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The Luhrs endures: Adaptive reuse, retail breathe life into iconic downtown building

Nestled among the steel and glass high rises in downtown Phoenix, the Luhrs Building stands as a symbol of the iconic brick-and-mortar structures that once graced the inner city.

As the City of Phoenix embraces the concept of adaptive reuse, the Luhrs Building, constructed in 1924 at a cost of $553,000, is part of this trend to repurpose existing buildings with retail or office additions.

According to the City of Phoenix website, the number of adaptive reuse projects – renovating buildings and turning them into new spaces – has increased since it started its adaptive reuse program in 2008. There were 17 projects in the first year. That number jumped to 48 in 2013.

“Historic, unique buildings are excellent prospects for adaptive reuse,” says Summer Jackson, associate director with the retail services division at Cushman & Wakefield of Arizona, the brokerage firm handling the retail leasing assignment for the Luhrs Building.

“Many restaurateurs are taking advantage of these spaces to create new concepts that cater to the demand in the area. It’s an opportunity to do something innovative – something different,” Jackson adds.

Bitter & Twisted

Bitter & Twisted

One such establishment that has taken advantage of the opportunity is the Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, 1 W. Jefferson. Owner Ross Simon says he was looking for a space with a great history and some genuine “wow factor.” A space, he says, that had a real city feel for a concept that would be at home in any major city around the world.

“Also something that could lend itself well to the cocktail-centric concept,” Simon adds.

Adaptive reuse is evident elsewhere around Phoenix. Some of the more notable examples include:
>> Culinary Dropout at the Yard, a former motorcycle dealership built in the 1950s on 7th Street;

>> Taco Guild at Old School O7, the former Bethel Methodist church on Osborn Road;

>> Southern Rail and Changing Hands bookstore at the Newtown Phx, the former Beef Eaters restaurant built in 1961 on Camelback Road;

>> Windsor and Churn, which share a restored 1940s building on Central Ave.

“Consumers are looking for an experience,” says Courtney Auther Van Loo, Associate Director with the Retail Services Division at Cushman & Wakefield. “While maintaining historical architecture styles and a building’s unique iconography, developers and tenants have created one-of-a-kind experiences and breathed new life into these landmarks. This style of reuse combines a contemporary feel with a touch of the classic.”

When he was selecting a site, Simon says he wasn’t necessarily looking for a space in an adaptive reuse project. “But after I revisited the space and thought about the layout a bit more to know it would work, I was sold on it,” he says.

Bitter & Twisted, as well as Subway sandwich shop have become retail tenants at the Luhrs Building.

“I had a real idea of what I wanted the overall place to look and feel like from an operational standpoint and from a guest experience point of view,” says Simon, who adds that Bar Napkins Production worked on the initial layout and all the architectural plans. Southwest Architectural Builders was the general contractor.

As the light rail whizzes by the Luhrs Building on Jefferson, it’s evident a sense of “newness” is also being felt downtown. An $80 million, 19-story hotel – the 320-room Luhrs City Center Marriott – breaks ground later this year at the northwest corner of Madison Street and Central Avenue.

The project is being developed by the Hansji Corporation of Anaheim, Calif. It’s the same family-owned company that purchased the “Luhrs Block” in 2007.  For the past 38 years, Hansji Corp. has developed more than 2MSF of office, retail and hotel space.

“It (the Luhrs Block, which also includes the Luhrs Tower) was really our first historical building,” says company President Rajan Hansji. “We knew it was something special. You can’t recreate this. It’s history. It gave me a new appreciation (for historical properties).”

Hansji says he is pleased with the outcome of Bitter & Twisted and its historical feel, including exposed original walls and beams.

“That corner is going to define the block,” Hansji says. “It (Bitter & Twisted) will be the catalyst for the rest of the block. It’s an amazing and unique space. The hotel’s exterior will utilize different brick colors and utilize the Luhrs’ history.”

Led by the Scottish-born Principal Barmen & Proprietor, Ross Simon, Bitter & Twisted’s expert bar staff will be performing cocktail theatre nightly while whipping up a selection of globally inspired concoctions.

Bitter & Twisted moves into Luhrs Building

Tucked into a corner space inside the city’s first-ever high-rise, the new Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour (1 W. Jefferson St.) is set to help make downtown Phoenix once again the epicenter of the Valley’s dining and drinking scene when it opens on May 30. Housed in a soaring, window-lined space inside the historic Luhrs Building – an elegant 10-story brick and stone early 20th century engineering feat that was completed in 1924 – Bitter & Twisted combines a world-class cocktail lounge with a neighborhood bar’s sensibilities.

Lime and the Coconut, courtesy Bitter & Twisted

Lime and the Coconut, courtesy Bitter & Twisted

Led by the Scottish-born Principal Barmen & Proprietor, Ross Simon, Bitter & Twisted’s expert bar staff will be performing cocktail theatre nightly while whipping up a selection of globally inspired concoctions. As the past winner of the Finlandia Vodka Cup (USA) and Don Julio Tequila (AZ) cocktail contests and a co-founder of Arizona Cocktail Week, Simon says Bitter & Twisted will be a “fantastically welcoming cocktail bar where you can leave your pretentions at the door. It will be a great start and end to any evening.” Here, guests can flip through a prolific Book o’ Cocktails featuring a globe-straddling collection of new and classic drinks, all expertly-crafted using many house made infused spirits, tonics, syrups and other ingredients. “We’ll still have a nice selection of craft beer and wines, but we want to inspire the uninspired into finding his or her new favorite tipple (drink of choice),” Simon explains. “We’re lucky enough to be living in a second golden age of the cocktail, and we want to bring a great sense of excitement and exploration in the form of a great night out any night of the week.”

While Bitter & Twisted will firmly plant itself in the lexicon of the modern cocktail establishment, the space itself carries a rich history in the city of Phoenix, serving as the former nerve center of Arizona’s prohibition headquarters back when the residents of this desert metropolis (all 30,000 of them) dressed in top hats and risqué ankle-baring dresses and commuted to downtown via electric streetcars and Ford Model Ts. In a natural, progressive nod to today, guests can sip and dine while savoring the sights and sounds of Phoenix’s downtown rebound, even arriving just outside the door on the Valley Metro Light Rail.

Step inside the stylishly redesigned space and guests can slip into a mix of cozy banquettes and high-top table seating overlooking the exhibition-style central bar, as well as nosh on a worldly collection of bar bites and other great tasting dishes led by executive chef Bob Tam, including a late-night menu served until 1:30 a.m. On the weekends, the good vibes will be turned up a notch with live DJs spinning the night into the perfect twist, bringing yet another late night layer to downtown Phoenix’s diverse entertainment offerings.

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour will be open Tuesday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and will be closed Sunday and Monday.

Architecutral Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011

Architectural Achievements – Arizona's Centennial

Arizona’s Architectural Achievements

Masterpieces of style and design have graced Arizona’s diverse landscape for the past 100 years.

Maybe it’s the year-round beautiful weather, or perhaps the diversity of the state itself. No matter the reason, Arizona has undeniably mastered architectural innovation and splendor.

Over the past 100 years, buildings of every purpose and design have decorated city skylines and added artistic elements to the already magnificent desert. Achieving both visual superiority and sustainability, architectural achievements in Arizona range from remote chapels to huge office complexes. AZRE’s Centennial Series celebrates the end of commemorating the past 100 years by honoring these truly remarkable accomplishments.

Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse
Architect: Richard Meier
Year: 2000

The Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse is hard to miss with a six-story wall of glass splendor. The courthouse’s drum-shaped special proceedings courtroom follows the glass trend with a circular-lens ceiling. This modern architectural achievement reflects a monochrome and sleek style of construction. Most impressively, the courthouse integrates an innovative cooling system in order for climate control. This evaporative system brings outside air into the atrium and under the roof, where it travels to the courthouse block.

Architectural Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011Burton Barr Library
Architect: Bruder and DWL Architects
Year: 1995

With 280,000 SF distributed over five levels, the Burton Barr Library is a grand sight. Unique architectural touches throughout the library are influenced by both nature and trends in global design. The building’s shape is inspired by Monument Valley’s scenic beauty, with a curving copper mesa split by a stainless steel canyon. A spacious atrium with nine skylights known as The Crystal Canyon allows for the flow of natural sunlight. Shade sails fashioned by sail makers in Maine and accents of bright blue Venetian plaster establish a one-of-a-kind feel for visitors. A “floating ceiling” suspended by cables over the Great Reading Room creates a special ambience that cannot be replicated.

Architectural Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011Taliesin West
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Year: 1937

Famous for his fusion of artistic beauty and practical functionality, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West is no exception. Originally designed as Wright’s winter home, studio and architectural campus, Taliesin West is headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Located in northeast Scottsdale, it brings life and light to the foothills with an integration of indoor and outdoor spaces. Dramatic terraces, gardens and walkways overlooking the Sonoran Desert connect all parts of Taliesin West in a scenic fashion. As the sun sets and nighttime approaches, its structures are lit from within to produce a breathtakingly luminous effect.

Architectural Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011Luhrs Building
Architect: Trost & Trost
Year: 1924

Located in Downtown Phoenix, the 10-story Luhrs Building was designed by the El Paso architectural firm Trost & Trost. Following its construction, the top four floors were reserved for the Arizona Club, including a dining room, lounges, bedrooms and other conveniences for members. It provided space for the Arizona Club until 1971. Floors below were leased as office space. The building is uniquely L-shaped and covered with brown brick on its exterior. Elaborate marble detailing decorates the uppermost two floors, and a heavy cornice sets off the top. The Luhrs Building continues to be one of Downtown Phoenix’s most memorable buildings, and serves as a landmark for the city’s past.

Architectural Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011The Arizona Biltmore
Architect: Albert Chase McArthur
Year: 1929

Crowned “The Jewel of the Desert,” the Arizona Biltmore is the sole existing hotel to have a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design. Upon its construction, the hotel represented luxury and extravagance. A geometric pattern in the building resembling a palm tree, fine furniture, carpets and murals are some of the Biltmore’s defining amenities. Constant renovations and additions, including a 20,000 SF spa, have kept the hotel an oasis for celebrities, politicians and world travelers. It recently received the Urban Land Institute’s “Heritage Award of Excellence” for architectural superiority as well as overall quality of service.

Architectural Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011Chapel of the Holy Cross
Architect: Anshen & Allen
Year: 1956

This spiritual structure serves as a landmark not only in Sedona, but for all of Arizona. Marguerite Bruswig Staude was inspired to design a place of worship as thanks to her creator. After traveling to Europe with her husband in hope of finding the ideal place, she returned to the U.S. where Sedona’s beauty overtook her. Perched on a twin pinnacle spur jutting out from a 1,000-foot wall of rock, the Chapel sits surrounded by red mountains. The Chapel has been maintained by the Diocese of Phoenix and St. John Vianney parish since 1969.

Architectural Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011Farmer Studios
Architect: Architekton
Year: 2004

Farmer Studios continuously proves to be the epitome of a sustainable building. The economical “flex” creates a pedestrian environment between Tempe and the Sunset/Riverside residential area. Every aspect of functionality was taken into consideration with the design. Retail, office and residential studios are all possibilities for this truly flexible space. With a “gravel pave” parking system to reduce the heat island effect, a sunken courtyard for rainwater retention and custom shade devices for sun protection, Farmer Studios is a prototypical example of modern sustainability.

Architectural Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011Arcosanti
Architect: Paolo Soleri
Year: 1970-present

The experimental town of Arcosanti developed by Paolo Soleri combines architecture and ecology like never before through “arcology.” This innovative project, some 70 miles north of Phoenix, demonstrates ways to improve an urban atmosphere while minimizing environmental damage. Arcosanti is both visually and scientifically impressive, projecting a practical yet unique way of living. Greenhouses in Arcosanti not only provide garden space, but also serve as solar collectors. Apartments, businesses, production, technology, open space and studios are all included in the town, offering a complex and creative environment for visitors.

Architectural Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011University of Arizona Stevie Eller Dance Theatre
Architect: Gould Evans
Year: 2003

Honored with a 2003 Citation Award from AIA Arizona, the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre is an architectural treasure in Tucson. This 28,600 SF complex on the University of Arizona campus boasts a 300-seat theatre, orchestra pit, an outdoor stage, fly tower and control suite, catwalks and indoor/outdoor lobby, as well as scene and costume shops. A unique glass box located on the second floor functions as a display window to the outdoor campus mall. Dancers’ shadows are visible moving from the catwalk to the dance studio, portraying the importance of movement.

Architectural Achievements - AZRE Magazine November/December 2011Prayer Pavilion of Light
Architect: DeBartalo Architects
Year: 2007

This tranquil chapel welcomes visitors from all over Phoenix. A true “place of light,” the structure is a 2,500 SF glass box bordered by courtyards. Providing extensive views of the city, the chapel appears to glow brightly at night and can be seen from miles away. DeBartalo Architects intentionally isolated the building on a hill to create serenity. The zigzagging path leading to the pavilion is lined with tall steel plates, creating a unique tunnel effect. A reflection pool and enormous steel cross serve as defining features for the Prayer Pavilion of Light, making every visit one of visual superiority.

AZRE Magazine November/December 2011