Monday, September 03, 2007

Tempe high-rise could go above Monti’s on Mill Avenue

[Source: Garin Groff, Tribune] -- Plans to redevelop the historic Monti’s La Casa Vieja call for building a 24-story tower directly above the downtown Tempe landmark. The restaurant is one of the state’s most treasured landmarks - and a place history buffs have feared could be bulldozed to make way for a high-rise building. Restaurant owner Michael Monti said constructing a building on top of the restaurant is the only way to preserve the beloved adobe building. Monti has struggled to make money in recent years as his loyal customer base ages and is turned off by downtown’s urban transformation. The high-rise proposal would let Monti keep the restaurant while allowing redevelopment of a property at the gateway to downtown.

“I view this project as saving that building by making that corner economically viable,” he said. Monti recently inked a deal to sell the La Casa Vieja building and about 2.5 acres of land to Scottsdale-based 3W Companies. The company’s plans call for the new building above Monti’s and a 26-story building to the west, with a total of more than 1 million square feet of available space. They’d each stand about 300 feet tall. The high-rise concept got a less-than-welcome reception from the state’s historic preservation officer, James Garrison. While historic building advocates generally acknowledge economic forces demand additions and changes, historic buildings are supposed to remain a dominant feature in a development, he said. “It’s hard to imagine that this would be compatible with the historic property,” Garrison said. The building is a rare - and perhaps the best - example of an adobe building from that era, Garrison said. He considers it the Valley’s most important historic structure.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Monti's.]