Demo crews level historic hotel owned by Phoenix Suns

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Demolition crews leveled a 103-year-old hotel in downtown Phoenix, despite pleas from preservationists.

The owners of the Phoenix Suns bought the abandoned, boarded-up Madison and St. James Hotels several years ago.  They reportedly plan to turn the site into a valet parking lot.

As part of a city-brokered compromise, the Suns owners agreed to let the facade and lobby of the St. James remain standing.   

The Madison was completely demolished Wednesday, and much of the St. James building will come down soon.

"It's a huge missed opportunity," Courtney Klein Johnson told 3TV.

"It was seeing something dying. Something that meant something decades ago, and could mean something again if new ideas were breathed into this incredible space."

Johnson and others created Seed Spot, which brings new businesses and entrepreneurs into rehabbed spaces in downtown Phoenix.

"If you look at trends and why people come to a city center, it's because of density," Johnson said. "Not vacant land or parking lots."   

"We're dealing with people who are not evil, but are not good," preservationist and San Carlos Hotel owner Robert Melikian said after the Madison's demolition.

"They're short-sighted and don't want to take the time and effort to incorporate historic buildings into their developments," said Melikian.

Melikian is concerned now about the fate of other historic buildings, like the Steinegger Lodge, built in 1889. It's the city's second-oldest building, and located down the block from his San Carlos Hotel.

The two-story Steinegger, also boarded-up, will be sold with the art-deco 15 East Monroe building.

"I'm hoping some far-sighted owner will consider saving it," Melikian said.   

Johnson hopes the uproar over the Madison's demise will encourage more to join their fight for preservation.

"There's a fervor for entrepreneurs to revitalize these buildings. There's a new energy to do it," she said.