City looks to develop, preserve historic Knipe House property

The historic Leighton G. Knipe House sits in the vacant lot on 2nd Street between Roosevelt and Portland streets. (Craig Johnson/DD)

The city of Phoenix is taking proposals from the public on how to best develop the Leighton G. Knipe House property.

The proposals will decide the future of the historic property, located at Second and Portland streets, as well as some of the surrounding area. Currently the property is occupied by the house and the recently relocated Roosevelt Growhouse.

The Phoenix Community and Economic Development Department is looking to preserve the historic Knipe house and create urban development. If the property is made non-residential, they also would consider doing a shared parking lot model for non-residential parking.

Eric Johnson, deputy director of the Economic Development Department, is looking forward to seeing the outcome of the public proposals.

“We’ve owned [the house] for a number of years, and so just having that be activated and used for productive use rather than being vacant, that’s a wonderful thing,” Johnson said.

Johnson also outlined the positive economic impact this development will have on the city of Phoenix.

“[Developing the vacant land] brings people into downtown, whether it’s jobs or residential units,” Johnson said. “The side benefits for the city is we get sales tax revenue for whatever gets developed and constructed or jobs are created. The other benefit is that the property comes off the city property rules and becomes private property and so it goes under the property tax rules.”

The Knipe House is not only eligible under historical significance but architectural significance as well. It’s an early example of the craftsman style in Phoenix. It is not known if renowned early-20th-century architect Leighton Knipe designed the house; however, the unusual massing and cantilevered second story are typical to his architectural and design style.

According to a Historic Preservation staff report from 2004, the house, built in 1909, is the oldest remaining house in the Evans Addition. The Evans Addition is part of the East Evergreen Historic District of properties downtown. The size of the house gives a representation of the upscale houses that were once common in the Evergreen Place subdivision of this era.

“The Knipe House is a significant property that deserves to be fully rehabilitated and put to a new use [that] can be enjoyed by both residents and visitors to Phoenix,” Historic Preservation Officer Michelle Dodds said.

The Community and Economic Development Department will soon begin its competitive request for proposals process in which sealed proposals are submitted by the public and evaluated by a panel of city staff, neighborhood leaders and representatives from the private sector.

“The city wants to put this vacant land into productive use and we’re excited to see what kind of proposals come through,” Johnson said. “It might be flexible work space, artist space, restaurants. Who knows? We’re looking forward to seeing what people have interest in on that site.”

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