One of the oldest structures in Phoenix faces demolition after the City Council on Monday voted against saving it for a community center.
Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency board members had recommended the city take possession of the Steadman house at Pine and Second streets and relocate it next to city offices on a vacant lot facing Main Street. The owners of the house, which was built in the late 1800s, want it to be demolished or removed from the property.
PURA Executive Director Marla Cates said the project would help restore a blighted area of the city, provide rent-free accommodations for PURA offices and city meeting space, and preserve a historic structure.
Council members Chris Luz, Stan Bartell and Carolyn Bartell voted against relocating the house and purchasing property for its new location. Terry Helfrich, Karen Jones and Bruce Sophie voted in favor of the project, saying it could be developed into a city center with additional meeting space.
Mayor Jeff Bellah broke the tie. "The way it is now, no," he said, and urged PURA to explore other alternatives.
Both Bartells indicated concern about limitations the Steadman house could place on use of the property for a future City Hall space.
Helfrich voiced frustration with council members micromanaging urban renewal agency board members.
"I've been at enough meetings and I've seen a lot of time and effort and a lot of passion about what was just denied," he said.
The project would have cost the city $90,000 for acquiring the property and about $210,000 to cover relocation and construction expenses.
Bellah said Tuesday there may still be hope for the Steadman house.
"I think people could come to a compromise, but I think the way it was presented Monday was that it was an-all-or-nothing — and either/or — decision with no discussion," he said.
"I didn't want to be a tie-breaker, but for me it was that we had agreed to discuss use of the land with and without the house, and that didn't happen."
PURA board member Annegret Topel said Tuesday that the council's decision was "not unexpected" but "still discouraging."
"Basically, the reason it was shot down was that they could not get past the fact that we had already moved the Steadman house on our property in our minds without asking them first," Topel said.
"They were willing to buy the property if they could decide what was going on there. Two years ago, the same property came up for sale and they said, 'No, we are not going to let you buy that because you have no vision. Now we came back with a vision and that was not good enough."
Topel added, "The city basically was given a good opportunity and decided to turn it down. I had a number of phone calls from citizens today who were livid. ... I just don't think this makes any sense to people that are approaching it with an open mind. We can perhaps revisit some other ideas, but I think the Steadman house is gone."
Bellah cautioned city officials and PURA board members to work toward better communication to avoid a future rift between the two agencies, something he said was more crucial than any future projects.
"I think the biggest thing is you have to build trust, and if people think you have this understanding and then something doesn't happen that is expected, it breaks some of that trust," Bellah said.
"I don't think this is an impossible situation. As long as the land is still there — and as long as the house they want is still there and available — why quit so easily?"
Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com