Circles building prepares for construction

Another chunk of a wall was removed from the Circles building Monday morning as the builders prepare for construction. (Kara Carlson/DD)
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Neighbors have been notified of street closures and upcoming construction for the development at the site of the Circles Records and Tapes building.

The controversial proposed project, The Stewart, which will be at the site of the Circles building, will be developed by the Empire Group. The developers hope to eventually construct a 19-story, multi-family mixed-use project.

A letter neighbors received from UEB Builders notified them of 20-month street closures from McKinley Street, east and west bound from the alley property line to Central Avenue. The letter also came with a hot line number for questions and concerns.

Joe Funk, senior project manager for UEB Builders Inc., responded to a hotline listed on a letter announcing street closures. Funk said that while construction technically has commenced, mainly underground work will take place for a month or two before any structure can go up.

Both the developers, and Jordan Rose, a representative of the developers could not be reached for comment. Last week, Rose said she was not authorized to talk to the media any longer.

There may be more minimal demolition going forward. Funk said it was “nothing more than you could really see from the street, internal columns.” He said there could be a few more little things coming down. On Monday morning, a chunk of the wall on the McKinley Street side was taken down.

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 construction team will begin working underground before any expected construction begins to build up. (Kara Carlson/DD)
The construction team will begin working underground before any expected construction begins to build up. (Kara Carlson/DD)

The building has been the subject of controversy for over a year for community members and historic preservationists when Empire Group began partially demolishing the building last April, while discussions concerning its preservation were still taking place between the developer and the city, as well as community groups.

Last week, the developers interrupted the comment session of another hearing to ask City Council directly for a hearing for consideration for a special type of tax incentive known as a Government Property Lease Excise Tax.

These agreements work by having the city take over the rights to a piece of land and lease it back to a developer at a reduced rate.

The city has not had GPLET negotiations with the developers in the year since the building was partially demolished the first time, sparking community and city backlash. At the time, the Community and Economic Development Department recommended closing tax incentive negotiations, a position they have maintained since.

Roosevelt Action Association and the Urban Phoenix Project have both offered conditional support of the project. Downtown Voices Coalition and the Evans Churchill Community Association have both opposed the tax incentive.

The Community and Economic Development department met with the developers a few weeks ago, looking into the updated plan and financials for the building.

“We have all the information that we need on the financial investment and construction costs that they have stated that they will be making in the building, so we do have all the information from them that we need, and it has not changed staff’s position,” CED director Christine Mackay said.

Recent demolition of the already partially-demolished building removed more of the back end and middle of the building. 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 before more demolition continued.

The 69-year-old building originally housed the Stewart Motor Company.

Contact the reporter at Kara.Carlson@asu.edu

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