Wandering the Warehouse District

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By Katherine Adomaitis | © Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix

In one day, you can see art by Richard Serra and Jun Kaneko, sample a machaca chimichanga, sip a Negroni, throw an axe legally and host an event at a brick warehouse built in 1918—all within steps of downtown Phoenix. Welcome to the Warehouse District, the city’s hottest developing neighborhood.

“When we built our offices here in 2005, it was a risk,” recalls architect Brian Cassidy, principal of CCBG Architects, one of the city’s largest design firms. “There were almost no active businesses here, and most of the old warehouses were either boarded up or torn down to be used as parking lots.” Fast-forward 15 years and everything has changed. “There are about 50 to 60 companies located here now— including tech firms, architecture studios and light manufacturing,” says Cassidy, who is chair of the Phoenix Warehouse District Council, a group that promotes the neighborhood. “More than 3,000 people work here today, and there are 400 full-time residents, with another 572 apartments under construction. It’s a great place to be, and it’s literally on the edge of downtown.”

Add to the mix two major hotels, event spaces, restaurants, modern cocktail bars, galleries, live entertainment and access to light rail, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a unique meeting site.

THE HISTORY

The Warehouse District— approximately Jackson Street south to Grant Street and 7th Street west to 7th Avenue—was home to the city’s Chinatown between the 1870s and the 1940s, but with the development of the railroad, warehouses sprang up in the early 1900s, using spur lines to receive and ship everything from fresh produce to paper, and housing business such as machine shops and commercial laundries. The development of freeways, the rise of trucking and the city’s expansion into suburbia foreshadowed the district’s demise in the 1960s. It was artists who re- discovered the warehouses in the late 1980s, drawn by cheap rents and cavernous spaces in which to set up studios. At the district’s northern edge, the construction in the 1990s of Talking Stick Arena—home of the NBA Phoenix Suns—and Chase Field, where the MLB Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series, also helped spur its re-emergence.

THE HOTELS

Downtown Phoenix offers more than 4,000 hotel rooms within a short walk of the Phoenix Convention Center (itself just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Warehouse District), but two major properties are located at the northern edge of the neighborhood.

With 242 guest rooms, the stylish Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix has an artsy vibe (there’s a pop-up local artist series hosted in the lobby) and amenities like a rooftop pool. It’s perched in the midst of the CityScape development, which offers shopping, entertainment and dining. Ten meeting rooms with about 15,000 square feet of multi-use space can accommodate corporate or private events.

Opened in 2017, the 20-story Marriott combines its Courtyard and Residence Inn brands under one roof with 320 rooms and suites, making it appealing for short-term or longer stays. An indoor pool is a draw if your group is not using the 5,733 square feet of light-filled meeting and event spaces on the hotel’s third and fourth floors.

THE VENUES

Several warehouses in the district provide an industrial-chic backdrop for meetings or social gatherings, as alternatives to hotels. Warehouse215 is part of a commercial laundry building that dates to 1918, with exposed brick walls and bow truss ceilings. With 10,000 square feet of flexible interior space and a 1,500-square-foot landscaped patio, there’s plenty of room for mingling.

Housed in The Lawrence Warehouse—built in 1946 as a grocery warehouse—Galvanize is a co-working and education tech firm that also offers outside groups an amphitheater, classrooms, meeting spaces and conference rooms that can accommodate up to 200 in a modern, airy setting. Angelic Grove, a floral design and decor firm, is the parent company of The Croft Downtown, an event venue, meaning your meeting or gathering will look good, no matter what the theme. The Croft is a historic warehouse with trussed ceilings and concrete floors that has two rooms totaling more than 8,500 square feet of event space, plus a 2,500-square- foot outdoor patio.

THE EATS AND DRINKS

One cannot live on breakfast buffets and boxed lunches alone. When members of your group want to explore food and cocktail options on their own, the Warehouse District provides plenty of local flavor.

For a morning coffee, an easy lunch or happy hour noshing, hit The Larry, the informal, modern cafe adjacent to Galvanize. Open on weekdays, the cafe starts out with avocado toast in the morning, then switches gears with sandwiches, salads and pizzas as the day progresses.

For a more refined dining experience, sniff out Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix. The chef-driven, seasonal menu includes dishes like zatar naan served with white bean hummus and a grilled pork tomahawk with chorizo collard greens. Have a cocktail there, or go upstairs to the hotel’s informal Lustre Bar, which overlooks the district.

At the opposite edge of the district, the folksy, family-owned La Canasta restaurant has been serving up Mexican comfort food plus margaritas since 1962.

Fun is on the menu at The Duce, set in a 16,000-square-foot warehouse where you can grab a casual meal (the mac and cheese muffins are famous), have a cocktail, play ping-pong or corn hole, get into the old-fashioned ring for some boxing lessons or come back for Latin dance or swing lessons. And, yes, this multi-purpose fun house doubles as a venue, able to accommodate up to 2,500 people indoors and out.

THE ART

It was the artists who helped breathe life back into the Warehouse District, so it seems fitting to check out a few spots if your group has an hour or two.

Bentley Gallery was a pioneering business in the Warehouse District, opening in 2004 in part of the laundry building that also houses Warehouse215. Known for artists like the aforementioned Serra and Kaneko, the capacious gallery specializes in the stars of the modern art world, but also champions local artists.

If you’re looking for emerging artists, head to Arizona State University’s Grant Street Studios. It’s housed in a former cotton factory that serves as a rustic backdrop for some 60 studios used by art school MFA candidates.

THE ENTERTAINMENT

Slotting in an evening of fun for your group? TheWarehouseDistrict offers plenty of distractions.

For one, sports are front and center with Talking Stick Resort Arena and Chase Field forming a backdrop to the district. The arena, with a basketball-game seating capacity of 18,422, is home not only to the Phoenix Suns, but also to the WNBA Phoenix Mercury and the IFL Arizona Rattlers. Next door, the baseball stadium—Chase Field, with its retractable roof, swimming pool you can rent during games and capacity of more than 48,000—is home turf for the Diamondbacks.

Finally, after a long day of presentations, meetings and events, there’s nothing like having a cold one—and throwing a few axes. Whether you’ve got an axe to grind or not, hurling a hatchet at a bullseye at Urban Axes is immensely satisfying. It also serves as a metaphor for the Warehouse District—after decades of being viewed as a strictly utilitarian place, the district is now the bullseye of Phoenix.