Demolition of Clinton Campbell House begins

Construction crews demolish the Clinton Campbell House on Sept. 15, 2017 in Phoenix, Ariz. The structure was the focus of much debate between community members and the property owners. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

Demolition crews began tearing down the Clinton Campbell House in South Roosevelt after a nearly two-year legal process to decide the building’s fate.

The 122-year-old building, which resided at 357 North Forth Avenue in downtown Phoenix, was purchased in 2015 by Glasir Capital Partners, which sought to demolish the structure after evaluating the property.

The company filed a demolition permit for the property earlier this summer, and the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission upheld the decision in June, despite appeals from the community.

“We’ve been following this,” said Kimberly Kasper, who lives just down the street from the Clinton Campbell House. “We knew it was coming at some point, but didn’t know it was coming today.”

Community members and advocates urged the company to preserve the house, but Glasir Capital Partners argued doing so “completely defies economic sense or viability.” For its part, the Commission identified a level of damage present in the building, including structural faults and fire damage.

Andie Abkarian is president of the Roosevelt Action Association (RAA), a neighborhood organization that says it aims “to promote understanding of and appreciation for Phoenix’s historic past.”

Both she and Kasper say they didn’t receive any form of notice from the property owner that demolition would begin Friday.

“Perhaps they didn’t want any notice because the demolition was contentious and it would bring more negative publicity,” Abkarian said.

A demolition worker stands outside the Clinton Campbell House during demolition on Sept. 15, 2017 in Phoenix, Ariz. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

When the property across the street, 338 North Forth Avenue, was demolished, Abkarian said RAA noticed signs of the impending demolition and got permission from the property owner to salvage doors, windows and more. That didn’t happen this time around, she said.

Earlier this summer, Downtown Devil reported that Jennifer Boucek, a community member who attempted to appeal the demolition, asked the Historic Preservation Commission to condition any approval so experts could be sent into the house to document and salvage materials in order to preserve the history of the home.

RELATED: Commission upholds demolition approval for Clinton Campbell House

Jim Stockwell, director of acquisitions at Glasir Capital Partners, expressed openness at engaging in such discussions at the time, but Abkarian said she doesn’t think any such documentation efforts took place.

“We were all under the impression that…there was some willingness to work with the community. They said that we’d have a warning to document and take salvage,” she said.

Glasir Capital Partners and their legal counsel were unavailable for comment.
Michelle Dodds of the Historical Preservation Commission was unaware of any specific agreement between the property owners and RAA.

She acknowledged unless specific stipulations were arranged, it’s likely Glasir Capital Partners was not under obligation to notify the public of specific demolition dates.

Other community members expressed hesitation at the idea certain information wasn’t shared with the general public beforehand.

“I’m hearing multiple reports about what was shared and what wasn’t,” said Catrina Kahler, co-owner of The Coe House, an art gallery next door to the Clinton Campbell House.

Abkarian said she doesn’t think the Historic Preservation Commission is to blame for the sudden demolition, and said she understands why the property owner didn’t notify the community of a specific demolition date.

“If I put myself in that position, and I had the goals that they have, and was dealing with the situation — I understand it,” she said. “But I don’t think they’re right and I don’t agree with that philosophy.”

Looking forward, Kasper says she doesn’t think much will happen once the demolition is complete.

“It’s probably going to remain an empty lot for years and years and years to come,” she said. “And unfortunately, once it’s gone, (people) forget. I don’t think there’ll be much outrage.”

Contact the reporter at Nicholas.Serpa@asu.edu.