Baron Properties confirmed Wednesday morning they will be moving forward with the demolition of the GreenHAUS building, extinguishing negotiations to move the building and community efforts to save it.
The news deflated last week’s announcement that Hotel San Carlos owner Robert Melikian planned to move and repurpose the building. GreenHAUS, once known as the 307 Lounge, and most of the building’s mural artwork created by Ted DeGrazia in the 1950s, will be gone by the end of March.
Baron Properties announced on Jan. 26 that it planned to demolish the building to make way for new apartment structures. The future of the building first became uncertain when the previous lessees, Cole and Dayna Reed, decided to leave Arizona because of its restrictive parentage rights.
Bob Diehl, community activist and founder of Friends of Hance Dog Park, said he was told by Baron Properties that he had until March 30 to find a way to move the building. Three days later, Diehl said, he was told that the demolitions would proceed anyway.
In mid-December, local artist Pete Petrisko had created a petition to “Save 222 E. Roosevelt” on Change.org.
“I said ‘enough is enough,’” Petrisko said. He and other art activists took action and addressed the petition to Baron Properties and city officials.
Diehl said typical petitions have a 10-to-1 ratio: for every 10 people that sign the petition, one person speaks out on the topic. But this petition has been different.
“This has been a three-to-one ratio,” Diehl said. “People are speaking their passion.”
Melikian has his own mission to preserve historical buildings. He called GreenHaus a “social, connecting building” that has great value to the community.
“I want to save as many buildings as physically possible,” Melikian said. “In 90 days, (Baron developers) want to demolish everything … I think we can get it done.”
Melikian said Baron Properties agreed to pay $64,000 as part of the relocation cost. He then expected to pay an additional $350,000 out of his own pocket.
But on Wednesday morning, Diehl said Baron Properties co-owner Scott Fisher called him to say the 60 days needed to relocate the building pushed the project past the company’s deadline.
“Fisher said that they will not give the $64k, and that they were going forward with the construction,” Diehl said.
Chris Murdy, who works for Baron Properties, said his company never made an official promise to move the building or pay for it.
“We never committed to anything,” Murdy said.
Melikian said he was frustrated with the time constraint, and 60 days was a reasonable, efficient amount of time to complete the move.
“We were really ready to go,” Melikian said. “I had everything lined up, lot owned outright, foundation work ready. It could have been done in weeks. There should be room for negotiation. I don’t think it is any burden on (Baron Properties) to wait a little bit and give us more of a chance.”
Murdy said the company plans to preserve DeGrazia’s mural depicting a ballerina in a champagne glass. The company is working with an art preservationist to save the mural, Murdy said. DeGrazia’s largest mural in the building, 47-foot, wall-to-wall painting of alcohol distilling, will be photographed by MonOrchid Owner Wayne Rainey.
Phoenix artist Clottee Hammons said the loss of art buildings and studios is “soul-destroying.”
“As an artist, one of the things that keeps you creating is holding on to your soul,” Hammons said.
Though the odds to save 222 E. Roosevelt seem slim, Diehl said he hopes the demolition of important buildings will stop with the GreenHAUS building.
“The city has to recognize that this is a vanishing aspect that is irreplaceable. Tearing these things down should be a last resort,” Diehl said. “There is nothing saving them, so we have to act now.”
Correction: Feb. 19, 2015: A previous version of this article said Baron Properties confirmed on Tuesday morning that they would move forward with the demolition of the building. The correct date is Wednesday morning. Additionally, the Reeds were not owners but lessees of the building at 222 E. Roosevelt.
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