Historic Preservation Recap: What’s next?

The Neal House is in the process of going through a series of appeals for the building to be moved to a new location on Roosevelt Street. (Nicole Neri/DD)

The Historic Preservation Commission held its first meeting after summer recess last week. Here we recap some of the challenges, projects and new programs of historic preservation in downtown Phoenix this year.

Bond Funds

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) faces financial distress this year. In 2006, the city government approved a $13.1 million bond for the committee to offer as grants. Over the course of 10 years the funds were used to provide incentives and assistance for historic building rehabilitation, survey historic sites for necessary preservation and provide building condition assessments. In return, the city secures a conservation easement on the property. The conservation easement provides a higher level of security for the property and insures the city’s investment in said property.

While the funds are not currently depleted Phoenix Historic Preservation Officer Michelle Dodds is worried.

“The problem is, after this year, we won’t have any [money]. And frankly, we’re about out now, there’s just a little bit left,” said Dodds.

New Subcommittee

The Commission has already taken steps to alleviate the problem. Dodds primarily mentioned the creation of a new sub-committee to develop fundraising opportunities for the HPC. The HPC is also taking steps to work with the City of Phoenix Community and Economic Development Department by combining funds to extend their resources as far as they can.

Current Cases

Dodds assures that all projects currently undertaken with grant money will be completed, however future projects may run into trouble. The restoration of The Van Buren into a new concert venue was assisted by Commission grants. Other buildings such as the Wakelin Grocery Company Warehouse at 219 S. Fifth Ave. were saved from demolition with commission intervention and an agreement from the property owner. The Neal House at 102 E. Willetta is in the process of going through a series of appeals for the building to be moved to 925 E. Roosevelt.


The impending loss of their grant money may limit some of the Commission’s activities but there is still work to do. Dodds emphasized the importance of the commission’s other work.

“The work of our office is far more than just grants,” Dodds said.

The recent addition of a new rule which prevents historic buildings from being torn down without thirty days’ notice will bring even more work before the Committee. Old laws need to be modified to fit this new arrangement and federal compliance reviews must be addressed.

Three new Phoenix residents to the Historic Preservation Commission will add some fresh faces and ideas to address upcoming issues the Commission faces. Helena Ruter, Greta Rayle, and Bruce Cutting all attended their first meeting on the Historic Preservation Commission earlier this month. Helena Ruter will be serving as a historian and Greta Rayle will be working as an archaeologist.

Contact the reporter at jspevace@asu.edu.