Tag Archives: Portland on the Park

Grand Canyon University; Photo by Shavon Rose for AZ Big Media

Arizona’s Valley of the Scholars

Phoenix may be built on a grid system, but it’s not too hyperbolic to say all roads (and, one day, light rail routes) lead to Arizona State University.

It’s the theory of diffusion of innovations, says Sundt Construction’s Business Development Manager Ryan Abbott. The theory, which has been around since Everett Rogers published a book about it in the ‘60s, suggests how cultures change and adapt to new ideas. What it takes for inertia to kick in on a cultural change is innovators (first 2.5 percent), early adopters (13.5 percent) and an early majority (34 percent). For an idea to carry, Abbott says, it has to reach a tipping point of 15 to 18 percent.

“That is exactly what the university and city did in downtown Phoenix,” says Abbott. “They started by innovating ways of being multiple places at the same time, using integrated technology, synergistic relationships, taking full advantage of mass transportation.  Next, they brought in early adopters — Millennials who wanted to understand and report on society. Where better to be than fully immersed in it at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism?”

Phoenix gets schooled
Sundt Construction built the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, a bright orange and maroon building that sits along Central Avenue and very much serves as the front door of the ASU downtown campus. It was completed even before the first dorms, Taylor Place, were done. The university sits right along the Central and Van Buren light rail stop, which shuttles thousands of students a day to and from classes.

Years later, Sundt was asked to build the downtown’s campus’ Sun Devil Fitness building by the YMCA across the street.

“When we were selected to build ASU’s Sun Devil Fitness, (the university was) approaching the fulcrum that pulls the early majority with it,” says Abbott. “They had a reason for adaptive, creative people to be downtown; now, they were creating the places that keep them there.”

“Part of ASU’s mission is to deliver positive impact in the local community, where we are socially embedded,” university spokesman Mark Johnson says.

Universities serve as the catalyst for business attraction, with its well-educated labor force, as well as a hub for the Millennial generation that is changing the way society looks at work and life.

“At the nucleus of that new societal space is the university supplying its innovation, early adopters and early majority,” says Abbott. “The universities (in downtown Phoenix) are landlords to fantastic restaurants, creators of walkways that connect and amenities that inspire,” Abbott says. “And now that they’ve pulled in the early majority, the late majority and laggards are only to follow.”

Sunbelt Holdings (Portland on the Park) and P.B. Bell are two examples of the Valley’s largest commercial companies breaking ground on their first urban projects in Phoenix. Both companies are known for their master-planned projects, though multifamily trends and the growth of Phoenix’s Millennial population, due to higher ed facility expansions, have caught their eye.

“The expansion of ASU and GCU moving into the downtown area did have an influence on our decision to proceed with developing an apartment community in downtown Phoenix,” says P.B. Bell President Chapin Bell, “We believe that there will be a need for additional housing for both the staff and students that choose to live near the downtown campuses. Also, we expect that the addition of these campuses will generate a new excitement and energy attracting new businesses and downtown dwellers outside of the student population as well.”

P.B. Bell was awarded the adaptive reuse project of the 100-year-old Barrister Place (colloquially referred to as the “Psycho” building, because it appeared in the 1960 film) for a multifamily development.

Downtown Phoenix has been working for more than a decade toward making plans for adaptive reuse and infill projects easier and incentivized.

Kimber Lanning, who founded Local First, was one of the first innovators of a “new societal space” in Phoenix. She actively worked to launch the pilot program nearly a decade ago to streamline the process for adaptive reuse projects in order to retain young, vibrant minds.

“When I started Local First, it was on intuition,” she says. “The kids coming to my store (record store, Stinkweeds) were leaving. I started to think about what do those cities have that connects them to those cities and not Phoenix. They were acting in a local manner. We were too spread out. I set out to create districts. We need to encourage small business development. The brightest people want to be where there are cool restaurants, for instance.”

P.B. Bell Companies has also broken ground this year on Velaire at Aspera, a community near Midwestern University’s campus in Glendale.

“The nearby university is expanding, which will create a  need for new, quality housing,” Bell says.

Strength in numbers
Universities aren’t just attracting new development. They’re actively participating.

“SkySong and the Chandler Innovation Center are strong examples of the kinds of projects that go beyond what you would expect a university to be doing, but provide linkage both to the university and to facilities attractive to new businesses,” says ASU’s Johnson. “We have regular conversations with municipalities around the Valley and around the state about projects that help build the larger infrastructure for economic development. We take those very seriously, but we don’t discuss them until they reach a greater level of fruition.”

Grand Canyon University (GCU), a for-profit, private Christian university, has more than doubled its footprint in the last seven years and plans to move more than 2,000 employees into West Phoenix with an office complex that will break ground next year. The university has 3,500 employees, is expecting 25,000 on-campus students and have half a million annual visitors to its arena. The school also invested $10M into Maryvale Golf Course to bring additional economic activity to the west side of Phoenix and is renovating 700 homes in the neighboring community with Habitat for Humanity over the next few years.

“We’re in the midst of a $1M partnership with the Phoenix Police Department to increase the police presence and combat crime in the areas surrounding our campus, which has had a huge impact on the community,” says GCU President and CEO Brian Mueller.

On top of those and other investments, GCU’s economic impact is about $1B annually, according to Elliott D. Pollack & Co.

“The biggest difference (between GCU and universities such as ASU) is that we are doing it as an enterprise, which means we are using investment dollars to build out a university that can make an impact in numerous ways in the community, all while also paying taxes back to the city, county, state and federal government,” Mueller says. “We’re having the same impact as other universities by producing more and more high-quality graduates and raising the intellectual knowledge of the community, but we’re doing it as a tax-paying enterprise, which adds a second benefit to the area.”

The university also claims to have more than 2,000 students enrolled in the fall semester from California.

“Arizona used to lose thousands of college students, mostly to California, who were seeking a private Christian education,” Mueller says. “Now, those students are staying home. What’s more, the trend has completely reversed, as we’re attracting thousands of students from California and other states to our campus because of the low tuition costs and affordable room and board rates. Those tuition dollars are now coming into the state and are being reinvested right here on our campus, which is a huge plus for Arizona. We hope that a percentage of those students will remain in Arizona after they graduate and build their careers here.”

Ryan Companies, which is working on the 2MSF State Farm build-to-suit at Marina Heights in Tempe and the ASU Research Park, specializes in office development. Nearly all of its office product is affected in some way by university expansions in Phoenix Metro, says Molly Ryan Carson, vice president of development for Ryan Companies.

“The search for educated employees is universal,” she says. “Universities are certainly an important factor in many real estate decisions.”

Universities are surrounded by amenities, such as restaurants and recreational spaces, that appeal to prospective office tenants.

“Having a solid university like ASU in close proximity is viewed as a definite benefit by the tenants we are seeing in the market,” says Carson. “The opportunity to be near tens of thousands of potential employees is very appealing. Additionally, a university often is located in an area rich with amenities, again, a critical requirement for tenants.”

GCU has its eyes on the same type of growth.

“An estimated 1.2 million STEM jobs will be available in Arizona by 2018, yet our universities are producing just half the number of graduates needed to fill this demand,” says Mueller. “We’ve launched programs in computer science, information technology and engineering to help close that gap and are working with industry leaders in Arizona to ensure that we’re producing graduates with the types of skills they are seeking. When we grow out to 25,000 students in the next 4-5 years, it is our intention that 70 percent of those students will be studying in high-demand STEM areas that lead to good-paying jobs. That will have a major impact on the local economy and help attract businesses to Arizona that rely on having that workforce in place.”

Portland on the Park, Courtesy of DAVIS

Concentrated Culture: The symbiosis of new-build and adaptive reuse

There are undeniable truths in commercial real estate. For instance — retail follows rooftops. However, when the right variables come together, the presence of retail can create a demand for mixed-use communities.

This is a phenomenon Michelle Schwartz, associate at RSP Architects, has observed in her firm’s recent work.

“Arizona has such a short history when compared with the rest of the United States and as such, we have developed around a more vehicular centralized  society,” says Schwartz. “When we look at new communities — and the desire for connection in neighborhoods — creating mixed-use flexibility where residents can truly live-work-play is unique.”

The Row, Courtesy of RSP Architects

The Row, Courtesy of RSP Architects

RSP Architects has designed The Row in downtown Chandler, a 60KSF two-story mixed-use development in the city’s newly designated entertainment district. The project’s anchor is Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an Austin, Texas-based dine-in theater expected to bring 700 people to downtown Chandler four times a day.

“Today’s retail focuses on experience, which is exactly what The Row will bring,” Schwartz says, adding that many restaurateurs’ interest in the area has been piqued by the project.

Another rooftop project that has sought out a vibrant area in which to incubate is Portland on the Park, a 14-story luxury condo development by Habitat Metro and Sunbelt Holdings, designed by DAVIS Architecture. This project, jokes Habitat’s Timothy Sprague, has a three-acre front yard and 32-acre backyard, referring to the Japanese Friendship Garden and Margaret T. Hance Park adjacent to the site.

“The big different between suburban and urban environments is we’re able to do our own placemaking,” says Sunbelt Holdings President and CEO John Graham. “It’s critical to be near meaningful open spaces and more interesting amenities.”

Sunbelt Holdings, largely known for its master planned communities throughout Arizona, is stepping off the golf courses and bringing its suburban sensibility to the urban environment of downtown Phoenix. The company’s 149-unit Portland on the Park is also being constructed near the evolving Roosevelt Arts District. The cultural developments of the parks and Roosevelt Row were “absolutely critical” to the identity of Portland on the Park, Graham says.

He’s been following the development of the area for almost five years, since his eldest son moved into Portland Place. Through his son, Graham says, he watched and learned to understand the dynamics of the area, which has evolved over the course of the project with light rail and the growth of ASU’s downtown campus.

Graham says he’s seeing similar trends in Chandler, Phoenix and Gilbert and he has his eyes on Mesa.

“I think there’s a direct correlation between Marina Heights and Portland on the Park, Tempe Town Lake and Margaret T. Hance Park,” Graham says. The urban energy and urban vibes they share, he says, “is because of ASU students and the really fun, cool gathering places like The Yard.”

The Yard in Tempe

The Yard in Tempe

The Yard on 7th Street and Camelback Road was the shot in the dark heard around the Valley.

A former motorcycle garage was turned into a multi-tenant restaurant space that shares a patio and yard area. The Fox Restaurant Concepts design has since been emulated in what is Sam Fox’s largest project to date, The Yard at Farmers Arts District.

“When The Yard opened, it opened everyone’ eyes,” says Dave Sellers, president of LGE Design Build.

“The first Yard was very much an exploratory mission to see how successful it’d be,” says Brian Frakes, who worked on the first Yard with WDP Partners, and the second Yard with Common Bond.

“The Tempe one was different because it was west of the rail,” explains Frakes. “It was a dense, urban area. State Farm hasn’t even opened up yet, but there were a lot of good things coming. One-thousand multifamily units around us, and we noticed a strong southeast Valley group at The Yard on 7th. We wanted to capture the southeast Valley (at the new Yard).”
There were a lot of State Farm and multifamily conversations in the planning stages of The Yard in Tempe, says Frakes.

Marina Heights

Marina Heights

“I think it’s the sum of all the parts that makes these places so dynamic and interesting. I think restaurant and retail is the big driver because employers are looking for that amenity base,” says Frakes.

Sellers announced plans for The Colony, a similar concept nearby the original Yard development. He is also working in downtown Gilbert’s Heritage District on The Marketplace, which houses a Fox concept restaurant, among others, and office space. Since Gilbert doesn’t have the same kind of old buildings as downtown Phoenix, LGE Design Build built Marketplace to look like something that had been there much longer than it had.
“It is risky,” Sellers says. “It’s not your cookie cutter retailer. It’s not a power center where you have a Walmart. It’s not that. You’re developing what the clientele and customer kind of like, hoping the retailers believe in it.”

Retailers acclimate, he adds.

“What’s neat is we have projects that are larger retail, national users trying to fit into a space that isn’t a typical space,” he says. To Graham’s point, Sellers says his company is looking to develop before big projects come through the pipeline.

Rivulon, for example, is a $750M mixed-use business park that broke ground in 2014 on Gilbert Road and the Loop 202 in Gilbert.

Gilbert’s Economic Development Director Dan Henderson sees a symbiotic relationship between developments such as Nationwide Realty Investors’ Rivulon project and the Heritage District.

Zinburger at Heritage Marketplace

Zinburger at Heritage Marketplace

“Candidly, you need both (types of development),” says Henderson. “You can’t have one without the other. These things work with each other and are in some ways the defining element of opposites attract. People will be attracted to both areas for different reasons.”
He refers to Heritage District as the “living room” of the community and Rivulon as the “family room” of Gilbert.

“What we’ve found in (Nationwide Realty Investors President) Brian Ellis and his team is a partner that is not looking at today, but at 20 years from now,” says Henderson. “It’s a similar partnership in the Heritage District.”

“The $64,000 question is: Is it a blip or shallow market?” Graham asks. “It’s not a blip. It’s a trend. The market is deeper than (people) think it is. A lot of people are thinking there’s a slowdown in master planned communities and that’s what’s driving apartment development, but it’s a modified business and trend that’s going to stay.”

Shavon Rose, AZ Big Media

RED Awards 2015: Lifetime Achievement Award

On Feb. 26, AZRE hosted the 10th annual RED Awards reception at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix to recognize the most notable commercial real estate projects of 2014 and the construction teams involved. RED Award trophies were handed out in 10 project categories, to six brokerage teams and safety, subcontractor, architect, general contractor and developer of the year awards were also presented. AZRE also recognized Sunbelt Holdings President and CEO John Graham with a lifetime achievement award. Click here to view all 2015 RED Awards Winners.

It’s always sunny at Sunbelt Holdings

Decades ago, John Graham would have told you the sight of clouds in Arizona could make his stomach churn.

Anyone who knows Graham, an articulate optimist, most notably during the recent Great Recession, probably wouldn’t believe that statement. But Sunbelt Holdings’ president and CEO, who got his start in real estate managing a portfolio of Coldwell Banker’s “worst properties” in Arizona, insists he was once less sunny, especially when it came to flooded parking lots and leaky roofs.

More than three decades later, he has made a career out of developing properties that his 20-year-old self would have never cringed at managing.

Graham’s real estate career started before he was out of college. He got his real estate license when he was 18, was 24 when he completed his first development and 28 when he became a founding director of responsible development group Valley Partnership.

Graham, whose father worked at Coldwell Banker for nearly 20 years before forming his own firm, is one of the few people in commercial real estate who intentionally ended up in the industry. Though he studied economics at Stanford, all it took was one day of shadowing an accountant to know he would rather follow in his dad’s footsteps. He got his real estate license and worked at Coldwell Banker during his college summers managing “a portfolio of the worst properties they had.”

He took what he learned in his three summers at Coldwell to Koll, where development hooked him by the time he was 23. He met his Norwegian business partner, Tor Adenaes, when he was 24. Adenaes needed someone to manage two properties he purchased in Arizona when he left for Norway the following year. One was what is now Troon North (then Pinnacle Peak Village, which still needed to be annexed and rezoned in Scottsdale), the second property was what Graham says had some of his supporters scratching their heads. It was an assemblage at 44th and Van Buren streets, which at the time was trailer parks and the red light district.

“People said ‘You’re going to fail,’” Graham recalls. “The thing I started to tell people is the worst thing that’s going to happen is failure. I’m 25; I’ll give it a shot.”

Three years later, Sunbelt Holdings delivered Gateway Park Hotel (now a Doubletree) and One Gateway (his first office building).
“We built our reputation on our ability to identify undervalued properties and then strategically and meaningfully increase their value,” Graham is quoted on the Sunbelt Holdings website.

In the 32 years since Graham joined Sunbelt Holdings, it has logged 55,000 acres of land development, ranging from masterplanned communities to the 2MSF Marina Heights, the largest office development in Arizona, and, most recently, urban infill multifamily property Portland on the Park.

“We’ve made an imprint on the world,” reflects Graham.

His partner defines him as intelligent, witty and compassionate.

“When I first met him back in 1982, he was a very young man. He had qualities that made him and Sunbelt a great fit,” says Adenaes.
The qualities Graham values in himself as a CEO are similar to those Adenaes says originally made Graham a good fit with Sunbelt.

“(John) was motivated and hard-working, had mature judgment, knowledge and understanding of real estate, great relationships and network within the business and Phoenix at large and I liked him and his family,” Adenaes says. “A couple years ago, [John] told me that at the time he [started with Sunbelt], he saw no long-term future in the job, especially not working with a crazy Viking named Tor. He had planned his future employment in months, not years.”

Three-hundred-and-ninety-six months later, and Graham is still with his original business partner, Vice President Heidi Kimball and assistant, Sandy Johnson, have all worked together for more than three decades.

“This is like a family — only just a functional one,” Graham says with a laugh. What makes him a strong leader, though, is his work ethic.
“I know I work as hard or harder than anybody,” he says. “I’m here as much or more than anybody else. By emulation, people know part of my ethic is hard work can equate to success.”

While a successful career has its fulfilling facets, Graham is most proud of his community involvement. He has served on more than 40 boards and commissions and has chaired more than 20 of them. There’s no such thing as too many friends for Graham, and that’s probably why a sense of community emerges from nearly all of Sunbelt Holdings’ projects — be it collaboration at the ASU Research Park or neighbors at Vistancia.

Graham even likes to visit Sunbelt’s masterplanned communities, more often than he’d like to admit, he says, to see residents and the public enjoying themselves. Sunbelt is even repositioning its golf course properties to make them more accessible to more people by adding more public amenities. The developer’s most recent venture includes moving the suburban lifestyle to urban environments to infill parcels with existing amenities, such as Tempe Town Lake or Margaret T. Hance Park.

“Our placemaking skills are really good,” he says. “What makes a vibrant place for people to want to be and play is actually very transportable from a suburban to urban setting. I’m very driven to demonstrate and prove it.”

Portland on the Park gains traction with larger units

Portland on the Park, the highly anticipated sister property to Downtown’s award winning Portland Place, has received significant interest from potential homebuyers with 25 units already reserved. The property also has noted a surge in requests for larger floor plans, and in response, has redesigned selected homes. This change led to the creation of four new premium floors called “Club Level Residences” which feature penthouse floor plans. Although the number of total units has decreased from 170 to 149, the overall livable square footage of the property has increased with many of the new floor plans offering more space. Construction of the four-building property will begin this spring and is slated for completion in the summer of 2016.

“Our buyers are sophisticated and know exactly how they want to live,” says David Newcombe of Habitat Urban, designated broker for Portland on the Park. “The interest to live Downtown has been tremendous. Premium buyers are seeking urban amenities and comfort, yet still want a spacious home with lock and leave convenience. By actively listening to our future homeowners, our developers made floor plan changes that meet the needs of this exciting market. It’s refreshing to be involved with a project that is so engaged in Downtown, and is focused on doing what’s best for the neighborhood and the city.

Portland on the Park will consist of four interconnected structures including four-, 12- and 14- story towers with a five-story parking garage for resident and guest use. High-end touches are standard throughout the Tower Residences, Club Level Residences and Penthouse Suites and include things like reclaimed hardwood flooring, quartz counters, soft-close cabinetry and frameless glass showers. Most homes will have a private six-foot deep outdoor balcony, with some measuring more than 40 feet in length.

The urban living project is situated between the three-acre Portland Park and the 32-acre Margaret T. Hance Park along Central Avenue. It will be a welcome addition to the Central Arts District and neighboring Roosevelt Row, the nationally acclaimed arts community. Home sizes range from 745 to 2,490 square feet with 21 floor plans from which to choose. Tower and Loft Residences begin in the low $200,000s with Penthouse Suites available under $1 million.


Phase 2 of Portland on the Park to begin

The award-winning condominium community Portland Place will soon have an adjacent sister property that will begin construction late this year adding 170 true lofts and finished condos to the Downtown Phoenix Roosevelt Historic and Art District. The new urban living project is aptly dubbed Portland on the Park as it is situated between the three-acre Portland Park and the 32-acre Margaret T. Hance Park bordering Central Avenue. Towers of 4 stories, 12-stories and 14-stories will be completed by mid-year 2016, with homes available for sale beginning in the low $200,000’s and penthouse suites under $1 million. Limited reservations will begin mid-summer with presales occurring in the early fall.

“Portland on the Park is a continuation of Portland Place, the most successful condominium project created in Downtown Phoenix,” says Tim Sprague, principal of Habitat Metro, developer of both projects. “The new development will be built to the standards of Portland Place, including concrete construction, which adds structural integrity and stability for our homeowners while delivering a building that will be there for years to come. The team involved with this project are hand-selected because they are the best in the industry, all of whom are committed to creating homes of unmatched quality for the Downtown Phoenix homebuyer.”

For a project valued at over $75 million, Habitat Metro has assembled an expert development team to bring Portland on the Park to fruition. For the first time in a Downtown Phoenix residential project, Sunbelt Holdings has partnered to develop the urban living concept. The DAVIS Architecture team designed the first phase, Portland Place, winning the prestigious Golden Nugget Award for the best multifamily project in the West, and is designing the residential and commercial spaces for the second phase. Sunbelt and DAVIS bring years of residential expertise and quality commercial insight. Both firms are part of the development team of Marina Heights at Tempe Town Lake, which at two million square feet, is the largest single-user office project in Arizona’s history. Rounding out the team are attached housing expert Habitat Urban, Designated Broker David Newcombe. Urban living and lifestyle specialists Braun Allison from Vancouver and Scottsdale-based The James Agency are managing marketing and public relations.

Blurring the distinction between home, work and the neighborhood coffee shop, Portland on the Park will offer its residents an energized, metropolitan standard of living. The first floor 7,200 square foot commercial space will house a coffee shop, wine bar and restaurant providing a social space for residents and the Roosevelt neighborhood. Looking to the future, ample bike storage and electric car charging stations are built-in. A true downtown experience, the Central Avenue and Portland Street area has been rated a “very walkable 86” on WalkScore.com for the significant amount of offerings within walking distance.

The development is designed with generous community amenities including a resort-like pool on the ground level. An open-air gathering spot on top of the 14-story tower will give unobstructed views of the Japanese Friendship Gardens, lush parks and vistas of the mountain preserves as well as the greenery of the surrounding mature neighborhood. A state-of-the-art workout facility will also be available for resident use.
Home sizes range from 745 square feet to 2,381 square feet presented in 21 thoughtful and efficient floor plans. The lofts are true to the urban experience with exposed metal ductwork giving a modern appeal to a comfortable space. Finished condominiums offer homebuyers options of one, two and three bedrooms.

“With a metropolitan mixture of arts and culture, nightlife, boutiques, restaurants and sporting events, Downtown Phoenix is blossoming into the true epicenter of the Valley,” adds Sprague on the future of Downtown Phoenix. “The excitement continues to grow as projects like Portland on the Park attract exceptional partners like Sunbelt and DAVIS. Together, we are proud to help create a welcoming environment where people will affectionately call the area not just amazing or inspired, but most importantly, home.”