Commission upholds demolition approval for Clinton Campbell House

The Clinton Campbell house was again approved for demolition. (Nicole Neri/DD)

The City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission upheld a decision to demolish the 122-year-old Clinton Campbell house, despite complaints from local residents and preservationists, at a hearing Monday night. This decision is final, and a permit will be issued accordingly.

The hearing was called after an appeal was filed against the demolition approval the city granted just over two weeks ago. The commission said the house would cause an economic hardship for the owners.

In May the house was approved for demolition after the owners argued they would suffer unnecessary economic hardship if they had to preserve the building, ending a nearly two-year process to decide its fate. Members of the public had five days to appeal. The house, located at 357 Fourth Avenue, is one of 50 buildings its age still left in Phoenix.

Glasir Capital Partners have owned the property since 2015. Jim Stockwell, the company’s director of acquisitions, spoke at the meeting defending the demolition.

“What I am being asked today is to contemplate changing what was the plan from day one and rehab a structure that completely defies economic sense or viability,” Stockwell said. “On a different day I would probably be with them walking in stride, but at the end of the day, through no fault of our own, this is the position that we’re in.”

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Jennifer Boucek, who submitted the appeal, called the failure to recognize the Clinton house as a historic building sooner a “horrible oversight.” Record confusion led to a mixup — the house was confused with another building on the property called the Clinton Campbell Rental House, which was demolished in 1999. As a result, the Clinton Campbell House was not flagged as historic.

Boucek said the commission’s decision would not have been necessary if the building had been recognized as historic earlier. Boucek also said “if [any developer] had any sense of imagination,” he or she could figure out a way to incorporate the building’s footprint or structure into the new development.

Before the decision for the demolition was to be upheld, Boucek asked the commission to condition any approval so experts could be sent into the house to document and salvage materials in order to preserve the history of the home. Stockwell said he is open to the idea and more than willing to work with community members who would like to do so, as long as it remains within the constraints that the demolition period allows.

RELATED: Clinton Campbell House in preservation purgatory

Steve Dreiseszun, a member of Preserve Phoenix, had hoped the presentation before the commission and community today would show the owners that the Clinton house is a “valuable asset.” He also said the demolition of each historic building “further eliminates our story” as a city and a community. Dreiseszun pointed out that there are other “shining examples” of what can be done to restore and bring new life to historic structures, such as the A.E. England building.

Historic preservation staff member Kevin Weight said staff recommended the upholding of the demolition order due to the state of the building. He pointed out the structural faults of the house, including fire damage and a large hole in the wall. While the staff “recognizes its significance,” Weight said they could not ignore the evidence, as well as the multiple budget scenarios they had produced, which all led to a “significant net loss.”

“It’s not a matter of subjectivity or opinion, but a matter of math,” said Adam Baugh, attorney for Glasir.

Baugh said while he appreciates the passion behind the preservation attempts, “there are obvious realities that override” the desire to restore the house. Baugh also pointed to the staff’s recommendation of the demolition despite desire to preserve historic properties.

“That’s a hard pill for them to swallow,” Baugh said.

Baugh added that Glasir did all research necessary into the home’s historic status prior to buying it in 2015. He said the city confirmed the home wasn’t on any historic properties lists.

“It would be wrong and unjust for the city to change its mind and opinion after my client purchased the property in reliance on the city’s express affirmations,” Baugh said.

Contact the reporter at Daisy.Finch@asu.edu.