City Council votes to abandon Barrister alley

Phoenix City Council voted to abandon Barrister alley despite community opposition. (Yasmine Kenney/DD)

Phoenix City Council voted to abandon the alley next to the historic Barrister Building at its weekly meeting Wednesday.

The Jefferson Place Project located at the intersection of Central Avenue and Jefferson Street was involved in two agenda items: requesting abandonment of the 200 foot alley and appealing the request to abandon the Public Usage Effectiveness area (PUE) located behind the Barrister building.

Developer of Jefferson Place Project, Geoff Beers, had his attorney Nicholas Wood speak on both matters.

For the first issue regarding the alley abandonment, Wood argued the space is needed for development. He requested it be privatized because it is the only way to gain access into Jefferson Place.

“This is our front door, our back door,” Wood said. “The only way in and out is through this alley, we are surrounded on two sides by the light rail, and this is our main way in and out.”

(Courtesy of the City of Phoenix)

The Jefferson Place Project will be a 32-story residential building in conjunction with the Barrister Building that offers dining and retail on the first floor.

This request was appealed by the Urban Phoenix Project. Director and President Sean Sweat opposed this motion because three of the city of Phoenix Alley Abandonment Criteria were not met when it was approved by the Abandonment Hearing Officer.

Sweat argued the integrity of the criteria is not upheld if Jefferson Place is not held to the same standards as neighboring urban projects.

“Beyond this particular project, we also have concerns if the abandonment is allowed to go forward,” Sweat said. “It will set a precedent throughout the rest of Downtown that the criterias don’t matter.”

Mayor of Phoenix Greg Stanton said circumstances were different because the alley is not fully functioning.

In a unanimous decision, the board voted to abandon the alley in favor of Jefferson Place Project.

On the last agenda item, business owner, John Garretson requested for the abandonment of the PUE located in the alley behind the Barrister building. Garretson owns the lot located on Jefferson and First streets, and requested to relocate the PUE in order to open discussions for future development on his property.

PUE is the underground system in which utility lines can be set up for the purpose of giving power to different buildings. Garretson would like to relocate it so that he is able to use more of the property he owns.

Garretson was represented by attorney Shaine T. Alleman.

“If we don’t approve the PUE now it just allows the PUE open for any utility, and right now we have the ability to focus just on the two utilities that are there and this is the best opportunity to do that,” Allman said.

Wood spoke on behalf of the Jefferson Place Project. He said from a developer’s perspective it will take excess time and money to relocate the PUE, and Garretson’s argument is based on speculation.

Nowakowski echoed Wood’s complaints.

“There’s not a submitted plan to the city of Phoenix for this parchment (Garretson),” Nowakowski said. “It’s hard for the City Council to make a decision on something that we don’t know, or something that might be there.”

The council made a unanimous decision to deny the request for abandonment of the PUE and adjourned the meeting.

Garretson voiced his reaction to the council’s decision.

“The reason they (developer) wanted to keep a PUE active across my property is for leverage,” Garretson said. “They want to keep my site threatened with less than optimal development.”

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