers to build one of the tallest new buildings in downtown Phoenix in many years.

“This is about our city and how they are going to make it better,” Councilman Sal DiCiccio, District 6, said.

Contact the reporter at emrosale@asu.edu.

The Blue – Rendering of proposed design

The proposed project includes the ground up development of a 27-story Mixed-Use tower with approximately 185 Luxury Condo Units, 200 Key
Luxury Hotel, ground floor retail space, and a Luxury
Amenities Deck.