Important Issues Discussed at Poorly Attended S.A.M.A. General Meeting

 

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The Official Seal of the Seventh Ave. Merchants’ Association on a bike rack in Melrose

 

About 15 people attended the quarterly general meeting of the Seventh Avenue Merchants’ Association last Thursday, held in a lounge on the 5th floor of the newly opened Curve Luxury Apartments. They included the S.A.M.A. Governing Board and staff of the Curve. Several important conversations lasted until well after 9 p.m., and attendees included business owners, a muralist, District 24 State Representative Ken Clark (D) and Lisa Huggins-Hubbard with the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services. The following is a chronological summary of most discussions:

The Curve Luxury Apartments

“We’re looking for opportunities to help give back and participate,” said Cary Cole, Portfolio Director for P.B. Bell, developer of The Curve. “We want to be a good neighbor and for you to see what’s here.” Cole invited Melrose area business owners and residents to stop in any time during normal business hours (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.) for a tour. “People want to look and see what’s going on,” she said. “And that’s great!”

Cole reported 65 apartments have already been rented, and a lot of interest from young to middle-aged professionals. “What we’re seeing is different demographics from 30 to 50” she said. “Of course, we’ll rent to anyone between 18 and 99, or even above that.” Several people laughed. “We’re seeing a lot of teachers, people from Grand Canyon University and medical professionals,” Cole elaborated. “(They’re) people who are getting master’s degrees or working in (healthcare.)”

In addition to funding 15 public bike racks up and down 7th Avenue, The Curve has provided 3 display windows on the ground floor of their building for the Melrose community to use. The idea came out of design negotiations between P.B. Bell and S.A.M.A. as far back as 2014, and the parties involved now are seeking input from Melrose-ians for what to do with the street front displays.

In the meantime, one window already features iconic mid-century photo art by Andy Warhol. “We struggled to find something to fit,” Cole said. Advertising may be specifically prohibited by zoning – The Curve will not allow such – though P.B. Bell is working with S.A.M.A. and the Community Alliance of Seventh Avenue for a way to “display” what Melrose is to those who live or visit. (More to come.)

Cole also invited Melrose area business owners to contact her marketing team about sales  and events along 7th Avenue.  “We’ll do partnerships,” she said generally. “Any type of things we can do to help you.” Cole specifically suggested coordinating advertising to be distributed to residents.

The Curve is leasing under a staggered Certificate of Occupancy as they put the finishing touches on the building’s interior. There are 204 apartments total and Bell hopes to be at capacity by mid to late summer. Cole said they plan to host pool parties for residents and may consider inviting guests from the neighborhood.

“They’ve done an amazing job,” said Vicky Davis, wife of Denver’s Car Care owner Denver Davis. “It fits the neighborhood very well. As a neighbor just a few streets away, we love it!” Read more about “The Curve.”

Paris Laundry / Modern Manor

Modern Manor owner Ryan Durkin is still waiting on a Certificate of Occupancy from the City of Phoenix to begin moving his mid-century vintage furniture showroom from Hazelwood Drive to the iconic 11k square foot former dry-cleaner in front of the Melrose Arch.

His multi-use adaptive redevelopment will include a café/sandwhich shop and a “speakeasy” bar, as well space to rent for events. “I promise this is not going to be a drunken party bar,” Durkin said. “This is going to be a place you love having here.”

Modern has repainted the exterior of the building and removed interior walls to allow for open flow. They’ve also enshrined the former “Paris Laundry” sign in the building’s foyer. They are not installing a kitchen – as of yet – but are working with designers for the café and bar concepts.

Durkin and his development partner Aaron Klusman must pay to have fire sprinklers connected to a specific water main buried underneath 7th Avenue, and they have been waiting weeks for the City to schedule the work.

Durkin said parking has also been a concern. Even despite reductions allowed by the Seventh Avenue Main Street Overlay Zone, Durkin must still use the space underneath the building’s futuristic style canopy for cars. “If the City would chill with the parking, we would make it a patio,” Durkin said. “But if you make it a patio, it becomes useable space.” Such square footage would require more parking, according to ordinance.

S.A.M.A. President Mike Poulton suggested working with neighboring “Flo’s on 7th Avenue” thrift store to share parking, as have other Melrose after-hours spots. Durkin said Flo’s, which is owned by Florence Crittendon, did not seem interested. Read more about “Modern.”

Dark Money & Schools:

Democrat State Rep. Ken Clark, whose District 24 includes Melrose, stopped by to share a state level perspective with a neighborhood level audience. Clark, who was seen at the dedication of the Lyceum, The Melrose Street Fair, and seeking signatures for ballot measures along 7th Avenue, spent most of his time discussing statewide issues.

“I’m not so much the guy you call about people speeding up and down 7th Avenue,” Clark said with a smile. “(But) a lot of what I do is about empowerment. (Politics) is not rocket science and there’s a lot you (voters) can do.” Clark asked for meeting-goers to sign a petition to put another measure on the ballot to fight “dark money.” According to Clark, the law would require disclosure of the original person or entity who donates money to any Arizona political campaign.

“When people spend money in elections and you don’t know where it comes from, it’s used to push agendas from the left and the right,” he elaborated. “It’s used to push specific legislation or threaten elected officials from the state, all the way down to cities or even water district boards.”

Clark, a real-estate agent who also served in the legislature in 2003, said campaign influence is an immediate problem. “Most people get into office for about 50k (in a campaign budget),” he said generally. “It’s worse than we’ve ever seen it.”

Clark also gave what seemed to be an impromptu, but rather comprehensive review of the state’s education situation, as Thursday’s meeting happened after the first day of Arizona’s first ever teacher walk-out.

“We’re not even at 2008 funding levels for educators,” Clark said. “(Ducey) has revised his estimates for revenue to move upward for the next three years. (But) we are overdue for some kind of market correction.” Clark said he did not expect state revenue to continue unchanged. “When you promise teachers a pay increase over three years, what happens in years 2 or 3 when the economy doesn’t perform?”

Clark said he believes raising taxes is a viable option. “I have lots of ideas,” he said. “If only Republicans would let me into the room.” The conversation on schools continued for about 20 minutes, including a re-cap of previous laws and the voter approved measure to fund schools with State Trust Land. Clark invited anyone to contact him for more information, or to bring statewide issues to his attention: 602-456-9388.

The Neighborhood Perspective

“Congratulations to the Curve,” Huggins-Hubbard began. “It’s absolutely beautiful!” Huggins-Hubbard recalled with nostalgia working with other neighborhood leaders like Pam Pawlowski, who was instrumental in negotiating The Curve’s zoning and design approvals.

As a liaison, Lisa Huggins-Hubbard has choreographed the relationship between residents, business owners, and City resources for decades. Her name has become synonymous with the word “Melrose” throughout City departments.

“My role on any given day is to make the bureaucracy at City Hall a little easier,” she said. “I get to sit at the big table and remind them, that we work for you, and that we need to look at the neighborhood perspective.”

Huggins-Hubbard encouraged more participation in neighborhood events, and for Melrose to speak up about its identity. “The ribbon cutting (for the P.B. Bell donated Bike Racks) and the exchanging of (7th Avenue) art panels was not as well attended,” Huggins-Hubbard said. “It’s concerning. What’s going on that people aren’t coming out?”

She also pointed to several retail vacancies on 7th Avenue as a growing concern for her personally. “This is the most vacant space I’ve ever seen on 7th Avenue,” she said. “We’re losing businesses on this street.” Huggins-Hubbard has worked with Melrose since the late 1990’s. According to several long-time residents, retail vacancies were worst in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. Still, the closure of several identifiable businesses like Frockify, Zinnia’s, and Rebel Hair Salon have prompted questions.

“Property owners think that just because (Melrose) is a fun hip place, because people have worked hard, they’re going to get higher rates than what the area can really afford,” she said.  “I hope as an organization (S.A.M.A.) is watching and thinking about this. Let’s not lose what we’ve created.”

The City of Phoenix has no official role in regulating commercial or residential rental rates, but gives lots of weight to organized associations when considering development proposals.  “With all the new construction on Roosevelt row, it really changes the vibe,” Huggins-Hubbard said. “It’s really important for all of your voices to be heard at City Hall.” (Click to learn more about public involvement in private development.)

“One thing that Lisa mentioned is maintaining the feel of the neighborhood,” said S.A.M.A. President Mike Poulton. “It’s going to be a totally different place. So that it still feels right, it still feels like Melrose, one thing that I think is important is maintaining key structures. One of those is the pink liquor store.”

Poulton thanked the P.B. Bell staff in the room for their efforts to preserve the once doomed Melrose icon. “You can already tell by going out there and looking at it and talking to Rebecca (Golden) that its going to be the first instance of this tiype of development. That and the Paris (Modern Manor) project.”

Restaurateur Rebecca Golden recently closed escrow on the former “Melrose Liquor” building and plans to adapt it into a drive-thru coffee shop/café.  Read about “The Googie at Melrose” here.

Huggins-Hubbard next applauded Kenyatta Turner, S.A.M.A.’s Membership Director for outreach. “You’re doing amazing,” she said. “You’re doing a great job with that website.”  In addition to an interactive directory, S.A.M.A. has also created a downloadable App for Merchant Members to advertise and offer discounts to other members. “Social media is going to be really huge for us going forward,” Turner said. “It’s an organic process.” Turner reported what she called a modest 3k followers on S.A.M.A.’s Facebook page.

Huggins-Hubbard also reminded the Board that banners on street lights advertising the Melrose District are over a year late for being removed. The current banners are in violation of current City Code and S.A.M.A. must pay to have them removed. (More to come.)

Street Fair Report

This year’s street fair was the first organized by the current S.A.M.A. Board, including President Mike Poulton’s wife Rochelle, along with the help of former S.A.M.A. member Dave Cook, Lisa Huggins-Hubbard of the City of Phoenix, Pam Pawlowski of the Community Alliance of Seventh Avenue, Denver Davis of Denver’s Car Care, and Jackie Caro of Marketing Ideals Company.

Rochelle Poulton reported 158 vendors participated and between 15 and 16 thousand people attended, 66% of who were women, and the average age between 35-44. She said there were at least 12 food trucks and at least 120 classic cars, but did not say how the demographic data was collected.

Instead, she played a drone video showing the expanse of the fair from Indian School Road at its southern border to Campbell Ave. at the north. “The whole reason we did this video is so people could see how big the fair is,” Poulton said. “There’s tons of people on your doorstep wanting to give you money, so there’s no excuse for not participating.” She did not explain how the video was produced.

Mike Poulton reported the cost of Street Fair this year was roughly $25k. “Typically we make about $4k,” he said. “We basically broke even.” The Poultons said more was spent on security and insurance to help accommodate a bigger crowd and growing neighborhood. According to  Mike, there were fewer corporate sponsors at this year’s event than previously.

When asked how merchants north of the canal can participate (the street fair cannot expand because it would block at least one residential property) Rochelle Poulton responded, “Everybody should rent a booth. What we would really like everyone to do is (an event) on that Saturday. Just be a part of the crowd. Create an event for your business, do your own specials, and have your people out to join the action.”

Several merchants complained to T.M.L. that the “soft closure” of 7th Avenue from Camelback to Campbell Avenue disrupts their business. Lisa Huggins-Hubbard said next year S.A.M.A. can request to have signs put up at Camelback Road directing local traffic to businesses that remain open.  Read more about Street Fair Feedback.

Developing Stories: “Canalscape”, “Lyceum”, and Murals.

Pam Pawlowski of the Community Alliance of Seventh Avenue reported that her board has contacted the Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service Co., and several other public and quasi-public agencies to determine what art and signage may be allowed along the Grand Canal.

The canal is undergoing staged renovation from the eastern border of Phoenix (approx. 60th street) to approximately Metro Center Mall. The section from 7th Street to 15th Avenue is due to be complete by summer 2019. C.A.S.A. would like to find an artistic way to draw bike riders and pedestrians from the “Canalscape” to the shops on 7th Avenue.

Refuge Café manager John Strawn suggested at S.A.M.A.’s January meeting that some sort of directory be installed. While the street itself is City of Phoenix property, C.A.S.A. has not yet identified which agencies can actually give permission to install signage along the canal, or on the bridge itself.

Joe Seriale, owner of Joe’s Diner next to the canal, told T.M.L. in March he will consider repairing signage on the northern facade of his restaurant, specifically for Canalscape.

Danielle Foushee of the Phoenix Mural Project suggested C.A.S.A. apply for one of several arts grants available to registered Phoenix neighborhoods. Foushee sits on the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission and announced Thursday that at least one mural will be going up near The Frybread House at 7th Avenue and Hazelwood.

Pawlowski said C.A.S.A. has already applied for a grant, which must be used for art and not signage. Foushee suggested C.A.S.A. locate a muralist who can create a piece of art that would serve as both. “Maybe we can focus in on this area of town,” Foushee suggested generally. (More to come).

Pawlowski also updated the Board on the progress of Melrose’s town-square style park, “The Lyceum,” which is now about two months overdue. In additon to $50k from Clear Channel Outdoor, and the donation of the land itself, S.A.M.A. granted C.A.S.A. $7k for the project in exchange for 16 inscribed bricks.

City inspectors determined a stronger gage steel was required for shade structures than was originally estimated, and that the project’s engineer did not have the proper license to install such. Pawlowski reported a new engineering firm has stepped up to complete the work. Read more. Construction will take at least through May.

This Melrose Life Magazine Asks for Partnership:

Publisher and writer Brian Mori, who was asked by S.A.M.A. in 2017 to help with the organization’s communications, announced that he is searching for partners to help develop content, and sustained revenue from advertising. After several months of discussions, Mori launched the monthly magazine and website independently in December, and has distributed over 1500 magazines to several Melrose coffee shops, bars, and eateries.

Mori invited S.A.M.A. and any other area residents and business owners who whish to advertise, contribute fact and opinion content, contribute design skills, or even help distribute future magazines please contact him immediately. “I’m not married to a magazine,” Mori said. “It really all depends on what Melrose wants, though people love a physical thing to hold in their hands.”

S.A.M.A. President Mike Poulton asked what other mediums Mori would consider. “In an ideal world there would be one form for every one,” Mori said. “Originally, I wanted to do a radio show.” Mori said he appreciates all the feedback and support. “It’s been extremely fun,” he said. “It’s so cool to have a developer call you and ask to advertise.”

Previous T.M.L. advertisers include: The Refuge Café, Copper Star Coffee, Stacy’s @ Melrose, New Sun Energies, Scott’s Coach Works, Kharma Life Center, Kenyatta Turner Legal Shield, The Community Alliance of Seventh Avenue, Denver’s Car Care, Pure Intent Acupuncture, Eric Townsley Homesmart Realty, Hoot n’ Waddle Productions, Empire West Title Agency, and Agave Development.

Mori is a licensed real-estate agent and substitute teacher with a Master’s Degree in Development and a Bachelors in Journalism. Mori is a member of S.A.M.A. and lives in Melrose. He can be contacted 602-575-1170 or at thismelroselife@gmail.com.  (*This content was written by Mori.)