Monday, April 30, 2007

Phoenix Tries to Prevent Loss of Another Modern Bank

[Source: Margaret Foster] -- Built in 1964 as the First Federal Savings and Loan bank, the Washburn Pianos building was demolished on Mar. 21, two years after 15-year tenant Washburn Pianos moved out. Its owner, Houston-based SC Management, razed the concrete building, designed by Arizona architect Ed Varney, to make way for a bank and cell-phone store. "Everyone's very sad," says Jim McPherson, a member of the Arizona Preservation Foundation's board of directors. "It's the second mid-century modern down in two months." In Tempe, Arizona State University demolished another former bank, a gold-domed Valley National Bank designed by the Phoenix-based firm of Weaver and Drover, in February.

Now another Valley National Bank is on the chopping block (pictured). Designed by Frank Henry, the bank courtyard's concrete "mushrooms" will disappear to make way for Minneapolis-based Opus Corporation's "luxury villas." "Sometimes you have to have a loss to get people motivated and interested and understand what they've lost and appreciate that genre of architecture," says Barbara Stocklin, city historic preservation officer. "Now everyone's all activated to save [the Valley National Bank]. I think that's partially because of the Wasburn Pianos loss." Next month, the city will hold a public hearing on Opus' application to re-zone the Valley National Bank site. In the meantime, Stocklin says, preservationists are working to designate the building as a city landmark. "The re-zoning wouldn't lead to the demolition of the bank, but it would leave it more vulnerable," Stocklin says. [Photo source: Walt Lockley.]