The Evolving Phoenix Skyline

When Optima expanded to its Arizona office in 2000, everything about the landscape was foreign — from the arid climate and lush desert vegetation, to the way the city developed. Our business has taken roots in the state since then, allowing us to tackle new architectural frontiers and new design languages, and also allowing us to witness the explosive expansion and evolution of the Phoenix city skyline.

The Polycentric City

Known as the Valley of the Sun for its sprawling, multi-city metropolitan layout, Phoenix has never been defined by a dense city skyline — but that’s been swiftly changing. As a city that covers 520 square miles, Phoenix was designed to optimize for automobile travel, with a highly advanced freeway system that made out-of-town commuters able to get to and from work in as little as 20-30 minutes, a rarity for most cities.

In response to rapid growth, the city developed a “village” system in the 1980s, aiming to create several urban hubs — rather than one, centralized locale — where businesses could thrive. Since then, fifteen urban villages have emerged in the polycentrically planned city, such as the successful pocket at 24th and Camelback Road, where Optima Biltmore Towers is located.

Onwards and Upwards

As businesses continued to naturally gravitate to a “downtown” core, particularly after the introduction of the light rail in 2008, Phoenix recognized the need to reconsider zoning codes and encourage height and intentional growth in downtown Phoenix. Zoning codes evolved in 2010 and 2015 along the light rail track, and with the code modifications and the city opening its arms, the downtown area began to rise.

Now, 18 of Arizona’s 20 tallest buildings are in downtown Phoenix, including the 40-story Chase Tower which rises to a total of 438 feet. The U.S. Bank Center, designed in the Modernist International Style, is among that list too. While impressive skyscrapers and highrises have begun to fill in the skyline and build out a bustling and thriving downtown, we’re still able to catch glimpses of Camelback Mountain, maintaining the true-to-Arizona-style balance between the built and natural environment.

Infill Land and Optima’s Beginning

When David Hovey Sr. and Eileen Hovey set out to create Optima in 1977, they had a distinct vision for how to transform their passions into a business. After deciding that David would design and build the projects and Eileen would take charge of sales, they put a second mortgage on their condominium and purchased infill land in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. That plot of infill land eventually became our first development, but the concept of redevelopment and infill land has benefitted countless cities and urban areas throughout the country. Today, we dive into its history.

The History

The American Planning Association describes infill development as redevelopment that “optimizes prior infrastructure investments and consumes less land that is otherwise available.” Infill development can result in efficient utilization of land resources, reinvestment in areas that are targeted for growth and more efficient delivery of quality public services. Infill buildings are often constructed on vacant or underused property or between existing buildings. Often called “smart growth,” infill development allows for sustainable land development close to a city’s urban core, instead of spreading out. This type of development also helps to renew neighborhoods and create more prosperous communities. 

In Chicago

Following World War II, a series of local and federal initiatives were passed to revitalized aging and decaying parts of Chicago. Major institutions, including Illinois Institute of Technology, took part in the planning and reinvesting of various neighborhoods. New developments and infill on individual lots began to bring new vitality back to the city, with local school improvements and reduced crime rates following behind. 

At Optima

From our plots of land, to designing each residence, to creating fantastic amenity spaces, we’re passionate about bettering the lives of those within our buildings and the environments around them. Starting our first project on infill land, and continuing to do so with many projects for years after, reflects our pursuit of creating beautiful spaces that enhance the human experience.

Location, Location, Location

Ask any real estate broker what the three most important things to consider when renting or buying a home are and they’ll say location, location, location. According to The New York Times, the phrase location, location, location has been in use since at least 1926 — that means that for nearly a century, this is one thing in real estate that hasn’t changed.

Here at Optima, location has always been an integral part of our development process. As the owner, architect, developer and general contractor of our own communities, we see location in a multifaceted way.

Location as Sustainability

As developers, when we seek out land for a new property, we view our search from a responsible, sustainable approach. We prioritize infill developments so that we effectively utilize the land as well as prioritizing valuable open green space. Our very first project in 1978 was urban renewal land in Hyde Park at S Kenwood Ave and E 54th St, and since then we’ve carried on that pattern. 

Location as Design Sensibility

As architects, our practice and design are informed by the context of a new development. We are mindful of the existing architecture in an area, considering both how our building will stand out against the rest while also considering how our new addition will complement its surroundings. With Optima Signature in Streeterville, our sleek, Modernist skyscraper stands out amongst the historical beauties that surround it, creating a juxtaposition that adds complexity and intrigue to the skyline. 

The Nature of Location

As we continue to redefine our roots in modernism, it’s also important to celebrate the fundamental connection between design and nature. Our communities merge indoor and outdoor into a single, holistic experience. Whether in the desert of Arizona or the grid of Chicago, it’s critical to us that our communities are informed by and embrace the nature of the surrounding area. When building desert residence Shadow Caster, we integrated the design of the home with the sloping of the land, creating a bridge feature and courtyard that holistically connect the indoor and outdoor experience of the residence.

Location as an Amenity

As owners, we know what people look for in their community. We also select locations for our properties based on the amenities of the surrounding area. We believe that the homes we build extend beyond their own doors — for our residents, their neighborhood is a large part of their living experience, from the view outside their window, to the transportation they take to work, to the restaurants, bars and shops that they frequent in the area. It’s all vital to the way that we build not just homes, but communities. At 7160 and 7180 Optima Kierland, the Scottsdale location is ripe with amenities. The multi-phase Optima Kierland project is located within steps of Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons, two of the best entertainment areas in all of Scottsdale.

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