Sunday, November 11, 2007

Temple of doom

[Source: Sarah Fenske, Phoenix New Times] -- In a city where everybody is nice, where conference tables in fancy law firms take the place of the proverbial smoke-filled room, Michael Levine is something else. He is not particularly nice. Nor is he a law firm kind of guy, or even a conference table kind of guy. ("Michael doesn't do well in meetings," one of his friends tells me.) He's abrasive and outspoken, and if you don't like it, he just might just lob an F-bomb at you in his New Yawk accent. So I practically fell off my chair last week when Levine told me that he'd hired a lawyer for his latest crusade. And not just any lawyer. The buzz around town is he's got somebody at Lewis and Roca, the bluest of blue-chip firms. In a case like the one I'm about to describe, you don't hire Lewis and Roca to sue. You hire them to finesse the inside game. Even Levine is a little sheepish about it. "Hey, I usually go in with my guns blazing and let the dust settle later," he tells me. "But now I have an attorney."

So here's the story: Levine is fighting to save an old Jewish temple in downtown Phoenix. Here's the catch: Though he's a developer and preservationist with plenty of holdings downtown, Levine doesn't actually own the building in question. The building's owner, the nonprofit Black Theatre Troupe, is in escrow with someone else — developers likely interested in building a high-rise on the site, at Portland Street just east of Third Street. And until the deal closes in three months, the theater troupe won't even tell Levine its buyer's name. No wonder Michael Levine has resorted to the trappings of respectability. This fight is not going to be easy.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Tony Blei, New Times.]