Archive for June, 2012

AZ Central – Scottsdale ranked as a top soccer city

Scottsdale can add another notch on the belt of “best of” awards.

Scottsdale ranks among the top 10 soccer cities in the nation, according to Livability.com, which chose the city for its top-notch sports facilities, including the Scottsdale Sports Complex.

“Soccer players in Scottsdale are fortunate to have high-quality playing facilities both inside the city limits and just down the road,” the website said.

Scottsdale was the only Arizona city to make the list.

Cited in the online report was Phoenix’s Reach 11 Sports Complex, which is near the Scottsdale border at Deer Valley and Cave Creek roads.

The website looked for small- to mid-size cities with the best soccer facilities and programs. Its criteria was based on the non-profit US Youth Soccer organization, which provides guidelines and rules for soccer leagues and selects cities to host tournaments.

The 71-acre Scottsdale Sports Complex has 10 playing fields off Princess Drive, east of Hayden Road.

More than 193,000 participants and spectators come to the complex annually for sports-related events, said Jona Davis, city recreation supervisor.

In 2011, teams from 37 states and Canada and Mexico played there, she said.

Citywide, there are more than 25 other sites with 110 reservable spaces to play soccer, Davis said, adding that “there is more demand, especially for lighted fields, than inventory.”

Scottsdale does not offer a youth soccer program, she said. However, the city provides fields at a reduced rate for local organizations. About 4,000 to 5,000 Scottsdale youths participate in soccer organizations in Scottsdale and Valley-wide, Davis said.

Reach 11 Sports Complex has 18 regulation-size soccer fields, including a synthetic turf championship field. It was the site of the 2011 US Youth Soccer National Championship, which took place last July and involved the top 60 teams from across the country.

AZ Central – Western-town project stalls, investors look for new site

Investors hoping to develop a Western-themed town on city-owned land on Bell Road are looking for another Valley location for the project.

Stagecoach Gap LLC submitted a proposal early last year to develop a $38 million Western town with educational and entertainment elements on 80 acres of leased land at 94th Street and Bell Road.

But contract negotiations stalled with Scottsdale.

“We never got an answer from the city on why we couldn’t move forward,” said John Sellers, one of the Stagecoach Gap principals.

Bob Tunis, Scottsdale economic development manager, said the City Council in April decided that the city could continue discussions with Stagecoach Gap but also talk with other parties interested in the land.

Stagecoach Gap had intended to raise $1.9 million to start detailed planning of the project but fell short of that goal, Tunis said.

Sellers said the Stagecoach Gap principals put up $1 million for the project and believe they can come up with the additional funding. Plus, the costs could be cheaper at a site outside of Scottsdale, he said.

Last week, Stagecoach Gap issued a request for proposals from Valley municipalities or Native American communities interested in hosting the Western town and being non-cash contributing partners.

Stagecoach Gap proposed building 239,500 square feet of buildings, including a Western museum, performance theater, horse stables, a saloon and other features to attract visitors to Scottsdale.

Stagecoach Gap has set a deadline of July 27 for entities interested in submitting proposal to host the project

AZ Central – Metro Phoenix home prices continue to rise

Metro Phoenix home prices continued to rapidly climb in May.

The median sales price of a home in the region is up 32 percent from May 2011, according to the latest report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

During last month alone, the cost to buy a Phoenix-area house climbed 7 percent to $147,000. The region’s home prices have rebounded back to early 2003 levels.

More regular buyers and investors coupled with a shrinking supply of homes for sale are propelling metro Phoenix home prices higher.

ASU housing analyst Mike Orr said in his report “high demand and low supply” remain the dominant factors in Phoenix’s housing market.

The number of homes for sale in the area is down 50 percent from May 2011. Currently, 8,550 homes are listed for sale and don’t have pending contracts from buyers.

Moderately-priced homes continue to draw the most buyers and bids.

“Most houses below $250,000 priced realistically are attracting large numbers of offers in a short time, and many exceed the asking price,” said Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at W. P. Carey School.

He said a Chandler owner recently received 84 offers, and a Glendale owner snared 95.

The Glendale house closed within four weeks for 17 percent above the original asking price.

“Needless to say, this is not something we would see in a normal market,” Orr said.

Metro Phoenix home prices can’t continue to climb at the “extremely fast rate” recorded in the past few months.

“The most likely time for prices to stabilize is during the hot summer months of June through September,” Orr said.

AZ Central – Northeast Valley resorts get face-lifts for summer

This summer, the Northeast Valley will see a number of resort improvements in a variety of forms.

The area is experiencing at least eight resort-hotel improvements this summer.

They range from a $20 million conference center at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess to a $2.4 million surfing and water-boarding simulator at Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Phoenix.

Rachel Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the trend is a positive sign.

“Resorts are always trying to stay competitive, so renovations are a normal part of the hotel cycle,” she said. “But a good indicator is that there is more financing available for these projects.”

The average daily room rate at area hotels rose 4.9 percent to about $185 in the first four months of this year, she said.

And revenue-per-available-room, a key industry metric that takes into account occupancy and daily room rate, experienced year-over-year growth of 5.6 percent to $138.62, she said.

“The tourism industry’s performance during these four months is particularly important as 50 percent of all bed-tax collections for the city are generated during this time frame,” she said. “Tourism is coming back, which is a good sign of a healthy economy.”

Paradise Valley has had at least three projects going through the process for redevelopment.

Town Councilman Michael Collins said that in recent years, Paradise Valley has tried to improve the review process for resort projects through the Planning Commission and Town Council.

The new process has been used for the redesign of the Indian Bend golf course at the Camelback Inn and a 20-room expansion at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa.

He said projects are moving through the process in a more expedited manner.

Paradise Valley relies heavily on the town’s tourism industry, with about one-third of their revenues coming from over 10 resorts.

“This town council has implemented significant measures to improve and expedite the resort plan review process and remove obstacles to timely resort redevelopment,” he said.

Summer resort improvements:

Mountain Shadows

5517 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley:

Luxury hotel and management company Solange Hotels and Resorts recently entered into negotiations with owner Robert Flaxman to brand the iconic resort and to avoid foreclosure. Resort officials have reactivated their application with the town.

Camelback Golf Club

7847 N. Mockingbird Lane, Paradise Valley:

Improvements for the 250-acre Indian Bend golf course include alternate tee-box locations, restructuring of individual holes, new and reconfigured golf cart paths, new sand traps and berms, as well as reconfigured water obstacles. The course is expected to close for construction later this month and reopen in October 2013.

Royal Palms Resort and Spa

5200 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix:

The $1.2 million renovation of the resort’s 30 Valencia casitas will include a different color and fabric palette, and new floor tile to reinforce the current Mediterranean design. Bathroom remodels also will feature built-in coffee bars and privatize water closet. In addition, the renovation will include a $250,000 fitness center expansion.

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa

5700 E. McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley:

An expansion includes 20 new guest rooms, a multipurpose pavilion and an addition to its women’s spa.

Westin Kierland Resort and Spa

6902 E. Greenway Parkway, Phoenix:

The $2.4 million FlowRider, a surfing/water-boarding simulator, is set to open in August. The 6,000-square-foot area will include a viewing platform, seating and retail space. It can accommodate 320-480 rides per hour and holds 58,400 gallons of water.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale:

A $20 million conference center is set to open in October. The new 23,000-square-foot Palomino Ballroom will anchor the 52,331-square-foot space. The ballroom will feature a Southwest design with “nano” walls that open to the outdoors and the latest meeting technology, including advanced audio-visual presentations. The resort also recently completed After Dark Techno Waterslide, adding lasers, smoke, colored lights and techno music to their water slides on weekend nights this summer.

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa

7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale:

Construction on a $3.7 million family pool renovation will begin July 5. It will include resurfacing the pools and decking, remodeling the poolside bathrooms and adding a white sand beach as well as rinsing shower. The remodel will include a fresh look to the Water Garden Cafe, with retail, poolside cabanas and a new three-story waterslide.

AZ Central – U.S. builder confidence ticks up to 5-year high

WASHINGTON — Confidence among U.S. builders ticked up this month to a five-year high, an indication that the housing market is slowly improving.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose in June to 29, the highest reading since May 2007. It increased from a reading of 28 last month, which was revised down one point from its initial figure.

The index, which was released Monday, has risen in seven of the past nine months, suggesting builders are starting to see the seeds of a recovery taking shape after years of stagnation.

Yet, the market has a long way to go. Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. The index hasn’t reached that level since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

In June, builders reported seeing the best sales level since April 2007, according to a separate measure in the survey. Their outlook for sales in the next six months, however, hasn’t changed from May.

Cheaper mortgages and lower home prices in many markets have made home buying more attractive. Many economists believe that housing construction could contribute to overall economic growth this year for the first time since 2005.

Sales of both previously occupied homes and new homes rose near two-year highs in April. And builders are breaking ground on more homes and requesting more permits to build single-family homes later this year.

Jennifer Lee, senior economist for BMO Capital Markets, said that June reading on builder sentiment was welcome news. She said even with recent weak readings on employment, builders’ outlook for sales over the next six months did not decline and foot traffic remained the same.

Still, the pace of home sales remains well below healthy levels. Economists say it could be years before the market is fully healed.

Many Americans are still having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can’t afford larger down payments required by banks. Some would-be home buyers are holding off because they fear that home prices could keep falling.

The economy is growing only modestly and job creation slowed sharply in April and May. U.S. employers created only 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in a year.

Though new homes represent less than 20 percent of the housing sales market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to Home Builders’ data.

AZ Central – Is Phoenix home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in peril?

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Arizona houses may be in jeopardy.

Historians and conservators of the legendary architect’s work fear the spiral-design home he built in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix 60 years ago for one of his sons could be demolished by new owners.

A prospective buyer of the landmark home south of Camelback Mountain has filed an application to split the property.

Officials with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy worry that could be the first step toward tearing down the home, and they have already begun plans to fight it and to try to preserve an important piece of the Arizona legacy of America’s most famous architect.

This week, the conservancy sought landmark designation and historical-preservation status for the home with the Phoenix Planning Commission in an attempt to fend off any threat to the Gladys and David Wright House, which was originally sold in 2009 by Wright’s great-granddaughters.

“We believe demolition is a real possibility here,” said Janet Halstead, executive director of the conservancy. “But we’re hoping for a good outcome.”

City officials say they have received an application to split the property, but no demolition permit has been submitted for the structure.

However, Grady Gammage Jr., whose father had a close connection to Wright and who supports efforts to preserve the home, said the threat is real.

Gammage, whose father’s name appears on the Wright-designed Arizona State University auditorium, said that splitting the land without seeking a zoning variance would put the home in jeopardy. “That is a telegraph that they are intending to demolish,” he said.

A permit to split the 2-acre property would effectively divide the lot through part of the house, but applying for a variance to the zoning plan would allow the owner to adjust the property line and go around the house.

The current owner, JT Morning Glory Enterprises LP, is in the process of selling the property to a buyer whose identity is unknown.

Dozens of architects and Wright aficionados attended the city’s Planning Commission meeting this week in support of the conservancy’s request for a historical- preservation overlay, which would at least delay the owners’ plans until a solution might be found.

Mayor Greg Stanton has also urged the commission to consider the property for historical preservation. A decision on designation status could be made in the fall.

Gammage said the buyer may not realize how important this property is.

“Hopefully, with the knowledge of how significant this home is, the buyer may decide to split the lot with variances,” Gammage said. “Or maybe find an owner who is willing to preserve it.”

Two dozen of Wright’s creations are registered as National Historic Landmarks, according to the conservancy.

Phoenix’s historical-preservation officer, Michelle Dodds, said the overlay and historical designation cannot prevent the building from being demolished, but it can delay the process up to three years.

“There is an appeal process to demolitions,” she said. “It doesn’t protect the building forever, but it does give time for the city to work with the owner to potentially save it.”

The house is one part of Wright’s rich legacy in Arizona, where he spent a great deal of his working life.

Frank Henry, studio master emeritus at Taliesin West, now home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, said Wright loved the desert.

Wright, who designed a number of residences in the Valley as well as the ASU Grady Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, built the Gladys and David Wright home for his son in the early 1950s. They lived in the home for more than 40 years.

Halstead said the home is one of Wright’s most important works — innovative, unique and personal. She said the home’s reputation increased over the years because it utilized a spiral plan featured in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Halstead is working with preservationists to craft a solution that would work for all parties involved.

“We believe demolition is a real possibility here,” she said. “But we’re hoping for a good outcome.”

AZ Central – Mirador apartments sells for $31.1 mil

One of the most active buyers of metro Phoenix apartment properties has purchased Mirador, a 316-unit apartment community at 1550 E. Thunderbird Road, in Phoenix, said a broker involved in the deal.

The buyer, Weidner Investment Services, of Kirkland, Wash., paid $31.1 million, according to commercial real estate services firm CBRE in Phoenix, which represented the seller, an investment fund managed by Eaton Vance Management.

Built in 1995, Mirador is inside the 1,200-acre Pointe Tapatio master-planned community adjacent to Lookout Mountain Golf Club

AZ Central – Developer’s vision of downtown Scottsdale coming into focus

Love it or hate it, developer Shawn Yari is gradually reaching his goal of transforming downtown Scottsdale’s entertainment district to match his long-term vision.

That vision involves ridding the area of numerous older buildings and businesses to make way for a live-work-play destination for young professionals. The area, south of Camelback Road and east of Scottsdale Road, includes a high concentration of bars and attracts thousands of patrons every weekend.

Yari, owner of Triyar Cos., has met some resistance as he has unveiled his plans and gone through the city’s planning-approval process, but nothing has stopped him so far.

“There’s always differences in opinion of how a downtown or even a city should grow,” Yari said. “I think that’s why we’ve always had the public-input process of having community open houses. The feedback we’ve received is overwhelmingly positive, to not only redevelopment for entertainment use, but also redevelopment for residential and the mixed use.”

His most outspoken critic remains Bill Crawford, president of the Association to Preserve Downtown Scottsdale’s Quality of Life. He lives not far from the W Scottsdale Hotel, a Triyar development that includes a rooftop pool with an outdoor DJ on weekends.

Triyar also developed the Downtown Entertainment Plaza, a restaurant/bar complex on Saddlebag Trail south of Camelback.

“Mr. Yari has put money and influence into his vision of changing the character of downtown Scottsdale,” Crawford said. “I see these changes as a departure from Scottsdale’s brand and, in some cases, incompatible with Scottsdale’s quality of life. Furthermore, myself and other Scottsdale residents and businesses have been adversely affected on a daily basis by the negative impact of Mr. Yari’s ventures.”

Crawford’s criticism of Yari and his projects prompted a lawsuit by the developer alleging defamation and other claims. The suit hasn’t progressed since Yari filed it in March in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Yari wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit.

Mayor Jim Lane said Yari’s vision appears to be striving to meet a demand for those who want to live in the downtown area and have entertainment options nearby.

“And it is to a new demographic that we’re, to some degree, accommodating. And I think that’s part of how the city transitions a little bit, while sensitive to the existing, but nonetheless while trying to meet demand,” he said. “The marketplace does sort of give us a guide on this, and frankly as time goes on, if you’re not responsive to the marketplace, that’s when areas die.”

Sonnie Kirtley, chairwoman of the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale, a citizen and small-business owners advocacy group, said the city should have a plan in place to guide redevelopment in the entertainment district.

“Project approval on a case-by-case basis is the problem,” she said. “The city has failed to plan a specific entertainment district with appropriate growth and impact guidelines. Hopefully, new council members will understand the urgency and establish a designated district.”

 Taking shape

Demolition is under way to clear most of the city block that housed Myst nightclub on Shoeman Lane and Suede restaurant/bar on Indian Plaza to make way for Triyar’s Scottsdale Retail Plaza, an entertainment complex with an indoor-outdoor pool club in the center.

The Development Review Board gave its final approvals to the project last week. The complex is set to open in the first-quarter of 2013.

Yari has two projects in the pipeline that would bring 320 apartment units to the district. Industry East (188 units plus retail) and Industry West (132 units plus retail) are in the early stages of the city’s planning-approval process.

The complexes would be on the north side of Stetson Drive between Wells Fargo Avenue and 75th Street.

“Industry East and Industry West will serve as medium-price-point rental product, and they’re high quality,” Yari said. “People can live there and enjoy the different venues that are there now and will exist in the future. Also, they can work in the numerous businesses that are located in this area. It’s a true live, work and play community.”

The downtown infill-incentive proposals are requesting increased building height and density, and other amended development standards in exchange for public benefits, said senior planner Kim Chafin.

The current zoning allows a maximum building height of 50 feet and five levels, while Triyar is requesting an increase to 70 feet and six levels, she said.

Also, Triyar is seeking permission to provide slightly less parking than is required, four less spaces at Industry East and 13 less at Industry West, Chafin said.

“You are allowed to ask for variations from the regulations, and then to get those you have to propose some sort of public benefit, so we’re waiting to see what that benefit will be,” she said. “They haven’t identified one yet.”

Yari hopes to have Industry West under construction in eight to nine months, and plans to build the complexes in phases. The proposals could be considered by the Development Review Board in September, followed by the Planning Commission and City Council.

 Back on track

Yari’s original vision included a 10-acre, $390 million mixed-use complex southeast of Scottsdale and Camelback roads, with new clubs, restaurants, condominiums, offices, a hotel and a bowling center.

However, the downturn in the economy forced him to rethink his plans and instead focus on growing the same vision, but one project at a time. Triyar also owns other, smaller properties in the entertainment district that later could be pegged for redevelopment.

“We would like high-quality entertainment, high-quality restaurants, upscale residential condos and apartments, and then different ancillary uses of retail, such as breakfast and yoga, workouts and personal training,” he said.

Although Yari won’t divulge how much Triyar is investing in each project, he did say the investment for the pool club complex alone is in the “substantial eight-figure range.”

If managed well, Triyar’s plans should be a “positive thing” for all of downtown, Lane said.

 

AZ Central – Scottsdale shopping center nets $46.6 mil

Sonora Village Shopping Center in north Scottsdale has been sold for $46.6 million to a local investment partnership, a broker involved in the deal said Thursday.

The buyer was Sonora Village Investors LLC, an investment group formed by veteran Phoenix investors Bob Mariash and Ryan Denk.

Phoenix commercial real-estate firm Lee & Associates principals Jan Fincham and Patrick Dempsey represented the seller, a partnership formed by Westwood Financial Corp. of Los Angeles.

Zach Pace of Phoenix Commercial Advisors also assisted in the sales effort.

Sonora Village, southwest corner of Loop 101 and Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., consists of 248,322 square feet of retail space on 28.4 acres and was developed by Pederson Group in 1996.

It is 84 percent leased with tenants including Best Buy, Staples, Party City and Peter Piper Pizza.

AZ Central – Stadium Lofts in downtown area stalls

Continental Group’s Bristol Stadium Lofts, a $100 million-plus apartment complex planned along Miller Road, has made no progress in Scottsdale’s planning approval process since it was submitted more than a year ago.

The developer wants to build the complex on a 1.89-acre lot that now houses four vacant buildings west of Miller and north of Osborn Road.

On Thursday, the city’s Development Review Board voted 5-1 to postpone consideration of the proposal indefinitely at Continental Group’s request.

“They have indicated they would like to regroup with the neighbors and come up with a modified proposal,” said Kim Chafin, senior city planner.

Board member Ali Fakih voted no, saying the developer has been disrespectful to nearby residents who have expressed concerns about the project.

“And they didn’t show any flexibility on how to fix the neighbors’ concerns,” he said.

Continental Group could return to the city with a much different proposal after the extended continuance, Chafin said.

The complex would be just east of Scottsdale Stadium and the San Francisco Giants training complex.

John Lupypciw, Continental Group’s CEO, didn’t return calls seeking comment. No one from Continental Group was present at the Development Review Board’s meeting.

Continental Group is seeking a building-height increase and other amendments to existing development standards under the city’s downtown infill-incentive district and plan.

According to the board’s Thursday agenda, the request includes developing a nine-story, 90-foot-tall apartment complex with 195 dwelling units.

The complex could include three levels of underground parking with more than 370 parking spaces.

The proposal has drawn complaints from nearby residents, who say it’s too tall and too big for the property and their neighborhood.

Judy Vietri, a resident who lives near the site, said the only public outreach she’s aware of took place on the evening before last Thanksgiving.

She said the proposal was too large, too tall and too dense for the property.

The project would have to be scaled back considerably to win her support, she said.

“Single story on Miller with a maximum of three stories, and a lot less density,” Vietri said. “There was another project … with that many units, and they had 5 or 10 acres.”

Lonnie Wilson, another nearby resident, also said he hasn’t heard from the developer since before Thanksgiving. He has concerns about increased traffic at Miller and Osborn roads, which he said already is a dangerous intersection.

Wilson also worried that the tall building could allow residents to look down into his neighborhood.

“The building they proposed looks very nice … but they’re just trying to cram too much in too small a space,” he said. “They’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to what they’re going to do, but you kind of hope they would try to keep some of the character of the neighborhood. It’s a big departure from the neighborhood.”

Continental Group previously proposed a condominium complex on four acres, including the site, at Miller and Osborn, but those plans were scrapped after the condominium market collapsed. The company has owned the 1.89-acre site for more than eight years.

In the meantime, Continental Group wants to build a 40-story tower off Mill Avenue in Tempe. Sky Tower would be that city’s tallest building, and would include 360 multifamily units.

The developer hasn’t yet submitted a proposal for the project, said Ryan Levesque, a senior planner in Tempe.


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