Owners of Van Buren to appeal terms of preservation grant

Phoenix City Council is set to vote Wednesday, November 15, on a request to change grant terms for the Van Buren. (John Spevacek/DD)

The Phoenix City Council is set to vote next Wednesday, November 15 on a request to change grant terms for one of downtown’s newly restored historic buildings, the Van Buren.

At the beginning of the restoration negotiations, the city of Phoenix agreed to give the building owners, Pat Cantelme and James Kuykendall, $250,000 in funding in exchange for a 30-year historic preservation contract.

Originally, this meant if the city’s guidelines for historic buildings were broken anytime during their 30-year contract, Cantelme and Kuykendall would have to pay the city back the grant in full.

If the new request is approved, the time limit for the full grant payback would be reduced from 30 to 15 years.

This means if there is a breach of building contract after 15 years, Cantelme and Kuykendall would only have to pay the city back $125,000, which is half of the grant.

Sherry Rampy, the building’s real estate broker, said they made the decision because the Van Buren’s current tenants, Charlie Levy and Tucker Woodbury, only have a 15-year lease on the building.

“This was a seven million dollar project,” Rampy said. “After 15 years if they (Levy and Woodbury) don’t renew the lease, they don’t want to pay back the full amount.”

Phoenix is able to make a monthly profit off of the Van Buren’s sales tax and revenue because of the building’s historic status. Rampy said the city has already made back about a third of the grant total from that monthly profit.

“It’s a huge success for the city because they’ve made back plenty of money it’s more than paying for itself,” Rampy said.

Along with a steady flow of revenue from the Van Buren’s weekly concerts, the city of Phoenix was also able to save a piece of its history.

The building, which is located on 4th Ave. and Van Buren St., was once the home of the Phoenix Motor Company, and had been vacant until the four men restored it into a popular concert venue last year.

“They completely restored the building, it even has its original windows,” said Kevin Weigh, a member of the city’s historic preservation staff. “The only thing they didn’t touch was the stucco, because they didn’t want to damage the original brick.”

Cantelme said once they are able to collect the grant money, they plan on putting it directly back into further improving the building. They are working on a plan that would restore the remaining 4,000 square feet of the 25,000 square foot building.

“We plan on spending $160,000 more on improvements to the building, which it may be Charlie we’re talking to him,” Cantelme said.

Although there are no official plans for the new restorations, Cantelme said they will be staying true to the building’s 1930’s heritage.

“It’s a cool building we’re very proud of it,” Cantelme said. “We worked very hard to live up to the historical preservation standards.”

Contact the reporter at Ashley.Musil@asu.edu.