Thursday, December 28, 2006

Readers pick the Grand Canyon as the world's "8th Wonder"

What new can possibly be said about a place as old as time? After all, Arizona's Grand Canyon has been the object of hundreds of books, thousands of photos and millions of awe-inspired gasps. Historical accounts report visitors dropping to their knees in wonder upon eyeing the monolithic chasm. It is at once an icon, a metaphor and a cliche, capable of warping perspectives and sharpening imagination. Witness its selection as the eighth New Wonder of the World by voters in a USA TODAY/Good Morning America poll, edging out, in order, the Panama Canal; the Great Wall of China; Machu Picchu, Peru; the Saturn V rocket; the Taj Mahal, India; Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe; and Venice, Italy. A panel of experts earlier this month named seven new global wonders.

Pinal County looks into preserving open space

[Source: Carl Holcombe, Arizona Republic] - - Developers, preservationists and local government officials are looking at ways to preserve open space as Pinal County continues to build on farms and deserts. Speaking at a recent Pinal Partnership meeting, experts said open space and trails planning and guidelines are needed to improve the quality of life and developments in Pinal County. "Open space is part of a bigger picture," panelist Andy Laurenzi, the Sonoran Institute's land and water policy program director, told a group of developers, home builders and municipal and county government leaders.

It's important to not only develop sports and grassy neighborhood parks, but to preserve desert areas, and to link those areas with state and federal parks in the county through pedestrian and bicycle-friendly trails, Laurenzi said. Developments featuring denser housing could allow for more open space, he said. Power Ranch at Gilbert, developed by Sunbelt Holdings, was cited as a successful mix of open space, parks, schools and a trails network. Kent Taylor, a senior county planner for parks, open space and trails, said the county will likely have a master plan for trails ready this spring.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Leanne Matzenger.]

Wright plan for funding taking shape

[Source: Kate Nolan, Arizona Republic] -- New fund-raising plans for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation are beginning to take shape, according to foundation chief executive Phil Allsopp. The foundation has been studying a proposed 10-year, $250 million capital campaign since early 2005 and has concluded that fund-raising efforts will be conducted as a series of campaigns for specific targets. "We're in the process of getting a much better handle on where we should be focusing our first capital campaign," Allsopp said. Restoring buildings at Taliesin West, the Scottsdale architecture center Wright founded in 1937, will be a key objective, he said, in addition to building a new structure to conserve a valuable Wright archive and eventually creating a design center. "Part of our fund-raising will be not only around present projects, but also around increasing capacity to carry out our mission," Allsopp said. [Photo source: Leanne Matzenger.]

Tempe's historic-district debate gets referee

[Source: Katie Nelson, Arizona Republic] -- An outpouring of e-mails, letters, phone calls and office visits have been directed at Mark Vinson this fall and winter. Why? Vinson is refereeing an ongoing battle over whether to declare portions of the Maple-Ash neighborhood in downtown Tempe a "historic district." Normally Tempe's historical preservation officer would handle designation duties. But that person lives in the neighborhood. So as Tempe's city architect, Vinson, 52, got the job. Vinson was listed at the top of his field this year by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and has worked for the city for more than 20 years. He talked to The Republic about the dispute he described as one of the most volatile he's seen.

Why has this designation created such an uproar? There was little opposition to declaring three other Tempe neighborhoods historic.

The real root of it all is the underlying zoning. We have other historic districts, but they are all zoned for single-family districts. This is the one neighborhood that is different. Even though it has the character of a single-family neighborhood, it's all multifamily zoning. So you have folks who bought (property) for the single-family character, even though they might take advantage of the zoning by having rental units in the back (of their homes). Then you have people who want to take advantage of the multifamily zoning and make a profit that way.

Describe the supporters.

The supporters of designation, they believe the Maple-Ash neighborhood, it has a certain character that is beneficial as a community asset. . . . They realize there will be change, but by historic designation that the change will be guided as to how it will affect the character of the rest of the neighborhood.

And the opponents of the designation?

It would be easy for some to paint them with a broad brush and say they don't care about those issues. But I don't think that's true. Rather, their primary concern is the potential for eventual redevelopment. Some folks are opposed to the idea of any additional regulations and what they perceive as someone else having a say on what they do with their property. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Schnepf Farms named an "Arizona Treasure" by Gov. Napolitano

[Source: Dianna M. Náñez, Arizona Republic] -- When Mark and Carrie Schnepf learned that Gov. Janet Napolitano was designating Schnepf Farms an Arizona Treasure, they felt it was a humbling reward for keeping their family farm afloat for 65 years. "With so many farms going away . . . it's such an honor," Carrie Schnepf said. "You can't ask for a better way to commemorate." Napolitano has recognized 53 Arizona Treasures as points of pride or interest, and recommends them, through the Arizona Office of Tourism, as prime vacation destinations. Schnepf Farms was the first Southeast Valley locale to be named an Arizona Treasure.

The acknowledgment comes as no surprise to the many families who have enjoyed the farm's pumpkin patches and peach festivals. Jim and Wendy Manley of Phoenix have attended the Pumpkin and Chili Party every year since it began in 1996. "The first year we came out there my wife was pregnant with our first son," Jim Manley said. "They weren't expecting that many people. My wife put on an apron and helped them serve chili." Carrie and Mark Schnepf are fifth-generation Arizonans and said their family has seen the state grow with modernization. "It really means a lot to us that from all the way up to the Governor's Office they are proud of us," Mark Schnepf said. "That they want us to stay a farm." [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix talks of train station rebirth

[Source: Angela Cara Pancrazio, Arizona Republic] -- For more than two decades, the city has eyed the potential of Phoenix's Union Station. With all of its space and its Mission Revival architecture, the 1923 rail-passenger center could be a city centerpiece filled with shops, restaurants and artists, officials have proposed. That vision never came to fruition. The last train carrying passengers pulled out of the station in the mid-1990s. In recent years, the station has been inaccessible to the public. There's a security fence ringing the building because Sprint owns it and stores equipment in it.

But lately, with the renaissance of downtown Phoenix, Sprint and the city's Historic Preservation Office are talking about what is the best use for the building. "Now there's momentum for something to happen," said Barbara Stocklin, the city's historic preservation officer. From the beginning, Phoenix's Union Station was designed to be a high-profile building in the city's core, Stocklin said. "Downtown is at a crossroads and Sprint is at a crossroads - that's always good," Stocklin said. "If Sprint's interested in doing something else, it's good timing."

Sitting on Harrison Street at Fourth Avenue, the station borders the southwestern fringe of downtown's warehouse district. Over the past several years, the district has slowly reinvented itself with a handful of galleries, restaurants and lofts. "You could do just about anything with the station," Stocklin said. It could be restored for its original use, she said, as a commuter rail station and a transportation hub with buses and taxis. Four hundred and seventy-five feet long and 110 feet at its widest, the station has the potential to become a destination place, said Brian Kearney of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, and could easily be a home for restaurants, a museum, galleries and retail. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Chandler railroad museum takes shape

[Source: Ty Young, Arizona Republic] -- Just east of Arizona Avenue, between Germann and Queen Creek roads, a collection of old trains sits all by itself, surrounded by alfalfa fields. The site doesn't look like much now, but it's part of the Tumbleweed Park master plan - the new and growing home of the Arizona Railway Museum. The trains rolled out of their old home at Armstrong Park in downtown Chandler last year.

Although the land surrounding the 32 trains will stay vacant for years, there is quite a bit of work being done, said Bart Barton, vice president of operations for the museum. "We have a good amount of volunteers who help out with tours and rehabilitation of the trains," he said. "Things are progressing." The vintage cars, some more than 100 years old, won't have an adjoining building until 2008. But work is nearly complete on the track necessary for displaying the cars. In 2007, the museum should see its access on Ryan Road east of Arizona Avenue, which is now dirt, paved. Improvements also are planned for the parking lot. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Queen Creek's Rittenhouse School gets face lift

[Source: Srianthi Perera, Arizona Republic] -- The Rittenhouse School building has been a focal point of the Queen Creek community since 1925, first as a school and then as a place to house the area's history. Now, its weather-beaten exterior, with its peeling paint and crumbling brick, is receiving some attention. Thanks to a significant donation from community member Newell Barney, exterior renovation work has commenced at the 81-year-old building that now houses the San Tan Historical Museum.

When the project is completed, the building will be restored to its red brick schoolhouse appearance. In the just-completed first phase, lead-based paint was removed in a process that took several weeks, said Dave Salge, president of the San Tan Historical Society, which runs the museum. While paying attention to environmental concerns and following guidelines established by the National Register of Historic Places, Mesa-based Aqua Blasters used a combination of chemicals and soda blasting to remove the paint.

The last coating of paint to be removed was mixed with cement and wouldn't come off with normal strippers, the company's Joe Lee said. "It was a major challenge to remove it, and we had to find an obscure product for paint removal," Lee said. It was an "interesting learning experience" for the professional pressure washing company tackling its first historical building, he said. Interesting too were the engravings - various names and years - that Lee and his crew came across while doing the work. "It got me thinking about the whole history of the school," Lee said. Aqua Blasters donated 10percent of the cost back to the museum.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Leanne Matzenger.]

New way to enjoy museums and attractions of Greater Phoenix

Now there’s a whole new way to enjoy the museums and attractions of the Greater Phoenix regions: The ShowUp NOW Pass. Available on-line, the pass offers visitors the ability to buy a package of museum admissions–including a one-, two-, or three-day pass providing unlimited access to many of the region’s museums and cultural attractions, as well as choices based on individual interests, such as: Uniquely AZ, Kids & Family, or any combination the user wishes. Whichever the user chooses, the pass is printed at home and comes with a downloadable map highlighting the location of the participating museums and attractions.

Specific pricing of the ShowUp NOW Pass will vary, depending on the season and the participation of museums and attractions. A One-Day Pass unlimited visitation pass sells for $24 per adult, $14 per child. Soon, the pass will be available for purchase locally from the concierges at many hotels, resorts, and visitor centers. The ShowUp Now Pass is a collaborative enterprise among, their member organizations, the Arizona Office of Tourism, and the destination marketing organizations of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Glendale, Chandler, and Fountain Hills.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Litchfield train depot stirs renovation interest

[Source: Lynh Bui, Arizona Republic] -- The Old Litchfield Train Depot is on track for salvation. After learning the structure was in danger of demolition, several people have started looking for ways to save the piece of southwest Valley history. Railroad enthusiasts, non-profit organizations, private investors and Avondale officials are all working on plans that could transport and renovate the building. Built in the 1920s and originally owned by Southern Pacific Lines, the depot greeted many of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.'s top executives during their visits. Tim Vitta owns the depot and the land in Goodyear where it sits. He has received several calls from people who want to save the depot. "It would be best for it to stay local where it makes more historical sense," Vitta said. He plans to donate the structure to a non-profit agency but hasn't decided who gets the building.

Whoever takes the depot would have to pay for moving and renovating the building, not a cheap endeavor. When Goodyear considered buying the structure in 2003, it estimated that it would cost $45,000 to move it and an additional $550,000 to $800,000 to renovate it. Because of the cost and staff time, along with other complications, the city quit pursuing the depot. Goodyear Communications Director Paula Ilardo said the city doesn't have plans to get involved again, but could, depending on direction from the City Council. Meanwhile, the High Desert Heritage Museum has expressed interest in the depot for a museum that would feature Arizona's history of mining, railroading and ranching. The new non-profit agency is working to build a museum and park in Cordes Junction. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Questions on Marana Hohokam site stall Continental Ranch development plan

[Source: Aaron Mackey, Arizona Daily Star] -- Plans to build condominiums near Continental Ranch are stalled while Marana officials and the project's developers wrangle over what to do with ancient Hohokam burial sites discovered on the property. Town officials and developers agree that the location contains artifacts that need to be protected before the condos can be built. The developers say they've already done enough work to remove artifacts and human remains from the property, but town officials disagree. Town archaeologist Su Benaron said the firm hired to conduct an initial survey of the area over the summer didn't do an adequate job of searching for burial sites, according to town letters and e-mails. The company also failed to dig deep enough to find all archaeological features, Benaron said.

An independent archaeological firm hired by the town of Marana later confirmed Benaron's findings. But the archaeological firm originally hired by the developers counters that it did all the digging required by state law and that the town is being unreasonable. The town won't approve construction of the project until all the burial sites have been removed and another survey has been conducted. As a compromise, Town Attorney Frank Cassidy proposed that the developer pay the town $235,000 for another archaeology firm to complete the work deemed necessary by the town. But the settlement was voted down 4-3 last week by the Marana Town Council, leaving both sides back at the same impasse. Richard M. Rollman, a Tucson attorney who represents the developers, wouldn't comment on what his clients plan to do next but said they want to resolve the matter quickly. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]