Woodland Arts Center passes important hurdle

The Downtown, Aviation, Economy and Innovation Subcommittee approved a rezoning of the Woodland Arts Center, a formerly abandoned church, on Wednesday. (Rich Walton/DD)

A formerly abandoned church on Ninth and Woodland Avenues is one step closer to becoming a new community center for downtown Phoenix.

The project, known as the Woodlands Arts Center, is slated to be a venue for community events and the arts.

The Downtown, Aviation, Economy and Innovation Subcommittee approved a rezoning of the property on Wednesday. The property, located in the Woodland Historic District, will keep its historic designation.

The building is located near a residential area where the zoning code did not allow it to be used for commercial purposes, according to the agenda for the subcommittee meeting.

The Legislative Governmental Mall Commission approved proposed development plans for the new center last year, with rezoning, which was approved Wednesday, being the next step in the process.

It was requested that they amend section 1202 of the Phoenix zoning ordinance to replace the Downtown Code maps to expand the boundary of the Downtown Code. The new map would include the proposed Woodlands Arts Center.

They also approved an amendment of section 1221.G of the Phoenix zoning ordinance, which will add streetscape standards for Woodland Avenue.

The building was almost demolished in 2015 but was given a one-year demolition hold because of its historical meaning to the community, which is allowed under the Historic Preservation overlay. Some parts of the building have been around for more than a century.

(Courtesy: Michelle Dodds)

In a Downtown Devil article last year on the proposed community center, owners Erick Harrell and Charlie Levy said they want to keep the building as “original as possible”.

It appears that they are sticking to that, as the building undergoes a much-needed upgrade, but will still remain historic.

City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Officer Michelle Dodds said the building will retain its historical designation because all the upcoming changes to the property, as of today, will be internal.

“When it’s on the Phoenix historic property register, we don’t look at any of the internal changes,” Dodds said.

According to Dodds, any exterior changes made to registered historic buildings in Phoenix have to be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Dodds said the Historic Preservation Commission has not yet been notified of any proposed external changes to the once-abandoned church.

“Of course we’re supportive of the adaptive reuse and renovation of a vintage structure in downtown Phoenix,” said Jim McPherson, President of the Board of Directors for the Arizona Preservation Foundation.

After the one-year stay of demolition period expired, the building was purchased by business partners Levy and Harrell.

Levy owns the Crescent Ballroom and the Valley Bar, both of which are popular entertainment venues downtown. Harrell is a local property manager at Proper-D Investments LLC.

Contact the reporter at Richard.Walton.1@asu.edu.