The Roosevelt Action Association has done something that no one saw coming. On November 2, the community group, which represents one of Phoenix’s finest areas, talked with the City of Phoenix to allow a tax incentive to the Empire Group. This happened even after Empire started controversy by demolishing a building with historic value earlier in the year.
Even though the building was not listed as a historical property, Michelle Dodds, a historic preservation officer, believed it had historical importance. The Empire Group had plans to build on the site, and without having full discussions completed, they started on the demolition.
Originally opened in 1947, the building was used for the Stewart Motor Company. Then, from 1972 to 2010, the music shop, “Circles,” was housed in the building. The building has been empty since, and in February 2016, the Singer family sold it for $2.65 million to the Empire Group. It is being developed by Aspirant Development.
Empire had been in talks with the City of Phoenix to see if they could get a government property lease excise tax or a GPLET. This would lower Empire’s taxes during a period of time to incentivize commercial development in the area. The Empire Group, city officials, and the Roosevelt Action Association had been in talks to create strategies for preserving the building.
The Roosevelt Action Association has always been “dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the Roosevelt Historic Neighborhood.”
But, on April 15, Empire started to demolish the Circles building, when discussions were ongoing. This led to the immediate dismal of talks between the City of Phoenix and Empire. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton even went to Facebook: “I am angry that in the middle of negotiating a plan to save the iconic Stewart Motor Company building, the developer began demolition. After my office participated in discussions between the developer and neighborhood leaders, I was confident that a resolution would be found. However, sadly, it appears that the developer was acting in bad faith.”
A quick reply came from Empire’s principal, Geoffrey Jacobs, who apologized for the groups actions. But, even with the apology, the city encouraged Empire group to fix the problem with the community before discussions would resume.
And that is exactly what the Empire Group did. They proposed a $3.1 million plan over 18 years to preserve buildings in the area. In turn, the Roosevelt Action Alliance accepted and have now urged the City of Phoenix to allow them to continue the demolition.
From the looks of it, Empire Group will get to proceed, but the city has now extended the time for demolition permist from 3 days to 30 days. A change of heart and a change of policy have resulted from this ordeal.