Development On Roosevelt Row Bittersweet For Small Businesses Closing Their Doors
As development surges in downtown Phoenix, bringing money and people to the area, there’s another side to the story.
Some small businesses in the area are being shuttered, as developers buy up property and build new housing and retail spaces.
Growhouse Community Garden and GROWop Boutique on Roosevelt Row is one of them. The urban community garden and shop closed its doors at the end of October after the building was purchased by developer Desert Viking.
The developers are planning a major project on the block between 5th and 6th streets, which will include restaurants, retail, art galleries and adaptive reuse of the 100-year-old bungalows on the street.
Kenny Barrett, one of the owners of the Growhouse, said when they opened the business in 2008, Roosevelt Row did not look like it does today, with new construction going up all over.
Back then, he said, the building was abandoned and the area was mostly urban blight. “It was very much a different community and it was not as vibrant and robust as it is today,” he said.
Barrett said the neighborhood has changed rapidly with an influx of development, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“For a lot of years we’ve had a lot of vacant land down here, which we refer to as the missing teeth of downtown, so it’s exciting to see all those spaces get filled up,” he said. “But, as it comes with development, it’s a careful balance and if you’re not careful, you run the risk of losing the things that existed and predated some of these newer developments.”
But Neils Kreipke, founder and president of Desert Viking, said his company has always been focused on adaptive reuse and historic preservation, and they’re hoping to salvage as much as they can of the original bungalows.
But, he said, they need to get these buildings, including the Growhouse building, up to code, and that means the current tenants have to leave while construction is going on.
“I think there are (sic) great opportunities for those that have been part of Roosevelt to come back and be a part of it again, and that’s what we certainly hope will happen,” he said. “But, is it painful for that 9 month, 12 month period while this is going on? Absolutely.”
He said, in the long term, he thinks it’s important to salvage these two city blocks, which are a key component to the city’s character.
But, with development comes higher prices. “The rent, unfortunately, has to go up,” he said, because they spent a lot of money on the project.
But, to Barrett, development needs to walk a fine line.
“Developing a vacant lot or redeveloping an empty building, we all can get behind that and are supportive of that,” he said. But, he thinks developers need to offer a comparable rent to current tenants when they come in and ask them to leave to allow for redevelopment, even if only temporarily.
If they don’t do that, “then, ultimately, we will lose those businesses,” he said. “And, therefore, we will then lose our character for this district.”
That character is what Kreipke is hoping to preserve by working to preserve some of the original bungalows and bringing in local businesses, while attracting more people to some of Roosevelt Row’s signature events, like First Friday Art Walks.
“A developer could easily have come in here, acquired all these properties, and put a high rise on the site,” he said. “And we don’t feel that that was right for the neighborhood, we don’t feel that it was in keeping with the character of the neighborhood, and all the fantastic things that are happening within that stretch of Roosevelt.”
Barrett said they welcome the development, that they want to create vibrancy and density in the area. “But, we also, we want to be careful not to crush, like, the beautiful, delicate things that we’ve created here that make this district so special,” he said.