LOCK & GO LIVING
Urban dwellers seek out luxury living in Valley downtowns
By Kathleen Davidson
The Business Journal
The call for urban living space has been building to a crescendo that
is being heard - and seen - across our desert horizon, as more and more
young professionals and active retirees seek the ease and energy
associated with "downtown living."
Local residents are rapidly stepping up to concepts formerly associated
with such elite areas as Manhattan's Upper East Side and Chicago's Gold
Coast. During the past two years, hundreds of Valley homeowners have
traded single-family suburban homes for a high-rise, cosmopolitan
Those in the upper stratosphere of affluence are drawn to the
all-inclusive, lap-of-luxury living awaiting them at Esplanade Place in
the prestigious Camelback Corridor, as well as the North Scottsdale
equivalent - The Landmark at Kierland.
Others living on the rise have opted for the unique and practical Lofts
at Orchidhouse on Mill Avenue in Tempe and Artisan Village in the heart
of downtown Phoenix. Borrowing from both the posh and practical is the
five-story Third Avenue Lofts in the center of Old Town Scottsdale and
the trail-blazer, nine-story Hayden Square condos.
Poised to join the skyline as this urban renaissance expands are the
12-story Residences at 2211 Camelback and the Centerpoint Condominiums,
22-story double towers designed as a mixed-use development in
Visionaries such as Hank Levkoff and his wide, Buddie, who got in on
the "ground floor" of upscale, high-rise living in Phoenix, agree that
it is "an idea whose time has come." The New York natives are retired
and desired a maintenance-free lifestyle not afforded by their
"This is brand new for us and we love it," say Hank Levkoff.
The couple's secure, carefree way of life began two years ago when they
moved into one of the penthouses in Esplanade Place at Camelback Road
and 24th Street. Offering the ultimate in luxury living, purchase
prices for the 56 residence today range from $800,000 to $2.7 million.
The condos range in size from 2,400 to 4,250 square feet.
Considered a community within itself, the elegant tower provides a
broad spectrum of amenities, including: a porte-cochere entrance with
valet parking; a secured underground garage; a multilevel, 24-hour
security program with biometric thumbprint recognition at the tower's
Once inside, privileged residents enjoy state-of-the-art fitness
facilities with sauna, steam and massage rooms; a 1,100-square-foot
clubroom with baby grand piano, where the Sunday socials take place;
and a fully equipped business center complete with secretarial services
and conference room. The spectacular roof-top features a dramatic
negative-edge pool, spa and sun deck.
The pampering continues with complete concierge assistance for
everything from laundry, travel, dining and entertainment arrangements
to grocery shopping, pet grooming, plant care and auto detailing
services - all available at the touch of the owner's phone.
While each home reflects the owner's taste, many enjoy the Dacor
appliance package that was offered by the developers, Geoffrey H.
Edmunds and The Pivotal Group. Other "basics" consist of inset
travertine and marble flooring, granite countertops, expertly finished
alder wood cabinetry and lavishly designed baths with recessed steam
showers and resort-style whirlpools. Satellite and cable television as
well as high-speed Internet access also are standard. The monthly
homeowners' association assessment also covers sewer/trash service and
Panoramic views of the city come with the pack in the 13th floor
setting of the Levkoff's beautifully appointed 3,3550 square foot home,
where dual balconies afford a 270-degree vista. Personal touches
include unique leather flooring in the entryway (a la T.Cook's smoking
room); inviting furnishings in an open, airy great room; 2-foot-tall
statues of the Blues Brothers showcased in a niche in the living room;
a variety of artwork gathered during their travels; and additional
creature comforts in the form of raised fixtures and head flooring in
the master bath.
"It's a wonderful way of life, and we're living in the center of
everything we do," Levkoff says. With the Ritz-Carlton Hotel next door
and the Biltmore Fashion Park across the street, many diving and
entertainment opportunities are available within walking distance. In
addition, downtown is a 10-minute drive for theater dates and
attendance at fund-raising event.
Just one block away is 2211 Camelback, another high-end condo development that mirrors Esplanade Place in amenities.
Tania Buchanan, a luxury urban specialist with Cambrige Properties, is
marketing the property with partner, Keith Mishkin. The duo also sold
residences at Esplanade Place.
2211 Camelback's 1,900 to 7,000 square-foot units are selling for $1.5
to $2.6 million. Current Biltmore are homeowners Don and Val Paquet
eagerly await the day they downsize from their central Phoenix home
into their new luxury condo at 2211. The couple already has seen one
son off to college, and their second is preparing to graduate from high
school soon. Val Paquet is active in the local arts community and
doesn't want the hassle of the upkeep on her current single-family
home. The Pauquets purchased a seventh-floor unit that promises a
beautiful view of the surrounding Camelback Corridor.
"We look forward to being totally spoiled," says Paquet.
A HIGHER LEVEL
Take everything offered at these two properties and move into the north
border of Phoenix/Scottsdale. Add a climate-controlled wine cellar with
Italian blown-glass lights, as well as an outdoor fireplace and wet
bar. Place it at the east edge of the 27-hole Kierland Golf Course and
you have the Landmark. The six-story, luxury mid-rise sits on 2.5 acres
in the heart of the 730-acre Kierland master planned community.
According to developer Ed Lewis, chief executive of Butte Properties,
second-home buyers and "move-down" empty nesters make up the majority
of residents in the 50-unity concrete and steel structure dubbed Tower
One. Residences range from 967 to 3,700 square feet and sold for an
average of $800,000. Fourteen sold for more than $1 million.
Tower Two, which is set to break ground this spring, offers some larger
units averaging about $1.1 million, says Jaime Marquez, marketing and
sales director for the property.
"It's great being centrally located in North Scottsdale, and walking to
eat for shop at (the 38-acre) Kierland Commons," says retired attorney
Andy Genin, who mover here from New York with his wife, Joan.
Although neither are golfers, both say they take great pleasure in the
beauty and serenity of their golf course view. The Landmark offers
unobstructed views of the horizon in 70 percent of its homes, and the
Genins often see fellow residents using the three-mile hiking path
around the course.
"It's so peaceful and open compared to the congestion of New York," says Joan.
Their peace of mind extends to being away as well. Recently, an
unexpected emergency called them back to New York. Not only did they
"lock and go" with no worries, but the concierge "went above and beyond
the call of duty" offering to feed their two cats.
Customized home interiors are common in this luxury condominium
community where each home reflects its owner. The Genins have a player
piano in a mutli-media room that is wired to run through the
entertainment system that was specifically installed for them by Buzz
Jensen with Paradise Home Entertainment. Having just one remote that
operates the entire system also is a dream come true.
Despite such welcoming amenities, the Genins do not confine themselves
to at-home recreation. They welcome meeting their neighbors, and Joan
currently serves on the Social Committee helping to plan monthly "dine
around" and "game-night" activities. Then Genins agree that the
residents are friendly, and the mature staff truly makes papered urban
living to a higher level.
Indulged in a different way, loft livers in Tempe and Phoenix say they
are drawn by the synergy and vibrancy of living in the heart of it all.
Always a city dweller, Hossein Darmani thrives on the metropolitan
atmosphere - the sounds of traffic, visible activity around the
"neighborhood," nearby restaurants and entertainment venues. A native
of Iran, Darmani lived in center-city Los Angeles, Miami, and Seattle
before the "beautiful sunny weather" brought him to Phoenix.
He and his wife are profes
sionals who live in a 1,600-square-foot condo above his Exotic Hardwood
Flooring business in the Artisian Village Legacy Bungalows on Seventh
Street between Roosevelt and Portland streets. Both look forward to the
growth and increased activity predicted as urban revitalization efforts
The Village is a mixed-use project designed to complement the growing
arts district on "Roosevelt Row." It is the latest in a series of
downtown residential projects that has added more than 1,600 units
since the mid-1990s.
Bungalow neighbor Kevin Rille also says he is ready for more culture
and character. A Realtor who works in the Camelback Corridor, he lives
on the opposite, strictly residential side of Artisan Village in a
$300,000, three-story unit that encompasses 2,000 square feet. It is
one of the 105 Village units that developer Eric Brown expects to be
fully occupied by the end of this year.
Rille is a true fan of maintenance-free living, noting that no yard
work and little interior upkeep allow him to pursue his passion for the
arts and sports. He and his friends appreciate the Village's close
proximity to the Phoenix Art Museum, traditional galleries and
theaters, America West Arena, Bank One Ballpark and many good
restaurants. He also values the solid investment he has made, noting
that property values are escalating at a rapid rate in direct relation
to the increasing interest in mid- and high-rise city living.
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Landscape architect Greg Swick can attest to the investment strategy.
In 1987, way ahead of the urban living curve, he purchased a
700-square-foot condo at Hayden Square in Tempe for $64,000. Today the
118 tiny units which served as the forerunners of today's
better-appointed urban habitats are selling for $120,000.
The contemporary architecture of this Mill Avenue and Third Street
address appealed to Swick who has been perfectly positioned to
experience the rebirth of downtown Tempe. He continues to enjoy walking
to work and frequenting the nearby bookstores and eateries.
Emerging 15 years later in April 2002, the next generation of East
Valley urban living was born in the Third Avenue Lofts. This Avenue
Communities LLC development is located at 7301 E. Third Avenue in
Scottsdale. It is an extravagant, five-story mid-rise project with 88
distinctive homes boasting expansive windows, soaring ceilings and a
long list of amenities.
The original 65 luxury flats, ranging from 611 to 2,700 square feet on
the first three floors sold for between $170,000 to $1 million. The
remaining upper two floors are now complete and feature units from
1,200 to 3,100 square feet that sell for nearly $800,000 to $4 million.
Following suit the same year, Tempe residents enthusiastically greeted
the 81 Lofts at Orchidhouse in the Brickyard on Mill. A multiuse
facility, the Orchidhouse is owned part by Arizona State University on
the first floor and the city of Tempe on the second. The ASU property
features a thing-tank program called Decision Theater as well as an
entrepreneurial ventures office.
"An urban landscape is an integral component of a thriving downtown,"
says Mike Wasko Orchidhouse resident and current homeowners'
association board member. He and his wife Michelle, are empty nesters
who lived in Scottsdale suburbs and raised their family before
acquiescing to the yearning for "a taste of urban life."
The 1950s warehouse-style architecture at Orchidhouse provides for 11-
to 13-foot ceilings and endless interior design opportunities. The 800
to 1,900-square-foot lofts inspire a simpler lifestyle. At 3,000 square
feet each, six penthouses provide even more decorating options.
Wasko says he firmly believes that having few amenities encourages
residents to interact with downtown and university offerings. "It's the
fun of living here," he says. A testament to their philosophy, Mike and
Michelle choose to live in the heart of Tempe even thought they commute
each day to Deer Valley and Mesa, respectively.
Preferring to live where he works, fellow Orchidhouse resident TOM TOKOPH operates Urban Realty and Development
from his fifth-story home. Citing graphic artists, architects, brokers
and attorneys, Tokoph says about 10 percent of residents opt for the
live-work approach. He and his wife thrive on the Berkley/Georgetown
tone that is generated by the plethora of youthful, creative energy and
"Where else con you work late, have dinner, see a movie and still be home by 9:30?" Tokoph asks.
Most everything is within walking distance, except grocery shopping,
but urban Tempe residents say they are looking forward to the proposed
grocery store in Centerpoint Condominium complex. Until then, driving
to the grocery store is no deterrent to these avid proponents of living
on the rise.
As the Valley teeters on the brink of exponential growth in the
high-rise market, those who already have moved up say they are enjoying