Archive for the ‘Spotlight’ Category

Downtown Living: Skyline Lofts

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

skylinepoolEverything is here for us,” said Annie Helms, a retired empty-nester, who moved to Skyline Lofts from Surprise, Ariz. – a west Valley suburb – with her husband in January 2014.

She says she’s happier than she’s ever been.

With 10-foot exposed concrete ceilings and walls, sleek modern finishes and a gorgeous pool and hot tub area, there’s a lot to love about Skyline Lofts, nestled at the corner of Fillmore and Fourth streets, just north of Arizona Center.

While she loves the apartment, pool area, and on-site amenities – for Annie Helms, it’s about having the freedom to do as she pleases, now that she’s retired and her children are grown.

Whether it’s walking to Arizona Center for some shopping, going for a bike ride around the Roosevelt Row Arts District or catching dinner and a show at Herberger Theater – she’s fully embraced the urban lifestyle.

“I loved being out in Surprise but I didn’t have anything out there for me,” she said. “Being able to make new friends, getting my business started and just being able to go anywhere I want in five minutes, it’s just been such a blessing.”

annieMost days, you can find Annie walking one of her many dogs around Downtown or Roosevelt Row. She runs Annie’s Pet Sitting, a Skyline Lofts dog-walking and daycare service and said it’s a great way to stay busy while her husband Michael Helms, a business attorney, continues to run his Downtown law practice full-time.

Minus the 3-hour daily commute from Surprise to Phoenix, the Helms spend more time together doing things they enjoy.

“My husband and I have both asked ourselves why we didn’t do this a long time ago,” she said. “We’re both so happy.”

Changing the World One Chair at a Time

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

sit2When Jon Irons developed the idea behind Sitgreen Cardboard Furniture as a college student at Arizona State University in 2010, he had no idea how far it would go or how quickly.

Like most college students, he just wanted to find a job doing something he loved and figure out how to make ends meet later. Irons found the balance between the two in his passion for designing eco-friendly furniture using post-consumer materials.

At 24 years old, Irons launched Sitgreen with the help of startup incubator Seed Spot, which mentors and finds funding sources for local entrepreneurs. He raised enough money to open a warehouse, office and retail space and has worked with big organizations like TOMS shoe company and local businesses like Cartel Coffee Lab and Natural Choice Academy.

He’s building a name for himself in the sustainable furniture market but scaled back his operation over the past year, making some design and manufacturing adjustments and now primarily works from his backyard in Tempe.

“I love what I do,” Irons said. “I would rather make less money and love what I do, that’s my biggest thing.”

Being driven, flexible and resourceful in the face of changing demands is what makes Jon Irons a success. Adaptive reuse and repurposing is kind of his business motto, which is one of the reasons why he’s drawn to Downtown Phoenix.

“Downtown Phoenix is going through this really cool time right now, where instead of growing out it’s actually kind of turned in on itself,” Irons said. “It’s rebuilding from the inside out, which is amazing.”

With that in mind, you might just see a new Sitgreen warehouse or retail space popping up in Downtown in the near future. In the meantime, Irons is mostly constructing custom pieces, which can be ordered on the Sitgreen website.

*Photo courtesy of Sitgreen Furniture.

Fired Pie Serves Up Gourmet Pizza – Fast!

Thursday, September 11th, 2014


Fired Pie is taking the fast-casual pizza market by storm. Partners Doug Doyle, Rico Cuomo and Fred Morgan opened their sixth Fired Pie location in Downtown’s Collier Center August 26, with plans for three more by the end of October.

“We’re just three local guys that met many years ago working at California Pizza Kitchen and decided to leave the corporate world,” said Fred Morgan, co-owner of Fired Pie.

Now they’re local giants in the newly forged build-your-own-pizza market. Most people don’t think of gourmet pizza as fast food. But using a special kind of pressed dough, which helps sear the bottom, and a high temperature brick-style oven, the pizza cooks in just four minutes.

fredFast customizable pizzas and salads, which sell for just $7.95 each, certainly draw crowds of hungry people through the door, but the key to Fired Pie’s continued success is the selection of fresh ingredients and Rico Cuomo’s famous tomato sauce – an Italian family recipe passed down generations.

After opening just weeks ago, Morgan said they’re already thinking about expanding to other parts of Downtown.

“We really feel that Downtown has turned the corner and people see that it’s a great place,” he said. ”We love the growth here and want to be a part of that growth.”

Downtowners do love their choices. At Fired Pie, diners select the dough, sauce, cheese and an assortment of 30 different toppings. Located at 201 E. Washington St. inside Collier Center.

The Hunt Continues: Mercury Seeks Third WNBA Championship

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

The Phoenix Mercury earned a spot in their first WNBA Finals since winning their second championship in 2009.

WNBA FINALSThe team with BOOST on the front of their jerseys boasts three mega-watt All-Stars, including one of the greatest players the game has ever seen in Diana “White Mamba” Taurasi, dunking sophomore phenom Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree.

The Mercury enter the Finals with a league-best 29-5 record, including 18 consecutive home victories. Heck, they haven’t tasted defeat at US Airways Arena since May 23.

But they’re not done. Three more wins against the Eastern Conference champion Chicago Sky are necessary to reach their ultimate goal: A third WNBA championship.

That’s where you, the foam finger-waving Downtowner, come in.

If the team is going to end this magical season with a trophy hoisted over it’s collective head it needs the rabid support of the Downtown community. We need to show the love. Give some dap. Bring the pain.

So, how can you get behind our First Ladies of the Fast Break?

* Buy tickets to Sunday’s Game 1 or Tuesday’s Game 2 by calling 602.252.WNBA or visiting the US Airways box office
* Flash your best Mercury-colored threads
* Ask a Downtown Ambassador how you can register to win FREE vouchers to the home games
* Cheer hard. Real hard

Let’s do this.

Fair Trade Cafe’s New Community Kitchen Concept

Friday, August 29th, 2014


Healthy nourishing foods can be delicious too, according to Stephanie Vasquez, owner of Fair Trade Cafe. She introduced a new all-organic culinary concept August 18 at the Civic Space Park location, which is now called the Fair Trade Community Kitchen.

It started as an idea that blossomed between two friends who share a love of healthy food and a desire to help their community through food awareness. Vasquez and fellow foodie Ingrid Hirtz, founder of the online meal service Community Cuisine, worked together on the new Fair Trade Community Kitchen menu, which features an array of flavorful vegetarian and organic dishes, with many vegan and gluten-free choices.

steph“I want this to be a community space where local food artists come together,” Vasquez said. “We need a lot more collaboration.”

With specialties like Thai Summer Rolls with homemade peanut sauce and Teriyaki Un-Bowls with tofu and steamed vegetables, it’s a big change from the traditional cafe fare still served at the Fair Trade Cafe First Avenue location near Roosevelt Street.

Depending on its success, the all-organic vegetarian menu may be adopted at both locations.

“I feel that organic is just the right way to serve,” Vasquez said.

In addition to a new menu and new composting program, Fair Trade Community Kitchen now hosts a vegetarian pay-as-you-can meal every Sunday at 6 p.m.  These “community dinners” are completely donation-based and provide healthy nourishing meals to everyone from ASU students to the homeless.

Expanding community meals to two days per week and working with other “food artists” in the community are just some of Vasquez’ goals for the cafe. Stop in for breakfast, lunch or an organic fair trade coffee from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Downtown Living: 44 Monroe

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

monroewindowIf you build it, they will come.

At least that much is true for 44 Monroe, the tallest and one of the first residential towers built in Downtown Phoenix.

Completed in 2008, it was initially designed and marketed as luxury condominiums, but the majority of homes proved more successful as rental units, leasing to capacity within 12 months of transitioning in 2011.

As the urban Core flourishes, it just makes sense that more residents become centralized as well, according to Kevin Bohm, community manager at 44 Monroe.

“The missing link in the past has always been the residential component,” Bohm said. “Forty-four Monroe has played a critical part in showing that the demand is there.”

Bohm not only manages the property, he’s a resident too. As a Phoenix native, he’s lived in a lot of area cities – including Glendale, Scottsdale and Tempe. But Downtown Phoenix is rapidly becoming a hub for the whole metro area.

Nowhere else can you walk out your front door and go to a sports game, the theater or just grab a cup of coffee in the morning. While the luxury finishes and sweeping views of the Valley are huge selling points at 44 Monroe, the convenience of a pedestrian lifestyle is truly what sets this place apart.

“The walkability for Phoenix, this is new for us, ” he said. “It’s really exciting that’s there’s more and more coming all the time.”

What’s Cooking at TEDx Evans Churchill

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

379251_471701452890292_1559181400_nBrad Moore doesn’t consider himself a culinary innovator – more of just a guy who likes hot dogs. But based on the success of Short Leash Hot Dogs, which he co-owns with his wife Kat Moore, he’s definitely making a name for himself in the Downtown Phoenix culinary scene.

Moore was chosen along with seven others to speak at TEDx Evans Churchill Thursday, Aug. 28 on the topic of food and beverage. Like the parent organization, TEDx uses a conference-style format with short impactful speakers. But unlike the TED talks we often watch on YouTube, TEDx is a completely local grassroots event, organized in Phoenix by a passionate band of Downtowners from the Evans Churchill Community Association.

This year marks the addition of a new event, which takes place directly after the presentations called FED after TED, and includes beer samples paired with small plates from Downtown restaurants like 1130 The Restaurant, Canyon Cafe, Phoenix Public Market and Kincaid’s.

According to Kevin Rille, event organizer for TEDx Evans Churchill, choosing the food and beverage theme dubbed, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out the kitchen” was a natural fit for Phoenix.

“The food and cocktail scene here is really ahead or on par with the rest of the country, especially Downtown,” Rille said.

Organizers intentionally agreed upon a Downtown Phoenix location during the summer months because it’s off-season and they wanted to activate the area, while also spotlighting some of the great innovations happening here.

“I’m a native and I’ve seen Downtown go through a lot of changes,” said Shannon Bremser, volunteer coordinator for TEDx Evans Churchill, “and it’s really amazing to see how the people in this group are making a positive impact through passion, creativity, and just being proud of what Phoenix has become.”

Brad and Kat Moore are pretty excited about what’s happening in Downtown Phoenix too. They started selling hot dogs out of an 80 square-foot truck three years ago and now have a successful restaurant on Roosevelt Row with plans for a new one in the works.

“It’s fantastic, Phoenix is becoming a kind of culinary destination,” Brad Moore said.

The TEDx presentation at the Phoenix Convention Center is sold out, but there’s still space available for FED after TED from 8-10 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $10.

Burger Joint Chicago Brings Taste of the Midwest

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Burger Joint Chicago

Adams Street: An ethnic gem of Downtown streets that, between Seventh Street and First Avenue, boasts Thai, Japanese, Italian, English and now — Burger Joint Chicago, a casual restaurant serving up Chicago staples.

Co-founder and manager, Dennis Skiadopoulos, described menu items like the polish dogs, gyros, cheese fries and Italian beef sandwiches as the “comfort foods of Chicago.” The Downtown food scene may have a lot to offer, but Burger Joint Chicago is bringing us cheese and gravy-smothered fries, burgers with the works, and countless options for late-night cravings and hunger pains.

Though Burger Joint is sticking to summer hours for now — Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — come October, Skiadopoulos said it will expand to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It will also offer ribs, chicken wings as well as a bar focused on craft beer — both bottled and draft.

In addition to the aforementioned items, the menu features an assortment of burgers, including turkey and veggie, chicken pitas, and fries with tempting toppings.

Watching your waist line? The salads, turkey or veggie burger, and chicken pitas are all healthier alternatives that look and taste just as good as the spicy feta fries — well, almost.

And while you may go the first time simply to experience Burger Joint Chicago for yourself, you’ll return for the friendly and welcoming atmosphere provided by Skiadopoulos and his staff. Walk in, and you’ll find Skiadopoulos chatting up customers in line, offering suggestions and thanking them on their way out.

So while the joint may not be New American fine dining, it is hearty American food done well.

Located on the ground floor of the U.S. Bank building on the northeast corner of First Avenue and Adams Street, Burger Joint Chicago is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is currently offering a grand opening special, which for $8 gets you a 1/4-pound cheeseburger with fries and a drink.

Pictured: The Crazy Greek with Cheddar Fries (left) and The Sonoma with Spicy Feta Fries (right)

A Delicious Menu Makeover at Hard Rock Cafe Phoenix

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

outsideWhether you’re in Denver or Dubai, people walk into a Hard Rock Cafe expecting a certain type of experience — good burgers, music videos, awesome memorabilia, and of course, great rock and roll. Hard Rock Cafe Phoenix promises to deliver everything fans have come to expect from the brand over the last 40 years, but with an updated menu and sophisticated flavor combinations, it now offers just a little bit more.

“People know us for our music and memorabilia,” said Rochelle Barton, manager of sales and marketing at Hard Rock Cafe Phoenix. “Most people don’t know that everything on our menu is made from scratch.”

Using fresh quality ingredients and innovative recipes is really what sets Hard Rock apart. From the summery lemon balsamic vinaigrette on the Grilled Chicken Arugula Salad to the southern-style dry rub on the Rockin’ Wings — it’s all made from scratch everyday.

This year, the menu underwent a significant makeover, and according to Michael Grzegorek, general manager at Hard Rock Cafe Phoenix, it’s time to spread the word about all the exciting changes.

mojito“The whole menu is new, nothing is untouched,” he said. “Even the classics got tweaked just a little bit.”

For something different, try the Magical Mystery Mojito. The “mystery” is that it’s made with Hendrick’s Gin instead of rum, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and hint of cucumber.

You can still bite into one of the Legendary Burgers, made with Angus beef fired at 500 degrees, creating a perfect sear every time. But the new buttery brioche bun takes it to a whole new level.

For a southern-style treat, order the brisket, ribs or chicken smoked in-house and smothered with a tangy hickory barbecue sauce.

You may come for the music, but you’ll definitely stay for the food. Hard Rock Phoenix is located in the heart of Downtown in the Collier Center, open Sunday through Thursday 11:00a.m. – 11:00p.m. Friday and Saturday 11:00a.m. -12:00a.m.

Downtown Living: CityScape Residences

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

cityscapeAs the housing market rebounds, more people are considering Downtown living, as seen in the volume of leasing flow at places like CityScape Residences.

“We’re opening at the right time in Downtown Phoenix,” said Travis Shumake, general manager at CityScape Residences. “There’s a lot of buzz about what’s happening with the revitalization and we happen to be the new shiny penny sitting in the middle of it all.”

It’s all about ease and access, according to Shumake. People love the amenities, the floor-to-ceiling views of the city and the concierge service at CityScape. But most of all, residents love being just an elevator ride away from everything in the Downtown core.

Open just five months, the complex has already reached 50 percent occupancy and Shumake hopes to reach full occupancy by Christmas, a fairly lofty goal for a concept that’s completely new to Downtown Phoenix.

“When you look at other thriving downtowns that are really taking off or have taken off historically,” Shumake said, “the component that we seem to be missing is that luxury apartment option.”

Creating a modern high-end living option is exactly what RED Development, the brains behind CityScape Residences, sought out to do.

Located atop the Hotel Palomar, residents of CityScape have full access to the same amenities as the four-star hotel including 24-hour room service, valet parking and housekeeping.

As an added incentive, the Black Card program available to all residents offers 15-25 percent discounts to all businesses at CityScape, and that’s recently expanded to 23 restaurants and retailers Downtown.

To an outsider, Downtown living might seem more appealing to a specific demographic. But according to Shumake, it’s surprisingly eclectic.

“It’s a unique mix because everyone wants this quality of life,” he said.