By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
National planning, landscape architecture and project promotion firm Norris Design is the latest company to contribute to Downtown Phoenix’s growth, having announced last week that it has purchased and will renovate the building at 901 E. Madison St. for use as its local office.
Norris’ office is currently on North 12th Street near Campbell Avenue.
Located in the Eastlake-Garfield District and adjacent to the highly popular Warehouse District, the now-vacant 12,400SF building will be renovated to an open, loft-style plan for the Norris office, as well as a co-working space for possible future tenants. The city’s ReinventPHX website lists 901 E. Madison as one of nine existing office or industrial spaces in Eastlake-Garfield.
In an interview, Norris’ Phoenix Office Leader Joel Thomas said the firm’s growth and culture, combined with the continuing resurgence of downtown, made the decision an obvious choice.
“We’re growing in Arizona. A lot of technology and design firms are focused on the Warehouse District area. What we were seeing is that prices are going up, and we wanted to jump in on it versus letting the opportunity pass by. We thought, if we’re going to do it, we should just go ahead and do it now,” said Thomas.
He added that some of their firm’s clients, such as Crowley Companies, have also recently purchased buildings in the area. “Our belief is to be committed to the downtown area, and this was that opportunity,” he said.
Thomas added the company’s Denver office is also housed in an industrial warehouse-style space, and that the aesthetic connects quite well with the overall company culture.
Adaptive reuse in the downtown area is not without its challenges. In a recent panel discussion on downtown development (AZBEX, Oct. 21), attendees noted that difficulty in finding sufficient parking for employees and customers, particularly in and around the Warehouse District, is an ongoing concern.
Thomas agreed, “That’s one of the biggest things right now. Phoenix is definitely a commuter city. People see that as something that’s going to change, and over the past decade that change has been more and more encouraged. When we got the building, we knew parking was going to be an issue. We have a small surface parking lot in front and a little street frontage on three corners. If we didn’t have that frontage, it would have been extremely difficult to meet city (parking space) minimums. I don’t think you could get it done.”
He added that even with meeting the city minimums, finding realistically sufficient parking is still a challenge for downtown businesses.
“What we’re doing is working with the city about some areas that were designated as non-parking. They’ve been very open, because the city does want to be positive in encouraging growth and adaptive reuse. They’ve allowed some street parking here and there, and there are some open areas that we’re looking for agreements with,” said Thomas.
“Ultimately, I would say, there’s going to be a time where the city is going to have to help more with this ordeal, whether it’s streetscapes or accessible parking structures. That’s what will help grow this area,” he said.
Norris is the building owner and will manage the design.