By Brenna Goth for The Arizona Republic
Archaeologists recently unearthed evidence of prehistoric people and remnants of Phoenix’s first fire station in the heart of downtown, where the area’s only grocery store is set to break ground April 13.
Last week crews finished a three-week dig at Block 23, named for its place in Phoenix’s original townsite. The land at First and Washington streets was most recently used for parking and has a long list of documented uses starting in the 1880s.
But archaeologists also found signs of some of Arizona’s earliest people.
The team thinks ceramics and other uncovered artifacts could be from the Red Mountain Phase, a predecessor to the Hohokam culture that settled in the area for more than a millennium until about 1450 A.D. Testing samples like pottery fragments and pollen will determine a more precise time period, said Alex Howard , archaeologist for Logan Howard, the firm contracted for the work.
Centuries after that came Phoenix’s first city hall, its first two fire stations, the Fox Theatre and a J.C. Penney store.
Now, RED Development plans to transform the site into a high-rise development with a Fry’s grocery store, hundreds of apartments and other uses. It’s expected to open in 2018. Phoenix is providing $18.3M in incentives for the project, including $2.5M for the excavation and other site prep work.
Archaeologists Digging Among Downtown High-Rises
Archaeologists expected to find artifacts on the land. Digs at other downtown sites, such as the neighboring CityScape, also yielded prehistoric finds.
Archaeologists will complete a report recording the site, and the items will go to the Pueblo Grande Museum for long-term curation.
Long-Anticipated Grocery Store Planned
The Block 23 groundbreaking may be the next historic moment for the site. Downtown leaders and city residents have waited years for a grocery store in an area considered a food desert for its lack of access to fresh foods.
RED Development plans 330 apartments, office space, restaurants, retail uses and parking for the project, according to a recent press release. The company also built the neighboring CityScape complex.
Phoenix will enter a long-term agreement to transfer the city-owned land to RED Development.
This week the Phoenix City Council will consider a request to amend a previous Block 23 agreement to “allow for additional market flexibility,” though it’s unclear which part of the proposed plans it would affect. The deal would still require a grocery store, office space, parking and streetscape improvements.
Jeff Moloznik, vice president of development for RED Development, said in a statement the project isn’t changing, and the amendment is “just a procedural step required for financing and ultimately construction commencement.”
Read more at The Arizona Republic.
NOTE: Paid subscribers receive additional project details in our twice-weekly PDF publication, including project stakeholder information and valuable project bidding leads. Find out more about AZBEX subscriptions or contact Rebekah Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 709-4190