Preservationists criticize Suns owners' downtown plans


by Jared Dillingham

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

Posted on October 9, 2012 at 10:48 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 10 at 11:37 AM

PHOENIX -- The owners of the Phoenix Suns are facing opposition to their plans to demolish a couple of old hotels they have owned for several years.

Team owner Robert Sarver reportedly wants to tear down the St. James and Madison hotels, located a block from US Airways Center, to create a new valet parking lot.

The hotels have stood boarded up and vacant for years, but preservationists are protesting plans to level the buildings, which were built in 1909 and 1929.  

"In Phoenix a lot of buildings have been torn down," said preservation blogger Connor Descheemaker. "You walk around downtown and there's a lot of parking lots. It makes it all that much more important to save the old buildings we have left."

The hotels are not on the historic registry, so the city cannot step in to save them.

"The property owners have a demo permit and can move forward with their plans at any time," said Michelle Dodds in the city's Preservation Office. "But it would be wonderful to preserve the buildings."

Michael Levine is a Phoenix developer and entrepreneur who has rehabbed several old warehouses and factories into new, hip offices, shops, restaurants and galleries.

"I'm fighting tooth and nail for them," Levine told 3TV. "Each guy who says, 'Oh, that's just an ugly old building,' needs to be re-educated."

Levine has proposed a compromise in which the front half of the buildings would remain standing and be redeveloped, and the backs would be leveled to make room for the Suns' valet lot.

Suns officials are not commenting publicly on their demolition plans or the proposed compromise.

"No one's even tried to give these buildings a new use and it just takes some creativity," Descheemaker said. "They could become office space or hotel space."

"Once you peel back layers and show how amazing, cool and hip they are, they could be anything," Levine added.

Descheemaker's blog can be found at

More information on Levine's rehab projects in Phoenix can be found at his website,