City looks to revamp Phoenix Central Station, explores potential of multi-use building

Published by Downtown Devil

By Alexis Macklin, On Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Central Station, located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, acts as a heart does — pumping people from place to place via buses and the light rail.

City officials are seeking approval to ask real estate developers for ideas to transform the station, which is located on Central Avenue and Van Buren Street. They hope to develop a multi-use building while still maintaining the station’s function as a transportation center for the community.

The city will request an open call to developers around the nation to pitch ideas on what to do with the space.

If a proposal is chosen, the developers will be able to lease or buy the property.

In an Oct. 8 meeting, the Phoenix City Council Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee approved the decision to issue the request for the changes to Central Station.

The request will go to the City Council on Nov. 6. If the council approves, the request for proposals will go to the public so developers will be able to pitch their ideas to the city.

The city is looking for a multi-purpose building to be built on the property, but the station must still keep the functions of a transit center. The city also wants to keep the buses and light rail operating from the location.

At a Citizens Transit Commission meeting on Oct. 3, Deputy Economic Development Director Scott Sumners said he is hoping for a residential development with commercial space at the ground level. He said he wants the ground floor to have multiple entrances to improve pedestrians’ experience while walking downtown.

“I don’t want to waste an opportunity on that property of having another inclusive building that (nonetheless) does not invite people on the sidewalk in,” Sumners said.

Ultimately, how the space will be used depends on what developers suggest, said Maria Hyatt, interim public transit director. She said the maintenance and security for the property would be provided by the developer.

“We felt that it is important to leave it open and not prescribe what that would look like so that you don’t hold back a developer,” she said. “The devil is going to be in the details. It is going to be exciting what we get back.”

The only requirement the city is looking for is to maintain the transit uses the station has, Hyatt said. She said the station is not only used for transportation but for its public amenities of customer service, lost and found, security and bathrooms.

The developers will have the option to either buy or lease the property from the city.

This will save taxpayers money and will let the city reinvest in its transportation system, said Jesus Sapien, deputy public transit director.

Economic Development Program Manager Eric Johnson said the reinvestment of the station would bring new jobs and increase the property values in the area.

“This is an excellent opportunity for us to do a transit-oriented development project,” Johnson said.

The city was approached about the property by a developer, which is why the city is asking to issue a request for proposals, Hyatt said. She said the name of the developer would not be released for fair competition.

If City Council approves the request for proposals, the city will advertise the request and they will let developers respond for 45 to 50 days. A proposal would be chosen in early 2014.

“Really, we just want to see something that adds to the urban fabric of downtown Phoenix,” Johnson said.

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