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Development team grows for 50-story condo tower
Mike Padgett
The Business Journal

The development team behind a 50-story luxury condo tower proposed on the site of the Ramada Inn-Downtown has added another player that already has one high-rise condo planned.

Grace Communities' Jonathon Vento and the father-son team of Don and Ryan Zeleznak signed a letter of intent May 3 with City Centre LLC, owner of the hotel site. Grace is developing the 34-story project at 44 Monroe, just blocks away.

The Phoenix City Council is expected to review the letter at its May 11 meeting.

Vento and the Zeleznaks were one of six development groups interviewed for the 50-story condo proposal, City Centre partner Mike Rakow said.

"We hope to have a contract in the next several days," Rakow said. "This will change the skyline of Phoenix, and we plan to bring in a significant architect who will be identified with the building."

The 50-story building with more than 900 condos is planned on the southern two-thirds of the block bordered by Polk, Taylor, First and Second streets. The northern third of the property is for Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Vento said he plans to begin interviewing architects with national and international reputations in the next several weeks. The design will include strong input from Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and his planning staff, and from Duke Reiter, dean of ASU's College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

The proposal's 50-story height could change and may be higher, depending on design input from Phoenix and ASU, Vento said.

Don Zeleznak said the market for high-rise condos is deeper than many realize because of changes in the Valley's demographics. Key factors are the popularity of the region's climate, which is helping fuel population growth, and the increasing number of baby boomers who want to downsize from their larger homes or purchase a second or even a third vacation home.

"This adds to our ability to market our product locally as well as nationally," Zeleznak said.

Rakow said he and his partners have received calls about the condo tower from prospective buyers in the United States and other countries.

The proposal is a public-private partnership. The land, after the hotel is demolished, will be donated to the city in return for the right to develop the luxury condo building, said Nick Wood, the attorney from Snell & Wilmer who brought Grace Communities and City Centre together.

Downtown Development Office Director Patrick Grady said City Centre and Grace Communities each have experience in major developments.

"It is a team that apparently has access to capital, so now it's a question of going through negotiations on the development agreement and seeing how they can put their (50-story) project together," Grady said.

The development agreement will include construction schedules, the design process and other details.

Funding for the 50-story condo building right now is coming just from the two developers, Vento said, but he expects to make an announcement soon about other financial details.

Ryan Zeleznak said the company has about 110 reservations for the 176 condos in the 34-story 44 Monroe condo building at First Avenue and Monroe Street. The Weitz Co. expects to start construction in June after workers finish demolishing what was a 10-story office building on the site.

Grace Communities' other key residential projects in the Valley include:

- Portales Place, a Scottsdale project with 112 luxury condos on 10 acres west of the Finova building at Scottsdale Road and Goldwater Boulevard.

- Portland Place, a mix of brownstone-type and mid-rise buildings with 188 residences in central Phoenix between Central and Third avenues and north of Portland Street.

Grace Communities: 480-767-5245.
 

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Awesome! Can't wait to see pics of the design and its about time for Phoenix to get a new tallest :)
 

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Well it's about time!
 

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yup, about time, also. They need more activity in downtown. A tall highrise for residents could save a few square miles of sprawl.
 

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Phoenix is defined mainly by its sprawl. The very small urban core serves a ceremonial function: the old guard holds court in a dozen or so high-rise buildings, but the main economic activity is on Camelback Rd and in Scottsdale. The perpetual identity crisis Phoenix suffers stems from this disjunction of civic and economic locales.

Bringing ASU downtown might offers a small hope for greater purpose and economic activity. Certainly, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of citizens who thirst for any kind of urban pulse. It remains to be seen, however, whether ASU will resuscitate the patient. Previous sure-fire cures like Bank One Ballpark, America West Arena, a Grand Prix race, the convention center, and Arizona Center (a mixed-use project) all failed to generate the magical "synergy" boosters promised.

Along with ASU, light rail MIGHT change downtown Phoenix for the better. High-rise condos can't hurt, and someway, somehow, something has to work.
 

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Urbanphx: Thats good news for Phoenix. It definitely needs a new landmark building. Do you have a map showing the location of the building? Will it be downtown? Thanks for the information.
Phoenix Ashes: Dont forget about Tempe - it has a vibrant center, the ASU campus and the fast developing town lake area (despite that the ASU campus it not as nice as the UA campus in Tucson :D). But I agree Phoenix is not living up to its potential at all - particularly downtown. Many mistakes have been made. For example N Central Avenue could be an urban avenue - it could be a second Dubai, but the city planners are not creative enough to think in these dimensions. It will take another 10-20 years until it could become an exciting city.
 

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Skyland, Central Avenue is overzoned for high-rises. You can build up to 250 feet all the way to Camelback Road. The death of downtown occurred when city officials foolishly allowed core urban functions (one of which is high-rise office buildings) to leapfrog downtown. The same thing actually occurred in Tuscon - to a much smaller degree - when Del Webb built his copycat office building on Broadway.

Tempe has Arizona's only real downtown, and you're right - it's vibrant. The Town Lake project was a huge act of genius. Even today, I'm amazed they pulled it off.

If Phoenix were awash in oil, then Dubai might be what we look like. But Phoenix is awash in cheap stuccoed houses and Wal-Marts, a low economic generator. Worse, Phoenix doesn't have the same natural glories Tucson takes for granted. Indeed, Tucson's future is really its geologic past. The Catalina and Rincon ranges are dramatic reminders why mountains are the ultimate high rises.
 

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^ Nothing like a little civic pride.

I must be a pretty sanguine sort when it comes to cities. Yes, I noticed the sprawl when in PHX. And yes, the CBD had a ways to go (and seems to be making major strides at present).

And I thought that certain areas of PHX were quite picturesque.
 

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There is civic pride (which is appropriate in real cities with real assets, like Chicago) and then there's mindless boosterism, which defines sun belt wannabes like Phoenix.
 

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Dale, are you a Republican? You seem to think like one. Real cities have density. Phoenix's density is less than 400 per square mile, low even for Arizona. Real cities have cores with typical functions: financial, civic, retail and symbolic. Phoenix has at best a vestigial core with minimal urban functioning. Real cities galvanize regional economic activity to their center. Phoenix disperses its economic energy outward.

If you think of Orlando as a "real city", Phoenix is, no doubt, the Paris of the Sun Belt. Travel some. You'll be enlightened.
 

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Ashes, are you a Democrat, given that effete, more-cultured-than-thou mantle you wear ? Actually, I'm registered unaffiliated, leaning libertarian.
 

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Quite true, Dale, I am "effete". I read, enjoy theater, go to museums, patronize late-night cafes, use transit, and travel - clearly subversive activities in your homogeneous suburban hellhole. If you ever decide to loosen the mental cramp life in Orlando has conferred on you, hop Southwest to Chicago. They don't need theme parks as a substitute for urbanity.
 

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'homogenous suburban hellhole' is just the sort of parroted-phrase I'd expect to hear from an over-stimulated too-busy-for-nuance club-crawler such as your benighted self.

And I'll further thank you to appreciate that we don't need urbanity down here as a substitute for theme parks.
 

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Different cities offer different things. If you want super-dense, super-tall urbanity with a 24-hour central district and a world-class public transit network... Phoenix is probably not the place for you. If you want a large private home, easy access to exclusive golf courses, low taxes, year-round warm weather, and an easy-living atomosphere... Chicago is probably not the place for you.

Phoenix_Ashes... perhaps a move to Chicago is in order? Dale, at least, seems to be happy where he's living.
 
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