Concerns raised about $535 million downtown Phoenix project to build state’s largest tower

Phoenix City Council will soon vote on the proposed Roosevelt District high-rise that some local residents oppose.
Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 5:13 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 28, 2023 at 6:46 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Dr. Joan Kelchner loves the charm and history of her Phoenix neighborhood, and she doesn’t want a massive development project to take that away.

The president of the Roosevelt Action Alliance disapproves of the latest plans to build the city’s largest tower in her community. “All of this put together is just a huge mish-mosh,” said Kelchner. “It’s just an 800 pound gorilla sitting in the middle of our neighborhood and it doesn’t fit.”

The Phoenix City Council has been asked to approve a project from Scottsdale-based developer Aspirant Development that would include two buildings. One of the buildings would be a 541-foot glass tower, 50 stories high, off 2nd Avenue and Van Buren Street in downtown Phoenix. The $535 million project would be the largest building in the state and calls for a luxury hotel, apartments, offices, retail stores and a ground-floor restaurant.

Nick Wood is the zoning attorney for the development. He said they’ve been working with neighbors and community partners for the past five years to ensure the project blends in and benefits the City of Phoenix.

Other high-rise structures would surround the development, including a nearby apartment complex that is 26 stories high. An Arizona State University dorm across the street is 20 stories tall.

“I’ve never seen a case where you are going to make everyone happy, but development and growth happens, but it has to happen responsibly,” said Wood. “I have a client who really has done a good job.”

But blending into the neighborhood won’t be a challenge for developers. The Goldwater Institute sent a letter to Phoenix City Councilmembers stating that the deal they have drawn up with the developer is illegal.

Jon Riches, Vice President of Litigation for the Goldwater Institute, says, “The City of Phoenix just can’t seem to comply with the law when it comes to subsidizing private entities. The Arizona Constitution says a pretty simple thing, if the public is going to spend taxpayer money, it’s got to be for a public purpose. And taxpayer’s got to receive a fair return for their investment, and here, neither of those requirements are met.”

The Phoenix City Council voted 8-1 on Wednesday in favor of the new tower. The Goldwater Institute is threatening to sue, challenging the city’s $7 million tax break for the developer.

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