Circles development sits in limbo, partially demolished

The Circles Records and Tapes building continues to sit partially demolished amid halted negotiations with the city over a tax incentive. (Nicole Neri/DD)

The controversial partial demolition of the historic Circles Records and Tapes building appears to be at an impasse right now.

The most recent demolition of the already partially demolished building removes more of the backend and middle of the building. The building is being developed by Empire Group, which intends to eventually construct a proposed multi-family, mixed use project called the Stewart.

The most current plans for the development keep only the front facade of the historic building in place, which includes the old showroom, mezzanine and rotating spire. Nothing will be built above what was once the showroom.

No changes to these plans have been issued by the developer to date.

The development became a hot button issue for historic preservation when Empire Group began partially demolishing the building last year, while discussions concerning its preservation were still taking place between the developer and the city, as well as community groups.

(Nicole Neri/DD)
The back of the partially demolished Circles Records and Tapes building. (Nicole Neri/DD)

In April of last year the developer halted initial demolition following community pushback.

A city ordinance passed at the end of last year, which created a 30-day waiting period for public discussion before demolishing a historic building, further halted the project.

RELATED: Circles developer files demolition permits

Following the initial demolition of parts of the building and amid community outrage, the city halted negotiations with the developer to possibly award a tax incentive known as a Government Property Lease Excise Tax agreement.

The city remains firm in its recommendation to cease discussions with the developer about the tax incentive. Despite this, the developer maintains that receiving the tax incentive is necessary to complete proposed plans for the 19-story, mixed-use residential project.

Empire Group has not offered an alternative plan if the incentive is not rewarded.

Christine Mackay, Community and Economic Development director for the city confirmed there are no updates on the tax incentive and that “staff’s professional recommendation stands.” She said she knew of no new updates on the building at this time.

In April of last year, the Community and Economic Development department said it was fact finding, but had not reopened negotiations. Mackay reaffirmed her recommendation that the city continue to abstain from negotiations with the developers on tax incentives in August.

Community groups remain split about the project. The Roosevelt Action Association gave conditional support for the project and its bid for a tax incentive depending on further stipulations at the end of last year. Urban Phoenix Project also gave support for the project.  

Downtown Voices Coalition and Evans Churchill Community Associated voted to oppose the project.

None of the community groups have issued a change to these stances.

Representatives of the developer were not available for comment for this story. In earlier coverage, a representative of Empire stated that there were no new updates to the project.

Located near Central Avenue and McKinley Street, the 69-year-old building was originally built to house the Stewart Motor Company.

Contact the reporter Kara.Carlson@asu.edu.