Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Antiques Dealers Live, Work in Phoenix Historic District

Staying close to home
Antiques dealers live, work in historic district

By Linda Helser
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 3, 2006

There was no need to debate when it came to naming the new little shop with the vintage goods that David Farias and Gary Schmidt planned to open on North Seventh Avenue.

Formerly a church, the retail space borders the west side of the Willo Historic District in central Phoenix, an area known for its charming cottages dating to the early and mid-1900's.

"Definitely we identified with the neighborhood because that's where we live, too," said Farias who shares a 1925 Tudor-style house in Willo with Schmidt, just blocks from their shop.
So all the two had to do was add the word "Antiques" to the end of their neighborhood's designation and, voila, Willo Historic District Antiques, 2801 N. Seventh Ave., was logically christened 2 1/2 years ago.

Investing in a residential property and then a commercial enterprise in and around one of Phoenix's 36 historic districts was hardly a stretch for the dealers of upscale antiquities.

And they are hardly alone.

Historic neighborhoods filled with one-of-a-kind homes within shouting distance of business districts have increasingly drawn those who have tired of long commutes to downtown jobs and cookie-cutter tract homes.

Once known as urban pioneers, who lobbied for historic restoration and suffered from limited nearby retail outlets, these downtown and midtown dwellers have watched in wonder as their properties values have soared.

Overall, most central Phoenix neighborhoods with historic districts of ZIP codes 85003, 85006, 85007, 85008 and 85013 saw home prices jump more than 100 percent in the past five years. .

Financially secure in their residential selections, now many are willing to risk retail in the same area.

Farias and Schmidt have owned four other homes in Phoenix historic communities during the past 23 years.

"This is our third house in Willo, and our house prior to this one was in Encanto-Palmcroft," Farias said. "We wanted houses with a lot of charm and all the diversity that central Phoenix has to offer with all the different kinds of people and quaint little restaurants."

But their antique businesses were either in Scottsdale or east Phoenix.

"When this place opened up, it was in such a good spot because it put us right in the middle of all the historic districts," Schmidt said.

And close to home.

"David walks to work and he loves it, and sometimes I do, too," he added. "Plus, it gives us the opportunity to go into the shop and work in the evening when it closed because it is so close. When we were in Scottsdale for 10 years or more, it was hard to do that."

Even better is the reception the duo has enjoyed from their customers.

"Not only do we love the area, but we love the people here because they're very neighborly," Schmidt added. "People will come in and just visit, which is nice because you don't have a lot of time to entertain at home when you work seven days a week."

Look for a home in any of Phoenix Historic Districts.

Willo Historic District Antiques

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Willo Historic District Antiques

Sometimes, even on days when antiquing isn't in our budget, we drop in on this elegant collection of old furniture and art, because it's almost like visiting a tiny museum of what was once considered beautiful in-home decor.

Although Phoenix is lousy with antiques shops, Willo Historic District Antiques is the only one that reminds us of the super-stylish shops popular on the East Coast, full as it is with precious artifacts from the not-so-recent past. We ended up redecorating an entire room around a pair of leather-covered end tables we found at Willo and honestly didn't have room for, just because they were so admirable and so admirably priced.

The guys who run this cool collection of pretty, shiny old things have an eye for rare artifacts, and they're great about sharing that talent along with better than fair prices; with us.

Search for a home in the Willo Historic District.
Search for a historic homes in any or all 36 Phoenix Historic Districts.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Get over housing bubble, economists say, growth remains strong

Get over housing bubble, economists say, growth remains strong
By Lynn Ducey The Business Journal of Phoenix

Some of Arizona 's leading economists believe the housing slowdown is a short-lived bump in the road that too many people spend too much time thinking about.

Instead, Arizonans should be looking at statistics that show the state created 161,000 jobs through August of this year, more than 340,000 jobs since the end of the 2002 recession and had a whopping 8.7 percent gain in gross state product for 2005.

"It's hard to imagine a state with more economic momentum," said Kent Ennis, an economist and the director of research at the Arizona Department of Commerce.

Ennis made the comments at the 2007 SRP Economic Forecast held Wednesday at the Phoenix Convention Center .

Ennis was among panelists who also included University of Arizona President Robert N. Shelton and Stephen Happel, a professor of economics at Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business.

While the men agreed that Arizona 's economy would slow somewhat in the coming year, all said it would continue to expand, but at a somewhat slower pace. Saying 2007 would be a "moderate growth year," Ennis compared it to similar experiences seen in the Valley in the 1995-96 economic cycle.

Salt River Project's Associate General Manager and Chief Financial Executive Mark Bonsall said Arizona 's economy remains vibrant, despite a slower demand residentially. While commercial growth historically trailed residential growth in the utility's customer base, Bonsall said this year is markedly different.

"Now, commercial demand is just going through the roof. I think commercial growth is now playing catchup ball. The economy fundamentally is certainly strong," Bonsall said after the presentation.

At the podium, Happel identified himself as a "Kennedy Democrat," but said his "only concern right now is that Hillary ( Clinton ) gets elected in 2008."

Although Ennis suggested that a proposed $1.25 hike in the minimum wage would offset the eroding buying power of low-wage households due to inflation, Happel disagreed saying higher initial wages do nothing to improve earning power over the long term.

"The worse thing is to increase the minimum wage. It's not going to help the poor," Happel said.

An estimated 1,000 business people attended the breakfast event.

Search for a historic home or Phoenix Metro home in Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix CityScape Project Approved

Phoenix CityScape Project Approved
By Beth Duckett ~ The Arizona Republic

Phoenix City Council members approved a blockbuster deal that clears the way for the single largest private investment project ever in the downtown area.

The 2.5 million-square-foot mixed-use venture, known as CityScape, is estimated to cost as much as $900 million, and could open in early 2009.

"Today is a really huge day for our downtown's development," Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten said shortly before the council's vote. "(This project) complements everything we've done so far."

Phoenix officials believe CityScape is the last remaining piece in their ongoing effort to rebuild the city's core. It will bring more residents, housing and office space to the area, plus a much-anticipated AJ's Fine Foods, the first downtown grocery store in nearly 25 years.

The project had initially raised the ire of many community groups and activists after they learned that plans called for it to be built, in part, on downtown's only real open space, Patriots Square Park .

But under the agreement approved Wednesday, the project's developers and the city will have to work with the public to redesign the park. Phoenix will also retain ownership of the open space.

That news came as a relief to many residents and groups, who are asking that the developers abide by design recommendations recently set forth by the city's Parks and Recreation Board.

That panel has stated that the park contain at least 2 contiguous acres of space, among other things.

Attracting people

"The park redevelopment process must begin with a clean piece of paper and not a series of artists' concepts rendered without citizens' input," said Steve Weiss, spokesman for the Downtown Voices Coalition, a community group.

Mike Ebert, managing partner for RED Development, which is building the project, said he is looking forward to working with the parks board.

"This will be a place that attracts people," Ebert said. "Not just for staged events, but for the unstaged events that happen in every day life."

Plans call for CityScape to include 250,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, about 1,260 residential units, a boutique hotel, two office towers, and 3,000 parking spaces.

Phoenix will invest financially in the project, purchasing an underground parking structure and paying for repairs on an existing parking garage at a cost of $96.5 million. In addition, the city will waive the property taxes on the development's key components for eight years, a financial incentive that is worth at least $26 million, according to official estimates.

But the project's developers will have to meet a host of requirements to receive the city money, including adhering to the parks board design guidelines for Patriots Square Park and providing a $13 million letter of credit to cover any revenue shortfalls during the first few years the project is open.

Ebert said he is looking forward to getting started.

"It's been a challenge to get here today, but you can view challenges as roadblocks, or they can be viewed as an opportunity to showcase your creativity," he said.

Wednesday's vote came after nearly 90 minutes of discussion, most of it in favor of the project. But not everyone was happy with what he or she saw.

'Downtown for everyone'

C.R. Vavrek, who lives in downtown Phoenix , said he was concerned because many area residents can't afford to shop at high-end retailers.

"I know a lot of people who live downtown, but we're low income," he said. "I'm not sure we can afford to shop at AJ's. {ellipsis} I was wondering if there is going to be any low-income sales or medium-income sales."

Mayor Phil Gordon assured Vavrek and others that the development would accommodate all residents, not just the wealthy or business elite.

"This is a downtown for everyone, and we're going to make it work for everyone," he said.

To look for a home near the CityScape Project, click here.