Phoenix business community honors ASU’s Duke Reiter

Posted By Mike Padgett

Aug. 13, 2008

The business pipeline between Phoenix and Chicago, created generations ago by Windy City retirees wintering in Phoenix, and by the Chicago Cubs training in the Arizona sunshine, has grown a little wider.

Wellington Reiter, the former dean of the College of Design at Arizona State University, pointed out the Chicago-Phoenix pipeline during his reception Aug. 12 in the Phoenix Art Museum’s Great Hall. It was filled with about 300 business leaders and Reiter’s colleagues.

Reiter – his friends call him Duke – was the guest of honor because he is leaving Arizona to become president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He starts Aug. 25.

Reiter, who became the College of Design dean in 2002, is quick to point out that Chicago’s architecture makes it one of the nation’s most unique cities.

“It’s the architectural capital of the United States, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

Business leaders at the reception praised Reiter for his role in helping ASU President Michael Crow and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon accelerate downtown redevelopment, including the university’s downtown campus.

Reiter’s “constant communication with the Phoenix downtown groups, letting everyone know that our new downtown was going to be something special with the new ASU campus, and that the light rail was needed and would be profitable, eased the concerns of a population that only understood sprawl,” said Mike Fitz-Gerald, managing director of Colliers International‘s Phoenix office.

“The three-headed machine of Mayor Gordon, Dr. Crow and Duke molded an understanding that Phoenix could have and actually needed density, and that downtown was where we should start, has created a new mindset that has made Phoenix a better community,” Fitz-Gerald said.

Others agreed, including Pete Bolton, former senior managing director of CB Richard Ellis‘ Phoenix office. Bolton said Reiter became a major player in helping implement Crow’s vision of “a new American university” that is more accessible to the people.

“To me, I think Duke was probably one of the first ones he (Crow) brought on board who went out and really made that happen,” Bolton said.

“This guy was at every function, and he knew about virtually every new building that was being built out there,” Bolton continues. “And he was available all the time to help any of the local architects on what they thought was ‘good’ design.”

Bolton resigned from CB Richard Ellis in December 2007. He formed The Pete Bolton Co., which specializes in consulting to the commercial real estate industry and in organizational development and teambuilding.

Reiter counted the expanded downtown ASU campus, the establishment of the university’s graduate real estate program, the summer design workshop for disadvantaged students who hope to go to college, “and our focus and intensity on the built environment” as some of the key achievements he and others worked on while he was at ASU.

Reiter said he wasn’t actively looking to leave ASU. In fact, it was while he was overseeing the renovation of his Phoenix home when a headhunter reached out to him.

“I got calls from three or four schools this year, all of which have combinations of art and design programs,” he said.

Reiter said there are many business connections between Phoenix and Chicago. One is noted American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who ultimately designed 21 homes in the Chicago area. He had a home and studio in Oak Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

Wright established his winter studio and home, Taliesin West, in the desert northeast of Scottsdale in 1937. Wright died in 1959.

And in recent years, two Chicago-based architects have established sizable and upscale developments in Phoenix and Scottsdale. One is David Hovey, founder of Optima Inc. He designed and built condominium developments called Optima Camel View Village at Scottsdale Road and Goldwater Boulevard; and Optima Biltmore Towers at Camelback Road and 24th Street in Phoenix.

The second Chicago architect making a name for himself in Arizona is David Wallach, principal of W Developments. He designed and built The Summit at Copper Square, a luxury condo building in downtown Phoenix next to Chase Field and US Airways Center.

“There’s a pipeline between these two cities, and it’s pretty wide,” Reiter said.

It’s wide enough for the Chicago Cubs to travel to metro Phoenix almost every spring since 1952. That was the year the team moved its spring training camp to Mesa. The Cubs relocated in 1966 to Long Beach, Calif., then to Scottsdale in 1967 and back to Mesa in 1979, according to the team history.

Aug 13th, 2008

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