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Not your parents’ downtown Phoenix

by Joe Herzog, AIA and Alison F. Rainey, AIA

This isn’t your parents’ downtown Phoenix anymore. Until the 1950s, residential neighborhoods flanked the downtown core where citizens flocked for work, shopping, dining, civic and other services. However, by the end of the century downtown lacked activity outside the work hours of 9 to 5. Today, Phoenix is experiencing growth, particularly in dense multi-family architecture projects that are impacting the skyline and contributing to the active pedestrian oriented 24 -hour city. Shepley Bulfinch is honored to have a major part in the evolution of a vibrant downtown.

In the last four years, Shepley Bulfinch has broken ground on five major high-rises in downtown Phoenix that have created an entirely new residential district in the core of the city. Three of these projects include:

  • The Link, a 30-story residential tower that is the second tallest residential building in Arizona
  • 700 North 4th street, a 26-story high building neighboring to the east of The Link
  • 811 N. 3rd St, a 24 story multi-family mixed use project that recently broke ground

Currently under construction, the 811 N. 3rd St high-rise residential tower is the newest of Shepley’s Phoenix developments. It overlaps the southern edge of the Roosevelt Row Artists District and provides a connection to the central business district only blocks away. The infill development stitches together the urban fabric by activating vacant land and providing continuity along the pedestrian-level streetscape. Adding local boutique café and social art space between the adjacent existing businesses and buildings, the tower augments the already bustling and vibrant arts community.

The exterior of 811 N. 3rd St (l).The Link’s interior featuring local commissioned public art (r).
Combined with the completed Link and 700 North 4th Street towers, these three projects form one of the densest city blocks in Phoenix. While the towers were developed by two different clients, each project was considered as part of a district-oriented urban design strategy linking ground floor retail, shaded walkways, and considered views of and from each of those buildings and other existing buildings during the design process.

These projects incorporate sustainable design strategies like permeable paving, shading, highly insulative building envelopes and ample bicycle parking. The buildings also promote active lifestyles with state-of-the-art gyms, yoga rooms, community kitchens, dog-walking areas, swimming pools and activated retail on the ground floor. The three projects provide nearly 900 new homes on roughly 2 acres of land. With the high demand for housing in metropolitan Phoenix, the projects serve as a model for responsible urban development.

Just like the desert, Phoenix has pockets of activity, teeming with life and has pockets of wide-open spaces, seemingly vacant. Both are beautiful in their own ways and contribute to the overall experience and ecosystem; it’s critical now that we make appropriate and responsible decisions in development that make positive contributions to our culture, community, and urban and global environment.
Shepley Bulfinch is committed to working with clients to provide a convenient residential experience that contributes to downtown Phoenix’s infrastructure and culture. Our buildings positively impact the Phoenix pedestrian environment by creating base level boutique pedestrian experiences with high touch materials. For example, on the 811 N. 3rd St high rise, the exterior envelope design pulls the shell of the residential tower down to the base, integrating the parking as part of the residential tower. Additionally, inside 811 N. 3rd St and The Link, the properties support local businesses by incorporating local commissioned public art and free space for non-profits.

As we continue design work on four new towers to be completed in the next four years, Shepley Bulfinch is proud to be a significant contributor to the continued development of downtown Phoenix. After all, the design team behind this project is quite knowledgeable about perseverance and the impact of change. Design work for some of these current and future projects commenced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in our Phoenix-based team working remotely from programming through permitting. Taking this challenge in stride, our entire team adapted quickly and worked efficiently with city officials to ensure we developed a more connected future of downtown Phoenix.

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