Innovative Shopping District in Scottsdale Airpark Opening in Phases

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 17, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Crews of construction workers and retail employees are entering the final week before the March 26 opening of the first phase of an innovative shopping district in north Scottsdale.

The opening date for Scottsdale Quarter was confirmed late on March 16, says Richard Hunt, the development’s general manager. In these final few days before opening, Hunt and his project managers will be making daily punch lists of last-minute changes, details and other chores.

Scottsdale Quarter is unique in several ways. It includes retailers on the ground floors of two parking garages, each with 1,200 spaces. In the other buildings, the design includes office space above retailers. Plus, it will feature several tenants new to the metro Phoenix market. The project will offer 370,000 square feet for retail and restaurant uses; 36,000 square feet for entertainment, such as theaters; and 203,000 square feet for offices.

Hunt works for Glimcher Realty Trust, a national real estate investment trust that owns all or part of 23 shopping malls and four community centers. Scottsdale Quarter’s construction manager is Whiting-Turner. The architect is Nelsen Architects. Leasing will be handled by CB Richard Ellis‘ Phoenix office.

Hunt says today’s economic downturn is preventing the opening of the entire development at one time. The first phase, opening this month, consists of two home furnishing stores, West Elm and Williams-Sonoma Home. By late April, Brio Tuscan Grille should be open.

“It’s not necessarily the exact timing that we would like,” Hunt says, referring to the current economy. “We would to be able to open it all in one big splash. But we’re finding that it’s not only true here, but it’s true nationwide, with the economic times.”

The first two stores opening this month are on the development’s northwest corner. Chain-link fences will be erected east and south of those stores to fence off the construction zone on the rest of Scottsdale Quarter.

Other tenants include Hennes & Mauritz, known as H&M, an affordable fashion outlet based in Sweden; Nike; Gold Class Cinemas, a boutique movie theater featuring gourmet food and fine wine; Oakville Grocery, a gourmet grocer in Sonoma, Calif.; Bing Crosby’s Restaurant, a golf and Hollywood-themed restaurant and piano lounge; Martini Park, a martini bar; Momenti Café; Parc Central, boutique dining lounge; Santorini Mediterranean Cuisine; StingRay, an upscale sushi bar and restaurant; and Tutta La Casa, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

Scottsdale officials see the new shopping center as an economic hub surrounded by Kierland Commons, Scottsdale Airpark, northeast Phoenix and north Scottsdale.

Hunt is hopeful all of his tenants facing Scottsdale Road will be open by late fall. The theaters, as part of phase two in the center of the development, should open in 2010. A third phase – with retail, a boutique hotel and possibly residential condominiums – is proposed for the easternmost part of the property, stretching east to 73rd Street. The third phase will be developed independently from the retail and office components by The Wolff Co. and Vanguard City Home. The start of the third phase is dependent on market demand, Hunt says.

Two or three times a day, Hunt walks a circuitous route around and through the 28-acre shopping district at the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Butherus Drive, just east of Kierland Commons.

He leaves his office east of Scottsdale Quarter and cuts through the construction workers’ parking lot. On his list for his first trip today are a plastic garbage can where it shouldn’t be; adequate parking for retailers’ workers hired to unload trucks filled with merchandise; and new concrete-and-stone benches added for public use.

Along the way, he stops to watch the line of workers stretching from the back of a semi into Williams-Sonoma. They unloaded the truck, box by box, and stacked the merchandise inside the store

Hunt walks a short distance. A security worker stops him with a quick question. Hunt walks on. He sees one of his project managers and stops him to ask a question. Then, after he checks the parking garage, Hunt returns to the buildings facing Scottsdale Road and bounds up the stairs to the second floor.

He stops and gives a thumbs-up sign to a tech worker checking the phone and computer wiring. “Doing alright?” Hunt asks. He is told the wiring is functional. After he inspects work in the mall offices, he heads for the stairwell. He’s going up two more floors to the top level. He points to the view eastward to the McDowell Mountains, northward to Black Mountain in Carefree, and southward to Camelback Mountain.

“I told my bosses this is where we’re going to have our meetings,” Hunt says. “This is just phenomenal.”

 

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Mar 17th, 2009
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U.S. Construction Industry in 2009 & 2010: The Lean Years

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 17, 2009

Guest column by Julian Anderson, president of the Rider Levett Bucknall North American practice and a member of Rider Levett Bucknall’s Global Board.

PHOENIX, Ariz. – The bursting of the housing bubble was greeted with shock, as surprising as it was immense. In truth, there should not have been shock at all. Rather, as with all “bubbles,” the shock should have been that the bubble lasted so long and was inflated so far.

In its Fourth Quarter 2007 Quarterly Construction Cost Report, Rider Levett Bucknall included the following poignant quote:

“Real estate markets are among the most unstable and cyclical assets markets, exhibiting large amplitude cycles of 10-20 years. Real estate constitutes a large fraction of the total wealth in any economy, generates a significant fraction of banking activity and debt, and strongly affects the job market. Consequently, real estate booms are often accompanied by periods of intense speculation involving expansion of credit and banking activity, stimulating the local and even national economy. When the bubble bursts the resulting bad loans, defaults, and unemployment can throw an entire region into recession or even depression”.  John D. Sturman, Business Dynamics, Irwin McGraw Hill, 2000, p. 698.

What has taken commentators’ breath away is how far the housing industry has sunk since its peak in 2006, the extent of the carnage that has overtaken the financial markets, and the toll that this has in turn taken on the broader economy.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in February 2009 that “Construction lost 111,000 jobs in January (2009). Employment in the industry has fallen by about 1 million since peaking in January 2007.” 

The question that everyone wants answered is, ”When will the industry begin to recover?”

A clue to this can be found in the projections produced by President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors in support of the recently enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more commonly known as the “Stimulus Package”.

The table above hints that, even with the passage of ARRA, unemployment will only begin to decrease around the Third Quarter 2009 but that it is not expected to reduce to even the Fourth Quarter 2008 level until the Fourth Quarter 2010 and only by the end of 2012 will we see a 5 percent unemployment rate again.

The same Council of Economic Advisors predicted that ARRA would either create, or prevent the loss of, some 678,000 construction jobs, but this is against the 1 million construction jobs lost by January 2009 and is not the same as saying that there will not be further erosion of construction employment.

The misery for those involved in the construction industry is unlikely to end soon. With the exception of certain government projects pushed forward using ARRA funds, the rest of the industry is likely to suffer decreasing workload well into 2010.

The effects of reduced commodity and oil prices will interact with the reducing volume of work to put significant downward pressure on construction prices.

Rider Levett Bucknall has made a study of the relationship between the underlying rate of inflation in the broader economy, the rate of inflation in construction labor and materials and the rate of inflation in bid prices.

The graph above shows that through April 2004, general inflation (as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Price Index), construction labor and material price inflation (as measured by Engineering News Record’s Building Cost Index) and bid price inflation (as measured by Rider Levett Bucknall’s National Construction Cost Index) all tracked with each other. Then suddenly, in April 2004, driven at first by an upward leap in the price of steel, and later by a boom in commodity prices and workload volumes, the graph lines separated.

By October 2008, the relative cost of construction labor and materials had gained a premium of 7.3 percent over general consumer prices while the total bid price for construction had gained a 14.2 percent premium over the increase in construction labor and materials – a combined cumulative premium of 22.5 percent over CPI.

In the medium term, construction bid prices tend to increase at a rate not significantly different to the economy’s underlying rate of inflation as measured by the CPI. So it is reasonable to believe that, over the next 24 months, much of the premium of bid price over CPI will evaporate. This is not to say that construction prices will fall by 22 percent – there will continue to be inflation in the general economy and the price of oil and base metals remains volatile, so it is not possible to convincingly determine how these factors will feed into construction prices.

In summary, it is my view that construction volumes will continue to decrease in the short term (probably through 2010), construction unemployment will continue to increase and there will be downward pressure on bid prices between 10 percent and 20 percent (depending on locale and market segment). For contractors and consultants, 2009 and 2010 will be lean years.

For anyone thinking about constructing a building 2009 and 2010 will be a great time to get work started.

About Julian Anderson

Julian Anderson is President of the Rider Levett Bucknall North American practice and a member of Rider Levett Bucknall’s Global Board. He is responsible for the overall management of the practice and client liaison. His project experience ranges from $100,000 to $700,000,000; providing advice on construction cost, project management and expert testimony.  Julian is a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, has been a Certified Cost Consultant since 1994 and has published numerous articles on construction economics. He can be reached at 877-431-2976 or julian.anderson@us.rlb.com.

About Rider Levett Bucknall

Rider Levett Bucknall is a leading independent firm providing clients with the foremost property and construction advice available. Established in 1785, Rider Levett Bucknall has grown into a truly global practice with over 2,000 professionals in more than 75 offices around the world.

 

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Mar 17th, 2009
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Arizona and European Investors Have $94 Million for Unfinished Projects

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 16, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – With about $94 million in his pockets and a camera in his hand, Paul Charles is anything but your average photographer.

Charles is vice president of Laguna Pacific Inc., a development company partnering with an $8 billion investment banking firm in Europe. Last summer, the companies formed a joint venture to buy about $94 million worth of unfinished residential land developments in Arizona, California and Nevada, starting with Arizona.

Laguna Pacific is committed to 20 percent of the investment, with the remaining 80 percent coming from the European group. Charles declined to name the European investment firm.

Topping the joint venture’s priority list in metro Phoenix are those residential developments with lots ready for construction of houses. Other desirable properties include land with residential zoning, multifamily zoning or mixed-use zoning that includes residential uses.

In late 2008, when the company began contacting private developers whose projects had stalled, “within days we had 60 projects that were just – boom – thrown out at us,” Charles says.

Among those offers was at least one from a private developer in which there is “no value on the dirt and 50 to 60 cents on infrastructure dollars” spent to add streets, sidewalks and underground utilities, Charles says.

Residential developments have stalled across Arizona, as elsewhere, because of the rapid decline in market values of land and housing. Victims of the decline include developers left with unfinished residential developments where the value of the property is less than the loans they owe on the property.

Charles is cruising metro Phoenix, from Queen Creek to Buckeye, taking photos of land where the economic crisis in recent years put the brakes on residential developments. Laguna Pacific and its European partners also are interested in multi-use properties with a residential component. They’re not interested in commercial or industrial properties.

Early today, with his camera and his list of properties to visit, and dressed in khaki slacks and a Columbia hiking shirt, Charles was headed off to visit “half a dozen properties” in the West Valley. He declines to identify the properties or the owners. Charles adds that the partnership is bullish on the education, medical and assisted living sectors.

Charles says that while the real estate market is showing signs of stabilizing, one negative factor on the near horizon involves “about 43 percent of the adjustable rate mortgages” expected to reset over the next two years to balloon payments and higher interest rates.

“That,” he says, “potentially could be a second (financial) tsunami that could have a real effect on property valuations.”

Charles says Laguna Pacific has constructed 50 million square feet over four generations across the United States. Its current chairman and CEO is Brad Gorman. Laguna Pacific and Barker Pacific Group, in a joint venture, proposed the Pier 202 development on 27 acres on the south back of Tempe Town Lake. The property and the concept were sold in 2007 to The Wolff Co., according to news accounts.

Charles adds that the European investment fund is interested in starting a second fund, depending on the outcome of the existing $94 million joint venture.

“They have considerable capital that they’d like to deploy, and this is really our first test of the market,” he says. “If we do well with this, then we’ll continue to move forward.”

Charles is a veteran of investments. In the 1980s, he was president of CNF Inc., a private company that designed, made and marketed peripherals for laptop computers. One of the achievements was the miniaturization of zip drives. The company also made “portable CD-ROM drives, numeric keypads, auto adapters, monitor stands and universal docking stations,” according to a May 1998 press release announcing CNF’s relocation to Scottsdale from Silicon Valley. Charles says the company later was sold.

  

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Mar 16th, 2009
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Tucson-based Biotech Receives More Than $2 Million Venture Capital Funding

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 16, 2009

TUCSON, Ariz. – SalutarisMD, a startup medical devices company in Tucson, has received $1.5 million in financing from Translational Accelerator LLC, or TRAC, an Arizona-based $20 million bioscience venture capital group.

Also investing in SalutarisMD is Desert Angels, bringing the total start up investment to more than $2 million. Desert Angels is a Tucson-based group of investors interested in regional startup companies.

“This financing is a win for Tucson and Arizona,” said Michael Voevodsky, CEO of SalutarisMD. “SalutarisMD is excited about the opportunity to build a world-class medical device company here. The support we have received, both locally and statewide, has been tremendous.”

“In this sharp economic downturn, it’s important that we diversify our economy by growing our own,” said Joe Snell, President and CEO, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc. “SalutarisMD is just the type of firm we need doing innovative work, right here in Tucson.”

TRAC Managing Director Richard Love said SalutarisMD “fits our objective to invest in early stage bioscience companies with real commercial potential.”

The “strength of University of Arizona research, potential collaborations and a pioneering, innovative attitude in the biosciences community” are reasons why the SalutarisMD management team chose Tucson for its home, said Harry George, Managing Partner of Solstice Capital, Desert Angels member and SalutarisMD investor.

Solstice Capital is a national fund interested in investing “early-stage companies in the industry areas of alternative energy, education, the environment, life sciences and information technology,” according to its Web site, www.solcap.com.

SalutarisMD’s other community partners assisting in startup efforts include the University of Arizona Department of Radiation Oncology, UA Office of Technology Transfer and TREO, an economic development agency focused on greater Tucson and surrounding communities.

TRAC is a private, $20 million bioscience venture capital group based in Arizona. It is Arizona’s first venture fund established to target early-stage bioscience companies. TRAC investments only support firms located in Arizona or those planning to move to the state.

 

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Mar 16th, 2009
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Banner Health Opening ‘Virtual Hospital’ in Arizona for Medical Training

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 11, 2009

MESA, Ariz. – Scarlet oozes from the left ear of the 30-year-old male motorcycle accident victim. Helmet fractured. Rambling whispers. Dark bruises on chest near heart. Underwent knee surgery 24 hours earlier. Today, one eye dilated. Breathing rapid and shallow. Receiving medium-level doses of medication.

One or more of the above critical issues could be part of a training script in a new program that Banner Health medical workers and computer technicians are creating in metro Phoenix. The training will take place around 55 hospital beds in a 55,000-square-foot medical simulation facility under construction inside Banner Corporate Center Mesa. That’s the new name for the old Banner Mesa Medical Center at Country Club Drive and Brown Road in north Mesa.

“We’re calling it our 55-bed virtual hospital,” says Carol Noe, regional director of simulation and innovation at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in central Phoenix.

The training will be centered on 70 computer-controlled mannequins that, with prompting from computer operators in nearby rooms, will mimic a variety of human medical conditions. Medical workers enrolled in the two-week program will encounter all types of medical emergencies that, while simulated in this virtual world, will give them real-world experiences that officials say could take months or years to occur on the job.

“The goal is to give them the experience and to let them know that it’s okay to fail,” Noe says. “You’d rather fail in a simulation lab. That’s the pit-of-the-stomach moment. That’s the moment you’ll never do again in your clinical career, but you want that to happen in this environment.”

The mannequins will breathe, blink and speak. They will mimic a variety of medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, difficulty breathing, and negative reactions to medications. Noe says the mannequins may never be called dummies by staff or trainees.

Noe strokes the hair and straightens the gown of Noelle, a mother mannequin that was among the first group of robotic patients added to Banner’s 6,000-square-foot simulation medical training center at Banner Good Samaritan in 2006. On a table next to Noelle is Hope, a baby mannequin that mimics pediatric health issues.

The new simulation center in north Mesa is the key part of the former hospital. Noe credits the idea and design to Dr. Mark Smith, director of the Simulation Education and Training Center at Banner Good Samaritan.

Ideally, the medical workers will respond correctly and quickly during their training. But even if they don’t, mistakes become learning experiences because they can be evaluated to determine how they were made and how they can be avoided in the future, officials say.

The Mesa center will offer training where the only pain will be to the pride of trainees who make mistakes. If the “patient” goes into cardiac arrest because a trainee overlooked procedure or administered the incorrect type or dose of medication, no one dies, Noe says.

The renovation cost of the Mesa hospital is about $130 million. The high-tech facility will occupy more than half of the ground floor of the nine-story building. The rest of the building will be used by up to 1,100 Banner employees. Many of them are relocating to Mesa from leased offices across the Valley. Banner’s information technology workers will occupy floors eight and nine. The other floors will be filled with cubicles for Banner employees who work with physician groups, insurance companies, accounting, billing and finance.

The renovated hospital is set for completion in May. The medical simulation facility is to be finished a month later. Holder Construction Co. is the general contractor of the redevelopment project. The architect is Gensler Architects.

Several university medical schools in the United States have simulation facilities, but they are rare in private hospitals. Noe adds that in terms of size, the Banner facility will be one of the nation’s largest.

The high-tech medical facility will be used for advanced training for a variety of medical workers, ranging from secretaries and clerks to seasoned physicians and nurses from Banner medical facilities in Arizona, Alaska, Nevada, California, Colorado and South Dakota, officials say.

Others expected to receive the training include first responders, such as fire department paramedics, and medical workers at other private and public hospitals, Noe says.

The training program in Mesa includes a mockup emergency room, intensive care unit, a labor and delivery room, a pediatrics room, and more. The mannequins range from arms, upper torsos and complete human models.

The new training site will accelerate training for medical workers and improve patient care, Banner spokesman Bill Byron says.

“We gain in two areas,” Byron says. “Obviously the better skills, which means better patient care. But we’re also able to get a nurse on the hospital floor faster, which is very important in terms of nursing shortages and getting nurses up to speed faster.”

Noe says the price of computerized mannequins depends on their level of sophistication. The average price of Banner’s mannequins is between $40,000 and $65,000.

The building’s first floor dates to 1961, with the high-rise part of building added later in phases in the late 1960s.  The landmark building was known as Mesa Lutheran Hospital for most of its existence. Banner later bought the hospital. It was closed in late 2007.

Today, the former hospital has about 350,000 square feet, with 100,000 square feet on the ground floor and 250,000 square feet in the tower, says Daniel Stoecklin, project executive with Banner Health’s design and construction division. He says most of the 1,100 workers will be relocated by May.

Mesa Councilman Dave Richins is excited about the renovation of the old hospital. He sees the renovated building as both a good neighbor for north Mesa and an economic magnet likely to attract more redevelopment.

“Banner has come up with an amazing use for an old building,” Richins says. “Instead of tearing it down, they’re using some of their existing infrastructure, and they’re bringing a whole set of jobs and life to an existing site.”

Richins is founder of West Mesa Community Development Corp., a nonprofit group. He also works in the Phoenix office of the Sonoran Institute.

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Mar 11th, 2009
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Opus West’s Pima Center Occupancy Rising

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 9, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Several more tenants are moving into Phoenix-based Opus West Corp.’s Pima Center, a 1-million-square-foot office campus at the Loop 101 Freeway and Via de Ventura.

New leases by Mutual of Omaha, Taylor Morrison Homes, State Farm Insurance and Healthcare Realty Trust bring the completed buildings in the project to more than 90 percent leased or sold.

Mutual of Omaha has leased 31,000 square feet in the three-story, 136,000-square-foot Pima III A. Mutual of Omaha is now operating administrative offices and a full-service regional bank branch at the new location.

At the adjacent three-story, 136,000-square-foot Pima III C building, Opus has completed a lease agreement with Taylor Morrison Homes for 17,000 square feet a design center and administrative offices.

“Pima Center combines a great Scottsdale location, freeway visibility and a very competitive price point, with a variety of building types and opportunities to lease or own,” Jeff Roberts, vice president of Opus West’s real estate development, said in a press release. 

Other tenants at Pima Center include Premiere Oncology, Rural Metro, SXC Health Solutions, Hemisphere GPS, Safeguard Security, PB Bell and Scottsdale Insurance.

Of the nearly 1-million-square-foot master plan at Pima Center, Opus West has completed 12 buildings totaling 766,000 square feet of office space. The most recently completed segment of the project is the two-story Pima Medical Pavilion, which was completed under a build-to-suit arrangement with Healthcare Realty, a Nashville-based real estate investment trust (REIT). Delivered in late 2008, these two buildings front Pima Road and total 180,000 square feet. They were designed to accommodate the specific needs of medical users.

“The objective of the Pima Medical Pavilion is to provide outpatient medical services in this existing, well-established medical market,” said Hilla Nassiri, Healthcare Realty Trust leasing director.

A new two-story, 80,000-square-foot building is under construction by Opus West. Completion is planned this month. It offers the only site at Pima Center with contiguous space in excess of 20,000 square feet. The company has one building remaining on the drawing board at Pima Center: the four-story, 180,000-square-foot Pima III B. Groundbreaking is dependent on leasing activity.

Opus Pima Center’s general contractor is Opus West Construction Corp. Pima Center’s exclusive leasing brokers are Bill Blake, Craig Coppola and Mark Linsalata of Lee & Associates in Phoenix at 602-956-7777.

Coppola, Blake and Linsalata represented Opus West in all of the four new transactions. Tom Adelson and Kevin Calihan of CB Richard Ellis represented Mutual of Omaha and Pat Williams of Jones Lang LaSalle represented Taylor Morrison Homes. John Pierson and Jon Lange of Jones Lang LaSalle represented State Farm Insurance, and Jerry McCormick of CB Richard Ellis represented Healthcare Realty Trust. 

Opus West has been actively developing at the Via de Ventura and Loop 101 since 2005. Its two projects at the intersection include Opus Pima Center and the 250,000-square-foot Calendar Stick, which is home to headquarter tenants Cold Stone Creamery, Telesphere, Rural/Metro Corp. and SHPS.

 

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Mar 9th, 2009
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Business Veterans Betting on Downtown Phoenix Real Estate Rebound

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 5, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Anticipating an eventual market turnaround in metropolitan Phoenix, three veteran entrepreneurs are launching a new downtown real estate office to market, among other things, high-rise residential condos.

Developer Julian Blum, real estate agent Leslie Dockter and public relations/entrepreurial maven Francine Hardaway have opened their Infill Realty Services office at 204 N. Central Ave., in the Hotel San Carlos. They are hosting a grand opening of their new office on March 19, from 5 to 8 p.m.

The trio’s invitation says their company will be specializing in high rise units for resale. It says: “There may never be a better time to buy in downtown Phoenix because the fruits of decades of public and private investment, including new hotels, the Phoenix Convention Center, Arizona State University’s downtown campus, and a light rail system, are now visible.”

Infill Realty’s office is just around the corner from 44 Monroe, a 34-story condominium building with 202 units. However, like many residential developments, the eye-catching building – which is the tallest residential building in Arizona – has been impacted by the current economic freefall in Arizona and the nation. Blum says Infill Realty will be working with 44 Monroe’s developers and brokers to market condos in that development and others downtown.

“We’re hiring agents and we’re trying to build a business down here,” Blum says. “It’s a time to get started.”

He adds that, despite the depressed prices, people “are not readily buying anything that isn’t almost a steal. But we think times are changing, and we’re going to be here on the ground floor when it comes back.”

Blum has been involved with property redevelopment in Phoenix since the 1980s. One of his first proposals was redeveloping 13 acres on Central Avenue north of Indian School Road. The land remains vacant.

In the early 1980s, Blum promoted a proposal called Square One, a specialty shopping center between Washington and Adams streets, and Central and First Street. That project eventually was rejected by the city council. Later, the city council approved another downtown shopping proposal called Arizona Center, which was built between Van Buren, Fillmore, Third and Fifth streets.

Blum also built 10 townhomes on Culver Street, between Third and Fifth avenues, north of Hance Park. The cluster housing development is called Lorna Park View Estates. His other projects included remodeling the federal Housing and Urban Development building downtown, which he later sold.

 “I’ve had a lot of good experiences and I know a lot of people downtown,” Blum says. “I’m also an investor in the 44 Monroe. I put a syndication together and we bought a couple units in there.

“Unfortunately, things aren’t going well for the high rises down here,” he continues. “They’ve not done as well as anticipated because of the financing problem.”

Hardaway says that when the Arizona economy rebounds, downtown Phoenix is better positioned to recover faster than before, thanks to the expanded convention center, the new light rail system, ASU’s expanded downtown campus, and the new 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown hotel. Hardaway’s Web site is www.stealthmodepartners.com.

“I walked around downtown earlier this week and I was stunned by what we’ve accomplished,” Hardaway says. “Everything I wrote about for (real estate broker) Ron Bookbinder in the ‘80s is built, and then some.”

She adds that the new achievements “reminded me of previous eras, in which the people who did the pioneering work got all the arrows in their backs, and the next generation made all the money. Well, the next generation of people who live and invest downtown will make all the money, because all the grunt work is done.”

Blum says Infill Realty Services is linked to Dockter’s Web site, www.downtownphoenixrealestate.com.

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Mar 5th, 2009
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Blind Hikers Training in Arizona to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 4, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz. – These hikers headed up the steep desert trail northeast of Phoenix are huffing and puffing, but they barely break out a sweat. Others on the trail might feel their nostrils burn and their pulse pound like a drum, but these seasoned hikers march on. They’ve been training in Arizona for months.

They feel this trail on Pinnacle Peak with their hiking poles, like handheld radar. They might leave a little blood on the rocks when they scrape a knee, but they make the trek look easy, almost like they could see the trail. Which they can’t.

They are blind or visually impaired, these eight hikers from metro Phoenix. They and their guides, 18 sighted hikers, are training to climb 19,340-foot-high Mount Kilimanjaro in June. They range in age from 12 to 42.

The group from the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix plans to leave Arizona on June 20 and arrive at Kilimanjaro’s base on June 23. Their climb will last seven days. They will pass through five climate zones, from tropical to glacial, and reach the summit on June 30.

The oldest of the hiking group is Tom Hicks, 42. He believes the group of blind hikers trekking up Kilimanjaro’s slopes will “send the message that if you have the proper training and the proper access, then you can do just about anything you want to.”

The hikers have been training in Arizona since mid-2008. Their first hike was at night in June. They hiked the Peralta Trail in the Superstition Wilderness east of metro Phoenix. The sighted guides carried flashlights or headlamps. That hike was followed by a strenuous trek up 12,643-foot Humphreys Peak north of Flagstaff in September.

One of the group’s toughest hikes so far was in November. They completed the two-day, 22-mile Phoenix Seven Summits Challenge, which involved climbing Camelback Mountain, South Mountain, North Mountain, Piestewa Peak and other local peaks in metro Phoenix.

“That was a gut check, but we made it and we did it, and I think we’re just kind of on fire now to get to the top of Kilimanjaro,” says Hicks, a case manager for blind or visually impaired military veterans at the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

The hikers have divided up into teams to raise funds to pay for the trip. Their Web site is www.seekiliourway.org. Part of the proceeds raised for the trip will benefit the Foundation for Blind Children.

Living with blindness

Hicks once had normal vision. He was an Army captain in combat intelligence for Special Forces in Fort Lewis, Wash. He was 13 years into his military career when retinitis pigmentosa began turning his world dark. That was 12 years ago.

“Nothing heroic,” he says. “I didn’t jump on a grenade or anything. I just slowly lost my eyesight and lost my career.”

But unlike his younger hiking buddies, who since birth have never known colors or shapes or smiles, Hicks had to relearn how to live without his eyesight. When he dreams today about his children, who are now adults, they “have these little-kid faces, because that’s the last time I remember seeing them,” Hicks says.

“Blindness is a pain in the ass,” Hicks says matter-of-factly. “It’s a huge mountain every day.”

This Saturday hike up Pinnacle Peak was led by Hicks and his sighted guide, Kristy Kevitt, business development manager at the Phoenix office of SmithGroup, a national architecture firm. Hicks’ other sighted guide for the Kilimanjaro trip is Grahame Richards, who wasn’t on today’s hike.

Hicks and Kevitt set an aggressive pace on today’s hike. Most of the time, Hicks kept one hand on Kevitt’s backpack. Kevitt described the trail’s obstacles to Hicks, like a boulder sticking out from the mountain wall. Or a step up or down on the trail.

Their legs were in step – right, left, right, left – like the giant iron arms pumping a locomotive’s wheels. Behind them, the other blind hikers and their sighted guides became a single-file train of white “See Kili Our Way” T-shirts.

This is perfect weather for hiking desert trails. The weather is cooler, the air is clearer, and the snakes are hibernating. In many places, this steep trail is a ledge carved between and around boulders. One misstep, and it’s a long tumble among boulders and cacti.

The trail winds up and down and around Pinnacle Peak. The switchbacks make it easier to go uphill or downhill. One or two sighted guides help each blind hiker. One is in front, the other in back.

At times, the blind hikers step aside to let others pass them on the narrow trail. I’m following Max Ashton, 12, the group’s youngest hiker. He was born with limited peripheral vision. His sighted guide today is Zach Mastro, a family friend.

I see obstacles in and along the trail and react to them. If I stumble, I might fall. But Ashton, when his feet bump obstacles, seems to react faster.

Behind me for part of the hike is Max’s father, Marc Ashton, executive director of the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix. He asks me how I’m doing. I’m focused on the trail looking for more photo ops. Someone else jokes that Ashton is keeping tabs on me in case I need a piggyback ride. We laugh.

Every climber succeeds

Marc Ashton says he is learning more about himself by training for the Kilimanjaro climb. Although he is not an outdoors enthusiast, Ashton feels compelled to finish the climb and help others do the same. He adds that everyone who climbs Kilimanjaro, even if they don’t reach the summit, will succeed.

“It’s not going to be failure if people don’t make it to the top,” Ashton says. “It’s about the journey. What are the climbers going to see when they get to the top of Kili? They’re all going to see something. It’s not a matter of the view – it’s a matter of the vision.”

When the group completes today’s hike and meets back at the trailhead, they are only halfway. They paused before hiking the trail a second time. Everyone chowed down on energy bars, trail mix or sandwiches and water or sports drinks. They expected to burn 500 calories during each of this day’s two roundtrips. On Kilimanjaro, they will need about 2,000 calories a day.

Walking among the hikers during the break was their coach, mountaineer Kevin Cherilla, a professional mountain guide and a veteran of Kilimanjaro eight times. He made sure everyone was recharging with food and water. Cherilla is a physical education instructor for middle- and high-school students at Phoenix Country Day School.

Cherilla was part of the climbing team that guided the first blind person to the top of Mount Everest in 2001. He has guided more than 100 climbers on Kilimanjaro. In 2006 and again in 2008, his Kilimanjaro groups included Darol Kubacz, a paraplegic athlete. Cherilla also organizes hikes to Machu Picchu in Peru. Details and photographs of his hikes are on his Web site, www.kcsummits.com.

Mental strength critical

Cherilla says mental conditioning is as critical as physical training and a healthy diet. He says many people in reasonably good physical condition can climb Kilimanjaro, but few are mentally ready for the strenuous hike. And especially for the mountain’s final 4,000 feet, which is almost vertical and covered with snow and ice.

“For most people, what happens is, they mentally lose it because of the long hours and the (climbing) day after day after day,” Cherilla says. “These guys are going to be on the mountain for eight days, which is a long time.”

During the weeklong climb up Kilimanjaro, the Phoenix hikers will face fatigue, nausea and lack of sleep. They should also be prepared to climb during rain and, on the final day, snow and strong winds, Cherilla says.

“What I tell these guys is, the more you train and the more you suffer here, it’ll pay off over there,” Cherilla says. “If you wake up sore, then get back out there the next day and get sore again. Eventually, that’s going to go away.”

During their nights on Kilimanjaro, while the hikers rest their sore muscles, they will have time to read, listen to music or play cards or charades. Cherilla says charades are a favorite activity for the African porters. He says about 100 porters will be needed on this trip, if the Arizona group numbers 30 or more.

Today’s first trip up Pinnacle Peak started at 9 a.m. The group made the first 3.5-mile roundtrip in about 90 minutes. Now, after a break of about 20 minutes at the trailhead and park office, it was almost 11 a.m. The temperature was rising, and the Arizona hikers headed for Kilimanjaro needed to do the trail again. They were recharged, ready for their second hike.

“Are we ready to roll,” someone shouted.

“Let’s roll,” came a response.

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Mar 4th, 2009
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Canalscape Design Competition Heads Arizona Architects’ March Calendar

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 1, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Metropolitan Phoenix has a network of 181 miles of canals, which the Phoenix Metro chapter of the American Institute of Architects says is more than Venice and Amsterdam combined.

Property along the Phoenix area’s canals is the focus of an architectural design competition sponsored by AIA Phoenix Metro and Arizona State University’s “Canalscape Symposium 2009.”

Amsterdam has 47 miles of canals, and Venice has 125 miles, both substantially less than metro Phoenix, according to the AIA announcement.

The design competition will begin during a 3 p.m. meeting March 5 at the AIA Arizona offices at 30 N. Third Ave., Suite 200, in downtown Phoenix. The AIA offices are in the historic Walker building on the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Washington Street. For more details, visit http://aia-phoenixmetro.org.

Most of the metro Phoenix canals are owned and operated by Salt River Project, which delivers water to residential and agricultural customers across the Valley. The source of the water is the system of reservoirs on the Salt and Verde rivers northeast of the Valley.

For years, SRP has worked with local cities on the design of multi-use projects that added offices, retail developments and recreational trails adjacent to the SRP canals. One of the largest commercial projects is Scottsdale Waterfront, built in recent years at the southwest corner of Camelback and Scottsdale roads, next to the Arizona Canal.

Each project next to a canal has been evaluated by SRP officials to be sure of its compatibility with the canal before its construction. For more information about the SRP canal system, as well as its history and water safety, visit the SRP Website, www.srpnet.com/water/canals/.

 

Other AIA events

March has been dubbed “EcoMonth” by The American Institute of Architects Arizona Component’s Committee on the Environment to create public awareness of sustainability and the importance of being kind to the environment.

The committee has assembled a series of lectures and tours that will benefit both AIA members and the public throughout the state. Currently, there are several lectures and tours scheduled in metro Phoenix. Tour dates for Flagstaff and Tucson are in the works and will be posted soon on the chapter calendar. For more information, contact Tina Litteral at AIA Arizona, Tina@aia-arizona.org.

All AIA members will receive continuing education by attending these events.

 

March 6, 2009

Tempe Transit Center and Solar Parking Garage Tour, 200 E. Fifth Street, Tempe; noon to 1 p.m. RSVP to Diana SmithDiana@aia-arizona.org.

First Friday Exhibit

View AIA’s Top Ten Committee on the Environment Projects and experience Pecha Kucha, presented by AIA Phoenix Metro’s Young Architects’ Forum. AIA Arizona, 30 N. 3rd Avenue, Suite 200, Phoenix; 6 to 9 p.m.

 

March 10, 2009

Lecture by Anthony Floyd, AIA, director of Scottsdale’s Green Building Programwww.scottsdaleaz.gov/greenbuilding.asp; AIA Arizona, 30 N. 3rd Avenue, Suite 200, Phoenix; 6 to 7 p.m.

 

March 13, 2009

Tour of Green Street Development Residence, 3313 E. Medlock, Phoenix; noon to 1 p.m. RSVP to Diana SmithDiana@aia-arizona.org.

 

March 20, 2009

Tour of Papago Gateway, 350 West Washington St., Suite 600, Tempe; noon to 1 p.m. RSVP to Diana Smith, Diana@aia-arizona.org.

 

March 27, 2009

Tour of Cesar Chavez Public Library, 3635 West Baseline Road, Phoenix, Arizona. A 5 p.m. reception hosted by Henry Tom, AIA and Karl Kendall, will be followed by a 5:30 p.m. lecture and a 6 p.m. building tour. RSVP to Diana SmithDiana@aia-arizona.org.

All of these events are open to the public and are posted on the AIA Arizona calendar.

About AIA Arizona

AIA Arizona’s mission is to promote the architectural profession through the strength and participation of members. AIA Arizona has been a component of the American Institute of Architects since it received its charter in October 1959.

There are three chapters in Arizona: AIA Phoenix Metro, AIA Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona and AIA Southern Arizona in Tucson. The three chapters have a total membership of more than 1,500 members statewide. To contact or learn more about AIA Arizona, please visit www.aia-arizona.org.

 

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Mar 1st, 2009
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2,200 jobs in southern Arizona to be filled in next 12 months

Posted By Mike Padgett

Feb. 25, 2009

TUCSON, Ariz. – Nearly 100 companies in southern Arizona plan to fill more than 2,200 open positions over the next year, according to a new survey.

The positive news in the current economic downturn came to light during a survey conducted by Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc. (TREO), an economic development agency.

The top 170 employers in southern Arizona were contacted by TREO to learn which companies planned to hire new employees over the next 12 months.

Nearly 100 companies responded to the survey. They said they plan to fill more than 2,200 open positions during the next year. Industries with the largest number of open positions include manufacturing, logistics, aerospace, construction and professional services.

About 60 percent of the positions are defined as high-skilled, requiring technical training or a bachelor’s degree to be considered for the job.

“While much focus currently is on the number of layoffs and business closures, the news is not all ‘doom and gloom,’” said Joe Snell, TREO president and CEO. “There are jobs in Tucson, and at TREO we are working to improve the connectivity between our companies that are hiring and those looking for jobs.”

Company referrals for interviews are available upon request.

TREO was formed in 2005 to promote economic development for greater Tucson and the surrounding communities. For more information, visit www.treoaz.org.

 

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Feb 25th, 2009
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