Two companies to renovate Barrister building

(Carolyn Corcoran/DD)
The Barrister building and the property nearby is being redeveloped by two companies. The area will be redesigned for a housing project. (Carolyn Corcoran/DD)

The city of Phoenix selected two companies on Aug. 12 to redevelop the Barrister building and its neighboring property.

The space will be made into a rental housing project with ground-level retail and a self-contained parking garage according to Mike Trueman, vice president of development at P.B. Bell Companies.

P.B. Bell specializes in multi-family, residential development while Davis Enterprises, the other company selected, leases and markets commercial spaces. The two companies participated in Phoenix’s Request for Proposals process from April 25 to July 7 to receive city assistance with the land.

Built as a hotel on the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Jefferson Street in 1915, the Barrister Building is known for its appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film, “Psycho.” The 45,000 square foot building has been inactive since 2010. Although it’s still early in the negotiations process, Trueman said construction could begin in about a year.

Eric Johnson, economic development program manager for the city of Phoenix Community and Economic Development department, said the property will include 114 new, mostly studio and one-bedroom residential units. He said it should take about a month to complete negotiations.

“Once negotiations are complete, we will come to agreement in the form of a letter of intent between the two parties, and those business terms get taken to city council for approval,” he said.

Johnson said the goals of city council throughout the RFP process were to select proposals that preserve the historical building, generate revenue and create a new use for the property that adds to the culture of downtown. He said the Community and Economic Development department assisted the public works department in finding the right group to purchase and redevelop the site.

Trueman said P.B. Bell was drawn to the Barrister property for its location near the light rail and CityScape, and he said this is a great opportunity to partner with another local company and the city of Phoenix.

He said downtown has been criticized over the years for not having a life after hours, but more key developments that draw people downtown create a positive impact on the city.

“We believe in downtown Phoenix, and it’s a way for us to put our money where our mouth is,” he said.

Dan Klocke, vice president of development for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, said more residential and retail sites are needed to complement the cultural venues and infrastructure that already exist downtown.

“In an urban setting, I think mixed use is the key; and I think the combination of the residential and active ground floor use at that site is exactly what we need,” he said.

CEO of Downtown Phoenix Inc. David Krietor said the timing is good for the development of this property because educational activity downtown and the emerging restaurant and bar scene have created a demand for more residential units and adaptive reuse projects.

“It continues the momentum we have in terms of making downtown a place where people will live,” he said.

CityScape and Roosevelt Point are other key developments that have gone through the RFP process and contributed to the downtown community residentially and commercially, according to Krietor. He said this trend can also be seen outside the core of downtown with Grand Avenue, which has struggled for many years but is now filling up with art spaces and restaurants.

Krietor said any viable space downtown is becoming valuable, and that the area is evolving as a community and a neighborhood.

“If we had 20 buildings like the Barrister building, I think they’d all go into development right now,” he said.

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