[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — An Irvine, Calif., developer will save the iconic Luhrs Building and Luhrs Tower (pictured), but the fate of other vintage buildings on the downtown Phoenix block is up in the air. Hansji Urban inherited a 1992 agreement from the previous owner that gives the firm the right to tear down some structures, including parts of the oldest building on the block, the Luhrs Central Building on Central Avenue and Madison, which was constructed between 1913 and 1914, said Barbara Stocklin Phoenix’s historic preservation officer. The 1950s parking garage and the one-story 1920s arcade linking the Luhrs Tower and the Luhrs Building are also in question. While many were relieved when they learned the Luhrs Tower and the Luhrs Building are to be restored, it’s been unclear what would happen to the rest of the structures on the block.
There have been several historic-preservation fights in downtown Phoenix recently. City officials and the developer are negotiating a plan for the area bound by Jefferson Street, Madison Street, Central Avenue and First Avenue. The plan could go before the city’s historic-preservation commission as early as March 17, Stocklin said. It’s too early to say what buildings could stay or go, said Hansji Urban principal Raj Hansji. “Our focus now is still on the office component – the Luhrs Building, the Luhrs Tower and the arcade – (and) renovating those buildings because we have some tenants who want to start moving in pretty quickly,” he said. Now the firm plans to spend $6 million upgrading the Luhrs complex.
“Our goal, obviously, long-term is to build a hotel, but that’s not our focus right now,” Hansji added. Meanwhile, preservationists are keeping an eye on the project. “The Arizona Preservation Foundation is very much interested in the preservation and reuse of historic and vintage buildings in our capital city and across the state,” said Jim McPherson, an Arizona Preservation Foundation board member. The group plans to take a formal position after conferring with community groups and city officials, he added. The Luhrs block was built by a pioneer-era Phoenix clan. The patriarch, German immigrant George Heinrich Nicholas Luhrs, built the 10-story Luhrs Building in 1924 and he broke ground on the 14-story Luhrs Tower in 1929.