The Link: Phoenix’s new living room

by Arlinda Shtuni

These days people are flocking to Phoenix, a gravitational center of urban activity and the fastest growing city in America. Teeming with entrepreneurial energy and economic development, it is expanding both outward and upward. Students and professionals alike, from those starting out to others looking for new opportunities, are drawn to the amenities-rich city life—the convenient transportation options, the variety of eateries and entertainment spots, the cultural diversity and the sense of community.

At Shepley Bulfinch, we are shaping the urban flow of the burgeoning downtown area. The Link, a residential project we recently completed, rises at 3rd Street and Pierce, at the seam between the Roosevelt Row Arts District and the downtown business center. Facing the striking northern mountain ranges in the horizon, the building is an iconic presence in the city’s skyline.

I spoke with Andrea Rose, a young designer at our firm, who finds herself in a unique position. As an architect, she shadowed the design of the project; as a resident at The Link, she experiences the life there firsthand.

What drew you to living in the downtown area?

I have lived here for four years, and downtown Phoenix is growing in front of my eyes. Historically, the city has been vast and sprawling, yet lately it is growing more concentrated and vertical. It is special to be a part of it–most venues weren’t here when I first arrived, except for a few coffee shops and a restaurant or two. Now I’m surrounded by a buzzing city life. From boutiques and restaurants to breweries and art galleries–everything is here. The game changer is Fry’s, the first downtown grocery store, which opened recently. It’s within walking distance and I often see my neighbors there.

What is special about living at The Link?

I enjoy meeting new people and having a feeling of community. Most of my neighbors are transplants from other big cities—Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York–who moved to Phoenix because life is more affordable here.

The Link hosts lots of community events and mixers to encourage us to get to know each other. From wine and cheese nights to food tastings and complementary yoga classes from local studios–there is a focus on bringing in small local businesses and connecting them with us. I have also noticed that many people work remotely from The Link’s amenity spaces and appreciate co-working in a public area rather than a private home office.

How has being a resident at The Link impacted you?

I live in one of the studio units and at first, I panicked at how small the space felt, but downsizing changed my perception of material things. It made me realize how little I needed. I find myself shopping and buying less than I used to and I have become intentional about what I keep. However, I was adamant about keeping a dresser I’ve had since I was teenager. I also had to find space for all my plants. They are all thriving because the large floor-to-ceiling window lets in plenty of daylight. It feels like I’m living in my own greenhouse.

The building is sited so that all the units face north and south, which is the ideal orientation for a desert environment, to avoid the harsh east and west sun. And the views are unbeatable. The south side of my apartment has a gorgeous view of both South Mountain and downtown Phoenix. The views on the north side look up Central Avenue and towards Camelback Mountain.

Since my space is compact, when I entertain, I use the community amenity spaces. The rooftop lounge has an outdoor pool and a gaming area, with plenty of comfortable seating, a high-end coffee machine and a TV for viewing parties. My friends generally like hanging out up there.

How has living at The Link reoriented you in the city?

My favorite part of living in the middle of downtown is the convenience–I can walk almost anywhere. Walking is my most common mode of transportation on the weekends to meet up with friends or grabbing dinner at Fez and Pomo and a drink at the Arizona Wilderness. The reality of living in the desert kicks in around April–the sun and heat are relentless, so I tend to use my bike then because you can catch a breeze, or bring an ice pack to keep me cool as I walk–all the Arizona tricks!

As a young architect, I appreciate how our design counters the desert environment. The large concrete solar canopy that hangs over the entryway and along the sidewalk not only protects you from the direct sun, but it is also a canvas for local street art.

What design insights are you drawing from living there?

My unique experience of being a resident at The Link while working at Shepley Bulfinch has been invaluable. I see it as living in a test kitchen, or like being on a site visit every day. I can even look out my window and see the Phase 2 project under construction. I am getting exposure to different types of construction, unique ways of utilizing a site, as well as understanding timing and sequencing of design. I learn best through direct experience. By living at The Link, I interact with the space, then come to work, ask questions and apply what I learn to future projects.