America the Messy Yard Police State

Hayden Flour Mill in Downtown Tempe

  I don't mind the Tempe Hayden Flour Mill on Mill Avenue in Downtown Tempe, but it is a dump and an eye sore which violates Tempe's messy yard laws.

Of course the city of Tempe selectively enforces the messy yard laws and does write itself tickets for the violations at the Tempe Flour Mill.


Battle brewing over landmark Tempe mill

by Dianna M. Nanez - Mar. 31, 2012 10:33 PM

The Republic |

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" sums up a brewing debate among preservationists and some business owners over a plan to renovate Tempe's 137-year-old Hayden Flour Mill.

For historians, the weathered white mill and silos bear iconic reminders of Arizona's history that are worth preserving.

They say a plan to repaint the buildings with a fresh coat of white paint would rob the state of decades-old reminders of the industrial age.

But others see the mill as an eyesore that mars the entrance to downtown Tempe.

The "Family Kitchen" flour-bag ad on the mill's north-facing wall would be lost, as would the faded "Hayden Flour Mills" lettering on the whitewashed silos.

The faint images were once beacons on a landmark built by Charles Trumbull Hayden, a pioneer merchant, town developer and father of the late U.S. Sen. Carl Hayden.

Hayden began construction of the original Hayden Flour Mill in 1872, completing the structure at the base of Tempe Butte on the southeastern corner of Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway in May 1874. Tempe's commerce burgeoned as people flocked to the mill for work.

But nowadays some downtown Tempe business and land owners don't like what they see when they peer at the peeling paint and rust that sheathe the silo and mill building. They say it's time to turn the page and provide a facelift worthy of buildings that mark the main gateway into downtown Tempe.

Development ideas

Over the years, various entrepreneurs promised Tempe they could redevelop the city-owned site into a swank hotel or retail space.

The downturn in the economy sunk the latest developer's plan to turn the site into a mixed-use development that would have encased parts of the mill in glass and added retail, a restaurant and office space.

Last summer, as complaints mounted from downtown Tempe businesses about the state of the neglected site, the council decided the city needed to take renovation of Hayden Flour Mill into its own hands.

The council announced a plan to take down a chain-link fence that borders the site, add boxed trees and grass and repaint the mill and silo with flour-hued paint.

The Rio Salado Foundation, a non-profit of which Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman is board president, has garnered private donations to fund the renovation.

The Downtown Tempe Community Inc., which manages the downtown for landowners, will be responsible for programming music and other community events outside the mill.

With landscaping nearly finished, a series of panels facing Mill Avenue has been installed to commemorate the site's history. Workers continue to clean the bottom floor of the mill building so passers-by can peer inside the windows. Tempe is set to open the site to the public in late April or early May.

One of the last steps in the renovation is repainting the main mill building and silos. One business was so excited about the facelift that it volunteered to pay for the paint.

But growing opposition from historians and preservationists compelled the Tempe City Council on March 22 to postpone the decision on whether to paint.

Nancy Hormann, president of the Downtown Tempe Community Inc., said the majority of Tempe's downtown merchants are OK with repainting the flour-bag image on the mill building. They also want the rest of the building to get a fresh coat of white paint.

"Historically, it's been painted several times. It's not like it's never been painted over before," she said.

Hallman said plans to add a community garden and other details may delay the opening, giving the city time to consider the long-term consequences of painting.

Historical character

Vic Linoff is a downtown Tempe landowner who leases his property. He is also a historian who owned downtown Tempe's Those Were The Days bookstore in a registered historic Tempe building that closed in 2008 after 35 years.

As a businessman, Linoff said he is pleased with certain aspects the city has planned for the renovation. But he considers painting over old advertisements tantamount to sacrificing the state's history for a quick fix.

Linoff considers Hayden Flour Mill, the 103-year-old Sugar Beet Factory in downtown Glendale, and the historic 1930s-era Mesa Citrus Growers co-op building near Broadway Road and Country Club Drive among the Valley's few remaining industrial-age icons.

"Those are one-of-a-kind examples of the industries that sustained the Valley in its early years. They also represent remarkable opportunities for adaptive reuse," he said.

Robert Graham, a Phoenix historic architect and past president of the Arizona Preservation Foundation, has weighed in on the debate. He penned a letter to the city stating that the faint "ghost-signs" and rust-marred paint give the mill building and silos "much of its historic character." The old advertising images uncovered as paint flaked should be preserved, he said.

"To paint over these features would be like refinishing a treasured piece of antique furniture -- it may look 'like new,' but is that really the highest value? Or do we value the patina of age, which cannot be recreated once lost?" he wrote.

Linoff thinks the city is holding onto the Hayden Flour Mill, hoping to score big on future development of the site. But Linoff said he thinks Tempe would be better off leasing the site for an affordable price to a developer that specializes in restoring and redeveloping historic architecture.

"I saw a wonderful restoration of the old Quaker Oats silos in Ohio," he said. "I've always thought they could renovate the (mill) silos with elevators and place a very high-end bar and restaurant on top -- the view up there is absolutely phenomenal. Or imagine a Ghirardelli Square, like what they've done in San Francisco."

In the long run, the city would likely get its return on investment with the boost in sales taxes from creating a landmark hub downtown, he said.

Linoff and other preservationists are not opposed to opening the site to the public while a historian and restoration expert can advise the city on how to properly restore the images.

Hallman said that much of the remaining renovation can take place while the city decides whether "to paint, or not to paint."

In the meantime, Hallman is focused on raising money to complete the renovation so Valley residents can enjoy the historic site.

Gerald Peralta and his daughter Carrie Peralta were among a small group of Valley residents who got a sneak peek at the renovation effort last month during a tour where Hallman recounted the mill's history.

Gerald pointed with pride at historic photos of mill workers on the decorative panels now flanking the mill building.

"That's my grandfather Manuel Peralta, my dad Gerardo Peralta and uncle Manuel Jr. They all worked at the mill," he said to his daughter.

Carrie said she commends the city for restoring the site.

"For me these buildings have always been a landmark, a piece of our past. We've already lost too much of it (in Arizona)," she said.


America the Messy Yard Police State