Project Update: Planning Commission O.K.’s New Self-Storage; No Public Speak at Hearing

Update 1/10: A final public hearing on this project will be held Feb. 7th @ 2:30 P.M. in the Phoenix City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson Street.

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Current rendering of proposed storage facility at 525 w. Turney Ave.                           Photo Credit: Andrews Design Group

Husband and wife commercial developers Bruce and Kim Raskin have waited nearly a year to break ground on their 90k-square-foot self-storage facility proposed just off Seventh Avenue.

They’re one vote shy of public approval after the Phoenix Planning Commission recommended unanimously January 4th the City Council approve a special-use permit and height waiver for their proposed four-story building at 555 W. Turney Ave.

Not a single person spoke in favor or against their state-of-the-art project at the public meeting, which was heavily opposed in its infancy.

Since last spring, the Raskins have met with neighborhood activists and involved Melrose leaders in the creation of an unusual design, which will neighbor a dance club, a convenience store, new apartments, condominiums and single-family homes.

The concepts discussed at public meetings include about 2k square feet of indoor community space, or space that can be rented, and an outdoor amphitheater.

Th scope of these amenities are not guaranteed by the public approvals under consideration, and ultimately subject to negotiation with City Staff.

Why Did No Public Speak at Hearing? (bold this in print)

“I’d like to compliment the (Raskins) for really engaging the neighborhood in a unique way,” said Phoenix Planning Commissioner Andrea Katsenes. “It’s the first time I’ve heard of a process getting the neighborhood involved in the design, and what the final product will look like.” She initiated both motions for approval.

Commissioner Rebecca Wininger said she was not surprised by low turnout.

“If there’s not a neighborhood outcry you tend to lose people along the way,” she said to T.M.L. after the hearing. “Sometimes they decide they don’t really care or it’s not worth fighting.”

Wininger is an I.T. infrastructure specialist who sits on both village and citywide planning boards. She supported the Raskins during the December Encanto Village Planning Committee Meeting, which voted 10-2 in favor, after also serving as a judge in a competition-style design charrette the Raskins hosted in August.

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One of the design ideas in August.

“Most developers will not pay three architects to come up with a design and ask the neighborhood, ‘do you like this,” Wininger said Thursday.

Seventh Avenue Merchants’ Association Membership Director Kenyatta Turner and Grandview Neighborhood Association  President Pam Pawlowski were also both judges in the charrette, which was attended by about ten members of the public who were not involved with the event or neighborhood associations.

About thirty people attended in total.

Discussion at December Encanto Planning Committee Meeting:

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S.A.M.A. President Mike Poulton “personally” supports the project.

S.A.M.A. Board President Mike Poulton personally supported the project to the Encanto Board in December, though the non-profit did not take an official stance.

Wininger told Encanto in December that Stacy Louis, whose dance club does neighbor the Raskins’ future storage, supported the project.

(Read Poulton’s comments, or to full Encanto hearing. Mike Poulton speaks at 00:48:20. 

Encanto memeber G.G. George was one of two who voted against the project. “I don’t think it’s appropriate,” she said in December. “This is a historic neighborhood.”

“As far as I know there was no opposition until the Encanto meeting,” Wininger said. At least three letters of opposition were filed with the City in August, though none listed addresses on Turney Avenue.

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Encanto Commitee Member and  Phoenix Planning Commissioner Rebecca Wininger

Louis has owned the dance club Stacy’s @ Melrose (formerly Sanctum) for over four years. He did not attend the Encanto meeting, at which two Melrose residents raised concerns with parking at his bar.

Louis has been renting spaces from the Raskins under a parking lease since they purchased their existing building in early 2017.

Stacy Louis Isn’t Saying Much:

“I talked to Stacy at the (August) design competition and he didn’t seem to have any concerns,” Wininger said Thursday. “If Stacy had issues with it, I expected him to speak.”

Louis attended Thursday’s citywide hearing but did not address the commissioners. “I’m still very concerned about the parking,” he told T.M.L. Thursday night. He said he has not reached an agreement over parking but declined to comment further.

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“If (bar patrons) don’t park here, they’re going to park on (Turney),” he said. “I’m too nice of a guy to (want) to do that to this neighborhood.”

Raskins’ project staff told the charrette judges in August, and the Encanto Committee again in December, that the average trip rate for self-storage is 1.7 cars per hour. They said the facility won’t operate 24-hours-a-day, but drivers will most likely use Stacy’s parking lot to exit onto Seventh Avenue to the west.

The Raskins did not speak at either hearing but told T.M.L. they appreciate all the input from the neighborhood. A twenty-minute interview with them in August can be heard here, as well as an interview with their architect.

What Do Neighbors Say? 

T.M.L. called on Turney Avenue residents last summer and again Friday.

“I’m glad my tree hides the ugliness (of the existing structure),” said bartender Chanel Godwin in August. “I’d like to see more art and less abandoned building.” Godwin did not answer her door Friday.

“I’d rather something else,” said retired engineer Palmer Chalela five months ago. “But storage seems fairly innocuous.” Chalela has owned his house on Turney for 30 years. “I’m o.k. with (storage),” he said Friday. “If they operate it with safety and security in mind it shouldn’t be a major problem.”

The proposal calls for electronic security doors and 24-hour surveillance.

Chalella said he was not concerned the project will affect the property value of his house, but said it is important that landscaping include trees or bushes to buffer the street. “The whole area’s being developed so I think traffic is going to be a problem all the time,” Chalella said with a laugh. “I like it when nobody parks in front of my house, but you can’t stop progress!”

Rachel Retullio runs her own creative services firm out of her home several doors down.“The (Raskins) totally screwed the pooch on their outreach at the start,” said Rachel Retullio. “They didn’t actually contact anybody in this actual neighborhood.”

Following an intense neighborhood meeting last year, the Raskins hired a new zoning attorney,  Jason Morris of Withey Morris P.L.C., and an outreach coordinator, Tom Bilsten, son of former Phoenix Councilwoman Peggy Bilstein.

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“I told (The Raskins) at the (design charrette) this is probably the worlds’ most attractive ministorage building,” Retullio said Friday. “But that doesn’t really sway me because, well it would look cool on Seventh Avenue but it’s still on a residential street.”

Neither Chalela nor Retullio,  attended either the village or citywide hearings.

Retullio said she’d rather see more apartments than storage. Brianna Klink lives a block north on Roma Ave and wrote one of the opposition letters. “These storage facilities are ubiquitous to the area,” She told Encanto in December. “This will not create jobs.”

Klink said she wants to know what the hours of the community space will be. “Unless it’s in writing or in a contract, I don’t believe it,” she said. “It’s a private business and they can do whatever they want.” Klink did not go to Thursday’s hearing because she was entertaining family. “There’s specific goals attached to the Seventh Main Street Overlay Zone,” she said. “The height variance is unnecessary.”  (Klink speaks at 1:15:00 in above audio.)

Klink said she’ll be able to see the storage out her front door and living room window.”It’s going to be the prettiest self-storage building in the world,” she said. “But, a pretty building is not going to create pedestrian traffic or make the neighborhood more friendly.” Klink appealed the Commission’s Jan. 4 decision, city staff confirmed.

The City Council will vote on the project February 7th after a public hearing.

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View from Turney Ave. of proposed storage facility.