News Ticker

Fourth Time a Charm for 1.5-Acre Site in Phx

Credit: City of Phoenix

By Rebekah Morris for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

The City of Phoenix has released a development RFP for a prime parcel and is looking for the market to bring creative ideas on how to best serve the community and develop the site.

The property is close to Roosevelt Row, one of the top-rated Arts Districts in the country. Proximity to Hance Park and I-10 should make the site appealing to many developers in the market. On the other hand, the 1.5-acre parcel is an urban infill and redevelopment site with a historic house and shared parking requirement that straddles a street, and may or may not include the redevelopment of an adjacent city-owned low-income apartment complex.

A Storied Past in a Prime Location

The City has brought this site to the market before. This will be the fourth time it is available for potential development since it was acquired in 2004. The latest development agreement fell apart in the Recession. In a subsequent blow, the historic Knipe House experienced a fire in 2010, and although the City stabilized the structure and replaced the roof, no further restoration work has taken place since that time. The site sits in a transition zone, mid-block on 2nd Street, close to Roosevelt Row, within the Downtown Core zoning district and the  ‘Evans Churchill West’ character area, with an allowable building height of 250’.

Looking for Market Creativity that is ‘Appropriate’

According to Eric Johnson, community & economic development deputy director for the City of Phoenix, the neighborhood’s success stories like monOrchid, Carly’s Bistro and numerous multifamily projects along Roosevelt Row give the site tremendous potential. The City has very deliberately left the RFP broad enough to encourage the market’s creativity in proposed uses, and hence, the subsequent value to the City.

Johnson brought up several times that the project needs to be ‘appropriate’ for the neighborhood, and that the best value to the City doesn’t mean only the highest purchase price, but rather what the best outcome is for the community.

While the City Council tends to lean toward a straight sale of the land, the proposal is open to alternative deal structures. Johnson mentioned most developers he speaks with are also more inclined to pursue a deal where they can control the land through a purchase transaction.

Restrictions of Existing House and Shared Parking

Along with the usual constraints and challenges of redeveloping an urban infill site, this one also has the bonus points of an existing historic house that must be retained, preserved and utilized, along with a shared parking requirement. The shared parking requirement may be met either through use of this parcel or an adjacent parcel that the proposer controls.

According to Gretchen Wolfe, economic development project manager for the City of Phoenix, the surrounding neighborhood has a need for a more efficient parking component. The successful development team will address how to bring more efficiency to the neighborhood through some sort of shared parking.

Solicitation Transparency Policy in Place, Structured Site Tour Times

As with all City procurements, this development RFP is subject to the recently passed Solicitation Transparency Policy. Wolfe explained that very large potential contracts have been made null and void due to the proposers’ communication with either council members or staff. Stringent adherence to the new policy is absolutely required. Wolfe also described that through the solicitation, only two site tours are available, dates and times are noted in the RFP. She says typically at least one person misses the tour then tries to call and schedule one just a couple days before the proposal is due, but the City has to deny the request.

Evaluation Criteria & Selection Timeline

Proposals will be evaluated on four criteria:

  • Concept to Redevelop & Adaptively Re-use the Knipe House
  • Public Benefit & Financial Return
  • Business Plan
  • Team Qualifications

City staff hopes to enter into negotiations with the preferred development team in the Fall, and go to City Council for approval of a development agreement by the Winter Break.

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