Roosevelt Row building, mural to be replaced by luxury apartments

GreenHAUS Boutique + Gallery is part of a row of art and photography galleries on Roosevelt Street in downtown Phoenix. The gallery is set to be demolished to make way for a luxury apartment complex. (Daniel Kwon/ The State Press) GreenHAUS Boutique + Gallery is part of a row of art and photography galleries on Roosevelt Street in downtown Phoenix. The gallery is set to be demolished to make way for a luxury apartment complex. (Daniel Kwon/ The State Press)

Splashing the street of Phoenix’s art district Roosevelt Row with color, murals decorate walls and add a unique character to the small neighborhood. However, if current plans come to fruition, “RoRo” could be down a few colors.

The building at 222 E. Roosevelt St. is home to a series of renowned murals, both inside and out. However, the building is set to be torn down in March and replaced with a luxury apartment complex.

Renowned Arizona artist Etorre "Ted" DeGrazia painted some of the murals in the 1950s. They were open to the elements before GreenHAUS owners Cole and Dayna Reed restored them and incorporated them into their building.

“(We did it) just out of respect, because we didn’t know what was going to happen, you know, to them or what the value necessarily was to the community so we covered them just to do a service to the community,” Cole said.

The women molded their art gallery to fit the atmosphere of Roosevelt Row. They hired local painter Lauren Lee to paint an exterior mural called “Three Birds,” which is one of the most photographed murals in the Phoenix area, and JD Snyder to create stained glass for the other side.

After the couple decided to move to Portland, Oregon, developer Baron Properties/North Roosevelt Apartments LLC bought the property along with the lot across the street with the intention of building apartments.

The company has been in contact with the executive director of the DeGrazia Foundation, Lance Laber, to discuss the potential preservation of the murals. At this time, one smaller mural depicting a ballerina will most likely be preserved, but the larger 40-foot mural offers more of a challenge.

Laber said Baron Properties has been fairly transparent and forthright in its discussions, working with both the foundation and local residents and listening to potential solutions. They are in discussion to move the murals, he said, but he lacks hope for the preservation of the rest of the building and the larger murals.

“I get the impression from the company that owns it that they’re really not interested in working around it and incorporating it into their new building," Laber said. "People have suggested this to them and it’s just not something they really want to do. They want to, I think, start fresh. I can’t speak for them either, this is just my personal impression that I got, they’d rather move them rather than incorporate their entire building around this wall.”

A mural of birds by Phoenix based artist Lauren Lee adorns the side of GreenHAUS Boutique + Gallery on Roosevelt Street in downtown Phoenix. The gallery is set to be demolished to make way for a luxury apartment complex. (Daniel Kwon/ The State Press) A mural of birds by Phoenix based artist Lauren Lee adorns the side of GreenHAUS Boutique + Gallery on Roosevelt Street in downtown Phoenix. The gallery is set to be demolished to make way for a luxury apartment complex. (Daniel Kwon/ The State Press)

Scott Fisher, a partner in Baron Properties, offered to donate the small mural. However, he said he believes it’s best to build the apartments from the ground up to be architecturally pleasing.

“Our conclusion is that the building is just challenged,” he said.

Discussion regarding the residence are far from over. 222 E. Roosevelt holds historical significance to Phoenix’s LGBT community because it was once home to a bar called the “307 Lounge.”

Phoenix’s Historic Preservation Commission is looking at the location to determine its historical significance. However, the location as yet lacks documentation and sufficient evidence to be considered historically significant.

Even then, Historic Preservation Officer Michelle Dodds said investigations like the one they’ve discussed take months and countless steps. Even initiating the investigation remains a complicated process.

The Roosevelt Row community has also passionately jumped in on the conversation. Organizations are actively working with Baron Properties to determine the outcome of the murals as well as the building.

Other parts of the community formed a petition to save the building and the murals, which had more than 1,000 signatures as of Friday.

“I don’t think there’s an easy solution," Dodds said. "I think there’s got to be a lot more brainstorming and trying to think creatively, you know, so there’s less of a disconnect between the expectations of the community and the developers plans."

 

Reach the reporter at megan.janetsky@asu.edu or follow @meganjanetsky on Twitter.

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