Historic Preservation Commission gets back into gear

Charles Pugh house was built c. 1897. (Thomas Triolo/DD)

The Historic Preservation Commission settled into regular business Monday, working on funding existing grants and expanding historic preservation protections to houses.

After introductory items, first on the agenda was a request from Pat Cantelme, one of the owners of the Van Buren concert venue. Cantelme asked to renegotiate the terms of the $250,000 grant for renovations given to the building’s concert promoter tenants.

Cantelme argued that if the renters were to leave the building and no other renters could be found to use it as a concert venue, he and the building’s co-owner Jim Kuykendall may have to renovate the exterior of the building. The $250,000 grant from the City of Phoenix stipulates that the exterior of the building may not be changed for 30 years, or else the entire grant must be repaid.

Cantelme asked the Commission to change the term to 15 years, and for an agreement to repay the money pro rata after the 15 years are up.

Commissioner Bruce Cutting voiced concerns about the request. He said renegotiating the terms would set a precedent for other users of the city’s grant money, allowing them to break the terms of their agreements as well.

“(That would mean) we kind of gave you an interest-free loan of $175,000 for the first 15 years,” Cutting said.

Chairman Derek Horn said he would be in favor of granting the request. After a vote, the Commission approved it.

Next on the agenda was an expansion of the 30-day hold on demolition permits for historic buildings. There is currently a rule in place that any commercial building over 50 years old must have a 30-day period for the community to voice concerns about or try to stop a building’s demolition.

The new rule would expand the 30-day hold to include downtown’s historic residential single-family homes and duplexes as well. Under current rules, a residential building must be considered individually, allowing many older properties to be demolished without a holding period.

Historic Preservation Officer Michelle Dodds emphasized the new rule would not have a large impact, as it does not include the entire city.

“If it were citywide, it would drown us,” she said.

The Commission voted to approve the measure 5-1, with only Helena Ruter dissenting. Following the vote, the Commission approved two new subcommittees.

The first subcommittee discussed was the Financial Resources and Other Incentives Subcommittee. This committee’s job would be to decide how to fund historic preservation efforts by the city, as funds from the current decade-old bonds have nearly run dry. Commission member Dan Klocke, the executive director of Downtown Phoenix Inc., expressed strong support for the subcommittee.

“I’ve been bugging Michelle about this kind of stuff for a long time. I think the reality is historic preservation needs funds,” he said.

The other subcommittee’s purpose is to survey postwar properties for historic status. The details have not yet been finalized as to whether the survey will cover downtown Phoenix only or the entire city.

Contact the reporter at tjtriolo@asu.edu.