The Hayden Flour Mill stood as one of Tempe’s most visible buildings for more than a century even as its thick concrete walls masked its inner workings from public view.
But the elaborate milling equipment that turned grain into flour will be on display in a glass structure next to the mill as part of a plan to restore and redevelop the site.
The proposal includes adding three stories of glass floors on top of the mill and new buildings for shops and restaurants. But most building space will be the new headquarters for the developer, Avenue Communities. That’s the same company behind the 30-story Centerpoint Condominiums a few blocks away.
Avenue is moving to buy the site from Tempe, which took ownership after another developer’s plan fizzled and the city received the property in the midst of an extended lawsuit. City and business leaders are hopeful the developer will finally bring life to the mill since its 1998 closure.
“They’ve done everything that the city has asked them to do and they’re doing it in a very high-quality way,” said Chris Salomone, Tempe’s community development manager.
Avenue will present its plans to the City Council Thursday. The company plans to demolish half-century old additions so the 1918 structure will stand as it did originally. Also, Avenue will build a trailhead to Hayden Butte, add parking and buildings along the street to give the area a more urban feel.
Many Tempeans have been anxious for something to happen on the site after it closed and transients set a fire that burned part of the building. The site has been a source of embarrassment, especially considering it was built by Tempe’s founder, Charles Trumbull Hayden, in 1872 and was one of the Valley’s most important businesses.
Avenue will likely take up all the office space at the project, company spokeswoman Margie D’Andrea said. The company hasn’t selected other tenants yet but is shunning chains in favor of chef-driven restaurants, D’Andrea said.
One potential tenant includes a Vancouver chef who would operate a bakery and cafe. The wine bar will have a tie to a winery that the developer is setting up at Centerpoint Condominiums.
The city is requiring Avenue Communities to have a permit in hand and to have “substantial” construction underway by Jan. 23, 2009, but D’Andrea said the company hopes to begin work late this year.
The first phase would roughly double the amount of building space to 60,000 square feet. Avenue plans to later replace parking areas with two more phases of development that would bring the project to 500,000 square feet of offices, stores, housing and more.
The mill was built for strength, not beauty. Still, the development plans should make the mill a proud entry feature for downtown, said Vic Linoff, a downtown merchant and history buff. Linoff has been critical of many redevelopment efforts and the destruction of historic structures, and he doesn’t like Avenue’s plan to add more floors on top of the mill. He’d prefer to keep the building as close to its original form as possible.
But Linoff said Avenue deserves credit for showing a strong interest in using historic equipment and elements in the design.
The development will include railroad tracks that once ran through the site and some remnants of a canal that brought water to power the mill in its early days.
“We’ve lost too many historic buildings in the name of redevelopment and this is such an expensive investment that even as a preservationist, you have to realize there’s going to be compromise to save those historic structures,” Linoff said.
Mayor Hugh Hallman said the glass addition is needed to make the project work financially and to service the dated structure with elevators and utilities.
The project is small compared to other downtown projects that will take up to 1 million square feet. Hallman said the project was meant to be smaller in scope in order to respect the mill’s history.
A recent $1.5 million archeological project funded by the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community helped unearth history about Tempe’s first settlers and even discovered a Hohokam canal that’s perhaps 1,000 years old.
Hallman said the city might ask for some changes, but he’s eager to see a project move forward that revives Tempe’s history.
Hayden Flour Mill redevelopment
The first phase:
• Restores the 1918 mill building
• Attaches a building on the west side for shops
• Adds a building for a wine bar
• Builds a trailhead for Hayden Butte
• Adds surface parking
• Includes nearly 65,000 square feet of existing and new buildings
• Paints the 1950s silos, but leaves them empty
• Would transfer the land from Tempe to Avenue Communities, but only if work starts by January 2009
Two future phases would:
• Develop the silos, perhaps as housing or a hotel
• Replace the surface parking with more offices, shops and housing
• Eventually include about 500,000 square feet of buildings
• Be valued at about $500 million
• Be limited to the height of the silos, 168 feet.