For(u)m Gathers To Celebrate the Many Paths to Preservation

Photo by Connor Descheemaker

Photo by Connor Descheemaker

History holds our cultural memory, our identity, and the opportunity for learning. It goes beyond museums and history books, and into our lived daily experience as we determine how to make our built environment more livable each day.

For its 16th year, the Arizona Historic Preservation Conference returns, this time nesting at the iconic Hotel Valley Ho, a midcentury modern gem in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. Gathering professionals in archaeology, architecture, urban planning, education, consulting, contracting, real estate development, landscape architecture, cultural resource management, and much more, conference showcases the many intersections of historic preservation in producing a culturally-vibrant, economically secure, and equitable state of Arizona.

In the two years since its launch, the For(u)m program of Local First has sought a similar intersection, celebrating major historic sites and their thoughtful reuse, but also drawing attention to lesser-known sites.

Context is essential to urban form, and this means looking to our Main Streets across the state, strip plazas, and other parts of our state’s unique architectural heritage, no matter how ordinary it may appear at first glance. With lower capital costs, and a greater opportunity for impact, we see small-scale adaptive reuse as a primary vehicle for truly-local urban development.

For(u)m members Vintage Partners and Venue Projects will headline a talk about their latest adaptive reuse project, turning two midcentury office buildings into a high-end hotel and hospitality venue on Camelback Road. And Eddie Jones of Jones Studio will keynote discussing how to build lasting desert architecture.

Closer to home, For(u)m director Connor Descheemaker will moderate a panel on “Reuse and Adaptation As a Catalyst for Local Development.” Joining the panel will be four professionals in development, architecture, and marketing and branding to discuss why they focus on reuse, rather than new construction, in their practice.

Photo by Connor Descheemaker

Photo by Connor Descheemaker

Chuckie Duff specializes in small-scale commercial and residential projects, generally from midcentury, hand-selecting local operators to bring them to life, including such triumphs as Cobra Arcade Bar, Palabra, and Gallo Blanco through his company EQ Properties.

Cindy Louie specializes in marketing and branding, but with an architect’s eye and training. With Fox Restaurant Concepts, she reimagined former office buildings and strip malls into celebrated gathering places, and now she independently supports activations like Phoenix Night Market and the vibrant Snoh Ice Shavery, all in previously unassuming locales.

Maximiliano Palacio built an international real estate career before turning to Phoenix for his apartment development. But rather than building new and luxury, like so many cashing in across the Valley, he has focused his efforts on rehabilitating mid-market, single-meter apartments, culminating in the gorgeous Urban 188 project just steps from light rail on Camelback Rd and 17th Avenue.

Lastly, Patrick Hallman serves as one-half of the architecture firm of choice for the City of Phoenix’s Storefront Improvement Program, where small-business owners share costs with the City to improve their facades, often working in adaptive reuse. Similarly, Hallman assisted in the rehab of Local First’s own offices—transforming the 100-year-old Wurth House from a glorified bathroom (don’t ask…or maybe do!), into our organization’s first dedicated office space.

Taken together, these presenters are not producing marquee projects that receive big tax subsidies. Rather, they are cultivating sense of place, seeing potential in small, oft-forgotten parcels across the Valley, putting in a little elbow grease, and building gathering places.

The Arizona Historic Preservation Conference is scheduled for June 6-8 at the Hotel Valley Ho in Old Town Scottsdale, and Local First Arizona is a proud co-sponsor. Full details and conference registration here.