With Circles partially demolished and tagged and being held hostage by the developer comes news of another Central Avenue icon facing the bulldozer.
The Macayo's restaurant that has stood for decades at Central and Indianola is facing demolition. In its place would be some 225 "residential units" in 65-foot building (this being Phoenix, of course, that is a big maybe). The developer is requesting a zoning change to "walkable urban."
One astounding thing is that "walkable urban" would require "only" 256 parking spaces (!). But the developer wants 369. "Free" parking is never free and Phoenix has way too much of it. Real urbanism would take down the number of spaces substantially. But, hey, WBIYB and the project (if it really happens) would be on light rail.
The really good news is that Macayo's intends to move to the south and stay in business.
The old Western adage that "whiskey's for drinking and water's for fighting over" has the amendment in the Southwest that Mexican food is for fighting over, too. The cuisine has expanded into vastly richer versions in Phoenix since I was a child, when I was weaned on the Sonoran "goop" at Woody's Macayo (and El Nido) and Scottsdale's Los Olivos. So some people hate Macayo's food — I love it. And the restaurant is convenient to my Midtown outpost.
Anyway, as writer Tom Zoellner wrote on a Facebook conversation about the loss, "The food is immaterial — what matters is the continuity and sense of place."
Indeed. Macayo's on Central has been a big part of the lives of generations of Phoenicians. It was especially fetching when it had the neon of the old building, shown above. In the late 1970s, the owners built the faux Aztec temple front. But even that had an endearing kitsch.
The residential project, if it happens, is underwhelming. According to a member of the Encanto Village Planning Committee, "It was approved. We asked if they could build taller (they said 'didn't pencil'). We begged them to do less parking (they said 'we need this much'), I made sure to add a stipulation that the historic sign gets moved to the new location and re-illuminated. I asked...to make sure it didn't get caught up in B.S. like not meeting the new sign code and not be allowed to be re-used."
From a member of the Resistance: "As far as the sign, Macayo's plan is to save the sign and move it south to their new location. They are well aware of its iconic nature. I made sure to instruct city planning staff to ensure that the sign can be re-illuminated at the new location. I expressed concern that it may not fit current sign ordinances and get caught up in all of that sort of silliness. Anyhow, it sounds like both the City, the developer of the new project and Macayo's all know that everyone loves the sign and all efforts will be made to move it and re-illuminate it at the new spot."
I am not concerned about the "expensive" market-rate apartments and condos planned along the light-rail route. Phoenix has abundant cheap housing. Anyway, the affordability problem is really one of low wages in such a limited economy.
My worries are these: First, that many of these projects may never happen and we'll lose more buildings and urban fabric, to be replaced by empty, blighted lots. It's happened before, especially in the S&L-driven mania of the 1980s and again in the central city boomlet of the 2000s.
Second, most of these projects are dull and, worse, meeting the letter but not the spirit of real transit-oriented development (and still expecting tax breaks). Hence, the project that might displace Macayo's in the next year or 18 months has no mixed-use space for retail.
Third, few of these developers have urban chops or access to reliable financing. Thus the snail's pace of development along Central — in the time some of them continue to do basic site work here entire skyscrapers have been erected in Seattle.
So, we'll see. In the meantime, support the Resistance.