BY: JORDAN ELDER
Palm trees wrapped in lights tower over the outdoor patio. Frog fountains shoot water towards giggling children. The smell of freshly cooked food wafts around. People sit on benches among the flowers, talking and enjoying the serenity. However, this quiet space won’t be calm for much longer.
Downtown Phoenix is constantly growing and expanding, and the Arizona Center is the latest facility to announce a plan for modernization.
Arizona Real Estate Magazine announced in October 2016 that the Arizona Center will undergo a $25 million renovation starting in the spring of 2017, with the architecture firm Gensler spearheading the project.
“The intention is that the center that used to be very introverted is becoming a lot more extroverted,” said Beth Harmon-Vaughan, the managing director of Gensler’s Phoenix office.
Parallel Capital Partners, the owners of the center, echoed this idea, describing the renovation as a “360-degree experience” to make the Arizona Center “a true downtown destination” once again.
The idea to remodel the center originated when it was sold to Parallel Capital Partners two years ago for $126 million. The company, in partnership with the New York-based investment firm Angelo, Gordon and Co., decided to put $25 million into revamping the property.
The center, which is walking distance from the Arizona State University (ASU) Downtown campus, is a convenient food and retail destination for students. Classrooms and faculty offices occupy parts of the third floor, keeping students flowing in and out on a daily basis.
The Arizona Center was built in 1989 and opened on Nov. 15, 1990 but has not been modernized since that date, causing students who frequent the center to rejoice over the renovation announcement.
“There’s only one elevator that gets us up to the third floor classrooms, so it would be nice to have easier access to get up to those,” said Jordan Evans, a current ASU student.
When describing the atmosphere the makeover will try to create, Harmon-Vaughan said that one of Gensler’s intentions is to make the center more friendly to the students and faculty of ASU since the two are such close neighbors.
“The shade structures, water features, green spaces, lighting and site furnishings will make the Arizona Center an ideal place to study as a group or alone,” Parallel Capital Partners Senior Project Manager Michael Jackson said.
Jackson also added that the center would provide Wi-Fi and “more direct circulation through the site” to make getting to class quicker and easier for the busy students of ASU.
Gensler will provide more direct circulation by “including a bridge over the pond” and removing “the ‘frog’ stairs” in the garden area, Jackson said. This will make the walk to ASU’s Mercado building much quicker, allowing students to pass through the middle of the Arizona Center rather than taking the long way around using 3rd Street.
Students also use the Arizona Center as a shopping destination, but there is only one clothing store currently housed there: New York & Company, which closed for good in March. “I’d like to see more affordable shopping centers and places like retail clothing instead of the large name brands that currently exist,” said ASU freshman Grace Ramsey.
This retail refresh of the Arizona Center will be led by Parallel Capital Partners. Additional tenants moving in include a boutique hotel, which would offer families visiting their college students another option when choosing a place to stay.
March 16 marked the groundbreaking ceremony, where Parallel Capital Partners Sr. Vice President of Operations, Jamie Cronemeyer, along with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, began the demolition effort with a sledgehammer. Construction began four days later, according to Jackson, who expects the entire project to last until January or February of 2018.
Construction will be managed by New York-based Skanska USA, a group that Matt Root, CEO and managing partner for Parallel Capital Partners, commended in a March 14 press release, saying, “The company’s track record in the commercial construction industry is hard to match.”
Jackson explained that the construction process would occur in 12 stages geared toward allowing current Arizona Center tenants to remain open to the public through the entirety of the renovation.
Though much of the construction will take place in the summer months, ASU students have expressed concern over the potential delay in getting to their classes. “Streets will likely be blocked off, and it’s going to cause inconveniences for students,” Evans said.
Parallel Capital Partners is working hard to make delays as little as possible. “There will be scheduled street closures when we begin construction on 3rd Street, but most of the work will be done at night to minimize disruption,” Jackson said.
The renovations will be complete in the first quarter of 2018, and though some people may miss the quiet Arizona Center of today, ASU students are excited to experience the vibrant, modern and expanded Arizona Center of the future.