Over the past two years, Uptown Phoenix has found itself transformed.
The Newton, the rapid expansion of Upward Projects, For the People/Kream Coffee, Sauce Pizzeria, and others have joined such longstanding local gems as Fairmount Pharmacy, Practical Art, Stinkweeds, St. Francis, Frances, Cowtown Skateboards, and Arizona Hi-Fi. But the best was yet to come, with the redevelopment of the area’s geographic anchor, Uptown Plaza.
After years of beige stucco and no connection to the surrounding historic neighborhoods, the area’s first commercial hub was due for a reimagining. Enter Vintage Partners.
Though with a history of suburban commercial development projects, Vintage has of late repositioned itself through key reuse projects, acquiring underused assets, and remodeling them while preserving elements of their historic character.
Vintage Partners partner Walter Crutchfield says of reuse, “The magic is in identifying what can be done. When adaptive reuse is done right, everyone benefits – the developer, the tenants, and community – because it’s not just about changing a buildings use, it’s about restoring community connections, while also looking into the future."
Their biggest project in this vein arrived in 2014 with the opportunity of adapting Uptown Plaza, the first and still most-prominent uptown shopping center. With the locally-owned AJ’s grocery store as a lasting anchor, Vintage transformed its context, relating it to the mid- and early-20th century neighborhoods whose character has been so embraced across the city.
“We were able to find amazing treasures inside of the Uptown Plaza center when we began stripping it back – a lot more exposed brick on the interior than we ever thought," said partner David Scholl of the deconstruction process. "All of the original canopy columns that held up the canopy were all buried inside the old stucco and we were able to salvage a lot which you see at the center today. The project really was half a construction project, half an archeological project and it was fun to continue to discover the historical character that is Uptown Plaza.”
Since the remodel, Uptown has seen the arrival of such locally-owned highlights as Muse Apparel, Local Nomad, R&R Surplus, Zookz, Manor Shoes, and Flower Child, re-rooting the Plaza to place, as it was at its construction in 1955.
Partner Bobby Williams described filling the plaza as starting with "...A great restaurant lineup [beginning] with Sam Fox’s Flower Child. We have seen this restaurant become the anchor to the center and we have since concentrated on getting a mix of local, regional, and national apparel, gift, and home furnishing uses – all who are now or will be soon benefitting by the traffic created by key restaurants.”
And to add to its already-exciting tenant mix, it was recently announced that local craft brewer Huss Brewing would be adding a new taproom and retail operation, creating another “third place” for the bustling neighborhood.
Now, the Plaza represents a true neighborhood anchor; steps away from light rail, this is now a true “20-minute neighborhood,” with groceries, a pharmacy, eyeglasses, clothing, coffee, drinks, restaurants, books, records, and more all within a brief walk, and nearly all locally-owned.
“We have taken great care in trying to create a tenant mix at Uptown Plaza that will make the community a better place. We had a strong base to build upon due to the visionary restaurant concepts created at the intersection by Craig DeMarco, Lauren Bailey [both of Upward Projects], and Aaron Chamberlain [St Francis]," said Williams. "It is our hope for Uptown Plaza to be complimentary to these amazing concepts and to be an asset the Uptown neighborhood is proud to call its own.”