Phoenix Preserve kick-off event raises awareness for DeSoto Building in downtown

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The DeSoto Building on Central and Roosevelt streets is now being leased. The non-profit Preserve Phoenix had its kick-off event in the building and is working to bring awareness to the building. (Alexis Macklin/DD)
The DeSoto Building on Central and Roosevelt streets is now being leased. The non-profit Preserve Phoenix had its kick-off event in the building and is working to bring awareness to the building. (Alexis Macklin/DD)

Last Friday marked the beginning of a new chapter for the historic DeSoto Building at Central and Roosevelt streets.

The 85-year-old building served as the backdrop for Preserve Phoenix‘s kick-off event. The organization was officially started in May of this year, with the mission to preserve and renovate historically significant buildings around Phoenix.

Classic photographs donned the brick walls of the more than 11,000 square foot building, showing the history and various uses of the property since it was built in 1928.

While they do not contribute financially to projects, the goal of Preserve Phoenix is to raise awareness about certain buildings, like the DeSoto Building, that are historic in age and value.

“Our organization is a way to help tenants see the importance of buying this building,” said Boucek.

The DeSoto Building will be the second renovation project for the non-profit. The Preserve Phoenix Director, Jennifer Boucek, said the spotlight is on Motley Design Group and DeSoto Building owner, Ken Cook, for the hard work they are putting into the building in order to save and lease it.

“This event was a great opportunity for people to see the DeSoto Building in its original form before we fix it up,” said Boucek. “We want people to be able to see the bones of the building.”

Cook, owner of Select Credit and Leasing LLC based out of Spokane, Wash., bought the then run-down building in January of 2012.

“I have a passion for these old buildings,” Cook said. “If you put the right team together, it can be very good for the community.”

When Cook bought the building, he said it was in dire need of some repairs. In 2008 the tower of the southwest corner collapsed, and the hole it created was filled in with a flat roof. Interior plaster work was almost completely destroyed along with portions of the exterior masonry walls of the building.

Cook hired Motley Design Group to help put the pieces back together. Motley Design’s experience in rehabilitation and historic building projects spans from reworking the Maricopa County Courts Lobby to the Heritage Square restoration in downtown Phoenix.

“It’s a very rare building that should be preserved,” said Robert Graham, principal architect and co-founder of Motley Design Group. “There were DeSoto automobiles sold right where we’re standing. The historical significance is fascinating.”

With up to 11,000 square feet of available space for rent, the building is now being leased for occupancy. Some renovations have already began on the building, but both Cook and Preserve Phoenix are waiting to tailor specific renovations toward a future tenant. There are certain historic features they will be keeping, like the 16-foot truss. However, they are willing to install a mezzanine within the large shop area if the tenant prefers. The north wall of the building is not considered to be historically significant, so new door and window openings may be added.

Part of the building was a showroom and featured fine finishes such as a dark stained wood trim, two-tone concrete flooring and two-tone pink and blue textured plaster walls. While it will be made of modern materials, the exterior will essentially resemble the original appearance of the building.

The DeSoto Building was built in 1928 to house the DeSoto car dealership. DeSoto automobiles were sold in the building from 1929 through the mid-1950s. DeSoto was a car brand manufactured by Chrysler and was discontinued in the 1960s. It first went on the market in 1928 as a medium-priced car to compete with Dodge.

After the car dealership closed, the building housed different stores, most recently an antique shop.

Contact the reporter at mnromero@asu.edu

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