The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved a rezoning plan for a controversial new tower for the Northeast corner of 7th Street and Thomas.
The May 6th meeting, which was held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, ran over 2 hours and featured impassioned commentary from both sides regarding the proposed tower.
The $85 million dollar project, proposed by the Phoenix Country Club in partnership with Scottsdale-based Sunbelt Holdings, envisions a 110-foot condo tower to be built upon what is now a parking lot on the Northeast corner of 7th Street and Thomas Road. The building would be called The Residences at the Phoenix Country Club and would consist of 125 residential units built atop a 2-story parking podium with an amenity deck.
The project has generated vigorous opposition from a number of nearby residents who take issue mainly with its proposed height, but also the proposal’s lack of storefronts or pedestrian interactiveness along the 7th Avenue and Thomas street frontages. Other residents complained generally of issues with traffic, increased lighting, and increased population and its attendant criminal activity.
After a long series of back and forth between the developer and the community including at least 7 public hearings over the last 4 years, the City Council voted to approve rezoning the property from R-5 Mid-rise to PUD (Planned Urban Development) after the developer agreed to bring the height down to 110 feet from the originally-proposed 164 feet and provide additional pedestrian-oriented features. PUD is essentially a special zone with specific allowances and requirements for any projects constructed within it, and is typically only applied when a realistic proposal exists for a site.
The revised proposal, while touted by the developer as walkable, is only marginally so, as it doesn’t include any street-facing ground floor retail at all. Instead, nearly the project’s entire frontage along both streets will consist of the walls that contain the parking area. To allay concerns regarding walkability, the developers have agreed to several stipulations including a double row of trees, a detached 6-foot sidewalk, and 2 building entrances located adjacent to the street with pathways leading to transit stops on both 7th Street and Thomas Road. It is unclear if these entrances will be restricted to residents only or if they will allow the public to traverse the building to access the front entrances of the existing Phoenix Country Club buildings.
Despite these changes, the community does still have a point regarding the lack of ‘activation’, which is almost universally understood to mean ‘economic activation’, which would mean storefronts. Even with the shade landscaping and sidewalks, there is almost no reason a pedestrian would hang out along the facade or exit the sidewalk to interact with the building, except to enter as a resident. Hopefully the developer will reconsider the use of the ground floor as parking and instead include some retail or restaurants.
Walkability issues notwithstanding, an $85 million dollar project of any kind is sure to breathe some badly-needed life to an intersection that has seen more than its share of deterioration over the last decade. The corners opposite this project include 2 vacant buildings and a Circle-K gas station which is the site of frequent criminal activity (The LexisNexis Community Crime map showed 7 burglaries and 1 armed robbery since the beginning of 2020). This despite a strong economic recovery that has seen nearby areas awash in redevelopment.
No timetable is set yet for construction. We will provide updates as this project progresses.