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Hill Street Blues: Opportunity and opposition comes with new development

The crumbling shell of Hill Street School in Globe has new champions and if the process works out in their favor, the weedy eyesore with the broken windows at the southern entrance to downtown might soon become a senior affordable housing project, creating a fresh look for the entryway.

“If we don’t jump on this opportunity, I think it’ll stay vacant for another 20 years,” said Globe Mayor Al Gameros in an interview the week before a pivotal vote on whether City Council will choose to move forward with the project.

The proposal in question comes from Gorman & Company, a limited liability corporation founded in 1984, based in Wisconsin and operating in Arizona since 2008. The firm specializes in procuring funding and revitalizing and redeveloping properties in communities throughout the U.S.

According to a project overview presented at a Globe Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Jan. 19, the company has “built and rehabilitated over 9,000 units during its history,” and in Arizona has built 1,554 units, with 483 units under construction and 2,034 units in “pre-development” in the past 13 years.

The Hill Street School project would overhaul the building and construct an additional three-story structure on the property to create 64-units of low-income senior housing with green space on the west side of the property.

Gorman would secure funding, build and manage the property, but the entire project depends on Council’s decision to rezone it from business to residential and apply a “Planned Area Development Overlay Zoning District” to existing zoning. The biggest difficulty the project faces, however, is that there would be no on-site parking requirements for the busy intersection between Globe High School and Nurd Berger restaurant.

“I think what people have to understand is that you have to have the money to do this,” says Sally Schwenn, Arizona Market President for Gorman. “Because of the climate we’re in from the government right now, the funding’s available and there is a priority on rural housing redevelopment. You’ve got to have groups that know how to apply and are really successful in winning those funds. That’s how you get projects like this done.”

Schwenn cited the estimated $500,000 it would cost to replace all the windows with a historically accurate design using modern materials. She says she is excited about the prospect of building in Globe because her mother and uncle were raised in Miami.

Should the project clear its hurdle with Council, construction would begin sometime in mid-2023 and take about a year-and-a-half to complete.

The project fits in with the City’s long-range plans specified in its General Plan and the 2011 Globe Historic Downtown Plan and will be done in compliance with the Historic Preservation District Design Guidelines.

It includes historic preservation as well as filling one of the many needs in the Globe-Miami area for housing laid out in a draft housing report released last October by Central Arizona Governments (CAG), which is still in draft form and has not officially been accepted by the City.

Hill Street School. Az Archives.

Gorman brought the concept to the City in November 2021 and two meetings were held in January. The first on Jan. 10 was a citizen review that gave residents a chance to weigh in on the proposal and the second was the P&Z meeting, where the Commission recommended Council deny the rezoning application, which would effectively kill the estimated $17 million to $19 million project should Council accept that decision.

The majority of attendees at the meetings were against the project because of a dearth of parking available in the neighborhood for tenants, residents, and existing businesses.

The current city code would require 32 on-site parking spaces. Gorman would provide no on-site parking, but has agreed to improve the Devereaux Street dead-end for 24 perpendicular parking spaces.

“Negating on-site parking maintains the historic character and pedestrian walk-ability that attracts people to the downtown and maintains an unbroken building line at the sidewalk,” the staff report on the proposal states. “Staff supports this concept for the subject location for these same reasons, with an understanding that additional parking details need to be worked out at the site design review stage of the permitting process.”

Nurd Berger owner Taylor Harrison said the project would effectively kill his business

“I feel like Frodo Baggins now ’cause this is like a ring I gotta bear: it’s a burden,” he said at the P&Z meeting. “I spent eight years at that spot building the business up from nothing. That entire street was empty [and] filled with drugs, break-ins and really bad stuff.”

Proposed site plan by Gorman & Company. The company eliminated the proposed 2-bedroom units and increased parking on the site prior to Globe City Council approval on the 8th.

Harrison said he felt as if he was forced to be at the meeting to register his apprehension because it would “essentially shut [his] business down.”

He said the people building the project would not have to deal with any fallout because they do not live in Globe and added that he thought it was all about money and not a “logic or sensibility issue” and that the project “was so far distanced from the community that it’s not even funny.”

A letter sent to City Zoning Administrator Dana Burkhardt from the Globe-Miami Board of Realtors took issue with the lack of dedicated parking and surmised the end result would have a negative impact on the neighborhood.

“The developer’s viewpoint based on the uncompleted housing study states that the new development of low-income senior multi-family dwellings being built will allow the existing local property owners an opportunity to sell their larger home and downsize to move into this development,” the letter states. “However, it has been our experience as Realtors representing these property owners that they do not qualify based on the low-income requirements. Therefore, we believe that it will not add a large number of single-family residences back into the local housing inventory.”

But not everyone was against it.

Hill Street resident Cecil Barton, who has lived in Globe for the past 12 years, thinks the project is good for Globe and will be “done by experts,” including Burkhardt.

“That building is so gorgeous and it’s not falling down: It’s poured concrete and it’s a fortress,” he said. “[The project] is removing another festering sore from Globe. … I think it will encourage more businesses. I think it will increase the value of my property.”

Rendering of the proposed site. Courtesy Photo

The Hill Street School was built in 1920 on approximately three-quarters of an acre, and for the past 16 years, its shell has sat vacant and decaying with broken windows and a partially collapsed roof.

It is one of many properties in the Copper Corridor owned by Dr. Glenn Wilt, a professor emeritus of the Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business.

A 2011 report by Cronkite News estimates at one time he owned as many as 97 properties in Globe, Superior and Hayden. His influence on the dynamics of localized development has been ongoing for decades, but it looks like his grip on Globe properties might be loosening.

Wilt has nixed previous proposals, but it looks as if he is ready to pull the trigger on this one should Council opt to move forward.

The staff report for the project states, “Over the years the City has received numerous inquiries and ideas from prospective buyers. However, none have come forward with a formal proposal nor have they exhibited the experience or expertise to redevelop this type of site. Gorman & Company is the only developer to submit a comprehensive plan to redevelop the site and the first developer to come to the City with the expertise and track record to bring a project of this complexity and magnitude to fruition.”

**Funding depends on a recommendation to move forward — after GMT goes to press — but Gameros was hopeful the week before the pivotal meeting any problems could be overcome as the process plays out.

“If we’re going to elevate ourselves to the next level, I think we all need to understand, and our residents need to understand, it costs money,” Gameros said. “It’s gonna be tough [but] we’ve got to make a decision that’s good for the whole community. It’s not just for right now, either, this is for the future.”

 

**UPDATE:  As we were going to press with the February issue, the City of Globe met on the 8th and unanimously approved the rezoning request.  You can view the full discussion on the Citys’ YouTube channel.

One comment

  1. I attended Hill Street School from Kindergarten through 4th grade (1950-1954). At that time Hill Street became. Junior High and we were sent to East Globe School. I returned for the two years of Junior High. When I was a freshman at ASU, an instructor I had for a preschool activities class asked if any of us had seen the sad school in Globe, AZ with the blacktop playground and no playground equipment. He remarked that he didn’t know how anyone made it through that school. I commented that we drew hopscotch and baseball diamonds on the blacktop with chalk; we played jacks on the concrete steps, we played chase and many other things. Recess was never dull, never long enough. The library was on the rounded end of the second floor. I loved the construction of Hill Street School. The inside had shiny waxed wood flooring. The gym had a balcony where we stood to watch sports. I can still rekindle the smell of wax from the hallways. I hope the Hill Street School building will always be on that corner.

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