Residents start moving in at Tempe's West 6th towers - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Residents start moving in at Tempe's West 6th towers

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Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 5:33 pm | Updated: 6:27 pm, Wed Nov 26, 2014.

As soon as work began on the Centerpoint Condominiums, seemingly fatal threats began looming over the Tempe towers.

First, Phoenix aviation officials said a 30-story tower could threaten airplane safety.

That 2006 problem was resolved, but work halted in 2008 as the project's lender went bankrupt.

Then a 2009 foreclosure auction failed to get a single bid.

And a fall 2010 sale fell apart just days before it was to close.

The towers became a symbol of the Valley's real estate meltdown and some skeptics said the best option financially was to tear them down.

Those six years of question marks vanished Monday as 250 residents jammed into elevators and moved into Tower I of the renamed West 6th.

Even the executive overseeing the project's rebirth admits that he wasn't always sure a move-in day would come to fruition.

"There was skepticism in our company even," said Kent Chantung of the Ohio-based Zaremba Group. "So much had to line up in order for this to happen."

Zaremba was the buyer whose efforts failed last year when contractor liens killed its first attempt. The company got the property in March and rushed to get units ready in time for fall classes to begin at Arizona State University.

Zaremba leased the last of the 189 units in Tower I just this weekend.

About 250 of the 300 residents in the tower planned to move in Monday. Zaremba hired movers to help and it tried to space out arrival times to avoid a big jam. The mostly college-aged residents were covered in sweat as they lugged furniture into the building and found occasional delays at elevators.

The project's long-delayed opening is important because the towers were such an imposing force, said Nancy Hormann, executive director of the Downtown Tempe Community. Television news reporters often used the fenced towers as a backdrop for all kinds of stories about downtown in what was an unwelcome exposure, she said.

"It really sent a message that the downtown was dead even though it wasn't," Hormann said.

The hundreds of new residents will help draw new merchants and a wider variety of services. The towers are important in downtown evolving in a true urban core that's active 24 hours a day, she said.

Mayor Hugh Hallman said the West 6th approach is proof that the only failure was in the project's original financing. He dismissed the tear-down options as "goofy rumors."

The condos were originally set to sell for $300,000 to several million dollars and appeal to those who enjoy a sophisticated lifestyle. As rentals, about 70 percent of units in the first tower are college-age or slightly older. When the second tower opens in December, Chantung expects only half will be in the younger range.

A broader age range has been eyeing the towers and will be more eager to sign leases in the second tower, Chantung said.

Resident Megan Pusateri, 22, was carting her belongings to her 18th floor unit Monday and said West 6th has different tenants than another high-end Tempe project she had been in.

"A lot of these kids are college students but just a mature group of college students," Pusateri said.

Carlie Lakin was helping her brother move into a 10th floor studio. She lives with her parents in Paradise Valley but said she can imagine crashing at his place after a night in downtown.

"I'll probably be here a lot," Lakin said.

Zaremba is working on leases for three restaurants that will face a plaza. Tentative leases have been signed, Zaremba spokeswoman Angie Miller said.

"We're being very cautious until we know everything is all in ink and 100 percent complete," Miller said.

By September, Zaremba expects to extend 6th Street through the site. Workers are on schedule to complete the 30-story tower and wrap up the 375-unit project. The project's success has gotten the attention of other developers and investors who have been leery to get active in the gloomy real estate market, Chantung said. The full leasing of West 6th by opening day shows demand is strong for high-end housing in urban areas. Even if single-family homes in Queen Creek remain vacant for years, Chantung said urban areas are growing.

"This is in fact tangible evidence of recovery in Phoenix," he said.

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