the hayden flour mill has hundreds of violations of tempes messy yard laws. and the city doesnt fix them.


Tempe mill slighted amid building spree

Katie Nelson The Arizona Republic Oct. 20, 2005 12:00 AM

As Tempe's bigwigs broke ground on yet another sleek lakeside high-rise Wednesday, across the street one of the city's most recognizable buildings remains empty.

There's no question the gritty white silos of the Hayden Flour Mill are an area icon. They're the downtown district's namesake, a historical landmark, an archeological site. City leaders call the mill the linchpin of development in a blooming urban center because of its location between the Town Lake and Mill Avenue.

But the city-owned mill has baggage: It's saddled with a pending $40 million lawsuit. It's been vacant for seven years. There are use restrictions, building restrictions and view restrictions. There is a lack of parking, electricity and water. Never mind the asbestos or that it's on an odd, ladle-shaped piece of land.

That doesn't deter city leaders who say the right project could make it the pride of the city once again.

"The interest is out there, but once folks understand the level of challenge that this property poses, they often start looking elsewhere for something that's easier to do," Mayor Hugh Hallman said.

Mill was Arizona fixture Unlike the Hayden Ferry Lakeside project where a 12-story tower is soon going to rise, the mill dates to Tempe's beginnings. It's been more than 135 years since, legend says, Charles Hayden, climbed the butte that would later bear his name , surveyed his surroundings and decided the area below him would be a good place to live.

"Charles Hayden is the business founder of Tempe," said John Akers, curator of the Tempe Historical Museum. "He opened the first store, brought goods to the farmers; opened the mill and became the largest employer for a very long time."

Over the years there were three Hayden Mills. The first was a water-powered, two-story adobe building. It opened for business in 1874, and burned down about 15 years later.

A second adobe mill burned in 1917. Again the mill was rebuilt - part of this structure is what still stands at the site east of Hayden Butte, on the north end of Mill Avenue. The grain elevator and seven silos were added in 1951.

Three generations of the Hayden family ran the mill, using Tempe-grown wheat to churn out cloth and later paper bags of baking and tortilla flour. Newspaper accounts from the era report Hayden processed almost the entire Arizona wheat crop.

Silent since 1998 After 107 years of Hayden ownership, the mill was sold to the Bay State Milling Company of Massachusetts.

But in 1998, the mill fell silent. The decision ended production at the Valley's longest-running industrial plant.

Since then transients and teens who found their way into the building despite fencing left their marks in graffiti and urine. Meanwhile, it changed ownership.

The property was sold to MCW Holdings in 2001. MCW wanted to put lofts, shops and offices on the site. But the city says they didn't start the project within a promised two-year time limit, despite $12 million in incentives. In 2003, Tempe acquired the property after claiming MCW defaulted on its contract, but MCW Holdings is suing the city for more than $40 million in Maricopa County Superior Court because it disagrees.

Variety of proposals Despite that, city leaders entertain ideas on what to do with the mill at least monthly. The suitors range from neighbors with no real financial backing to serious investment firms with development experience. Yet the many restrictions usually scare developers off.

Some businesses have pitched hotels; others suggested apartments, stores and boutiques. Some of the most recent suitors met with Hallman on Monday, a courtesy he says he and other city leaders give to all potentially serious proposals. Constellation Property Group envisions condos in the silos and artsy retail on the ground.

The Australian-based company has turned a set of Sydney silos into a modern, chic place to live. They are considering doing the same in Tempe, according to Eugene Marchese, managing director. He is also looking at nine other potential sites in Phoenix and Tempe, he said.

For the possible mill project, Constellation wants to team up with the Lab, a California-based group that has built two "anti-malls" - one art- and fashion-based, the other focused on sports and recreation - in Orange County. The Lab could create a similar non-corporate approach to retail in the Mill.

"We like the historical integrity of the building and the location," said Shaheen Sadeghi, the creative juice behind the anti-malls.

"And from a cultural standpoint, the area has a lot of potential ... our approach with specialty art and culture focus would do well there. There are certainly already enough Wal-Marts and Gaps and Banana Republics."