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2023: Year in Review

As 2023 comes to a close, we’re taking this moment to reflect on how we’ve continued to grow, learn and serve others over the past year. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Awards

We were honored to have attended the 2023 Arizona Multihousing Association (AMA) Tribute Awards where professionals are recognized for their tremendous achievement of leaving a positive impact on both their industry and community. 

Optima Verdana Phase 2 Rendering
Optima Verdana Phase 2 Rendering

Projects and Properties

2023 was a year of growth and many exciting announcements for us at Optima. In Chicago, we finished construction and opened Optima Verdana. Residents at Optima Verdana are surrounded by experiences and spaces that delight and surprise around every corner, from our  pickleball court and fitness center to the rooftop sky deck garden lounge and a heated, glass-enclosed pool. With residents continuing to move into Optima Verdana, we’re thrilled to announce Optima Verdana Phase 2. The mixed-use development will be six stories and be home to 150 rental units in a mix of one-, two- and three bedroom layouts.

Playing pickleball at the opening of Optima Verdana
Playing pickleball at the opening of Optima Verdana

Construction was also completed on 7190 Optima Kierland, the fifth and final tower within the development. With the new tower, not only did we grow the community at Optima Kierland Apartments, but, we also welcomed Optima’s first Olympic-length pool. Following the announcement of Optima McDowell Mountain Village late last year, in 2023 we broke ground on the project. The mixed-use development will include six eight-story buildings – a mix of apartments and condominiums – 12 acres of greenspace and a 210,000-gallon rainwater harvesting system for reuse on-site. 

Optima McDowell Mountain Village Rendering
Optima McDowell Mountain Village Rendering

Culture

Throughout 2023 our culture at Optima continued to thrive through rewarding avenues of affinity and connection. We celebrated with each other at our fourth annual costume and pumpkin carving contest, observed Mardi Gras, St Patrick’s Day, International Women’s Day, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, Pride Month, Halloween, various other Holiday celebrations and held our annual master architect challenge. In anticipation of the 7190 Optima Kierland Apartments grand opening, we welcomed the new project with a lively BBQ on the rooftop sky deck where we shared delicious food, and following Optima Verdana’s completion, we celebrated a grand opening filled with laughs. 

The Halloween Costume Party at Optima Lakeview
The Halloween Costume Party at Optima Lakeview

We continued to embrace and internalize our shared values more than ever. We are proud to have participated in the Highland Park Strong Run, where we came together to support the Highland Park community and enjoyed a race with family and friends. 

We can’t thank our leadership, team members and Optima communities enough for making 2023 one to remember. Heading into 2024, we are excited to continue innovating and achieving great things together.

The Optima Team at the Highland Park Strong Run
The Optima Team at the Highland Park Strong Run

The 2023 Canal Convergence

As residents of Optima Sonoran Village® know, Scottsdale is a treasure trove of vibrant cultural events, artistic showcases, and community gatherings. Among these, the Canal Convergence stands out, brilliantly illuminating the Scottsdale Waterfront every year, beckoning both locals and visitors for an immersive experience of art, light, and much more.

Sym by AlexP. Photo: Canal Convergence

The Canal Convergence, a free, annual 10-night extravaganza, beautifully melds light, art, and water along the waterfront. Each year, artists from around the globe captivate audiences with their large-scale public artworks. For 2023, attendees will be treated to mesmerizing pieces like Sym by AlexP, the playful Flario by Walter Productions, the geometric Dice by Montreal-based studio Iregular, the fluid Aquatics by Philipp Artus, and several other awe-inspiring installations like Light Forest, Octavius, Ripple, and Spectrum Swing. Beyond these installations, the event is also a hub for live performances, music, dance, creative workshops, and so much more, including food trucks and a beer and wine garden.

Dice by Iregular.

What makes each Canal Convergence special is its central theme. This year, it dives deep into “The Power of Play,” highlighting its profound significance in our lives. Play isn’t reserved just for children; it’s a vital aspect of human existence, molding our learning, creativity, and social interactions. As the sun sets and the artworks come to life, attendees can immerse themselves in the wonders of play, feeling its influence firsthand.

For those ready to dive into this magical experience, the event runs from Nov. 3–12, 2023, at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Starting from 6 p.m. each evening, the event extends until 10 p.m. on the 3rd, 4th, 10th, and 11th of November, and until 9 p.m. on the other nights. For those wondering about parking, there’s ample free space in the parking garages around Old Town Scottsdale.

Octavious by Petter Hazel.

To residents and beyond, the Canal Convergence is a heartfelt celebration of creativity, unity, and reflection. Don’t miss the chance to be part of this enchanting blend of play, light, and art!

The Scottsdale Civic Center

The Scottsdale Civic Center, situated in Old Town, serves as a cultural hub for the entire city, including our residents at Optima Sonoran Village®. It seamlessly balances Scottsdale’s historical identity as “The West’s Most Western Town” with modern influences, making it a popular focal point where the city’s heritage intertwines with its more recent cultural and artistic expressions. 

This urban oasis is surrounded by some of Scottsdale’s most vital facilities, including City Hall, Civic Center Library, Center for the Performing Arts, and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s both a retail center and a retreat, marked by its lush greenery, tranquil fountains, and eclectic sculptures. You can also enjoy views of Camelback Mountain, which becomes particularly captivating at dusk, offering a serene environment for relaxation and cultural immersion.

The Civic Center dates back to 1966 when a master plan by local architectural firm Bennie M. Gonzales Associates was adopted, emphasizing the seat of town governance as “an open invitation for citizens to participate in their government.” Bennie M. Gonzales, with his distinct Southwestern modernist style, led the planning and design process during the center’s foundational years. His designs are characterized by their harmony with the environment and their use of natural materials, which can be seen in the kiva-like City Hall, the Civic Center Library (built in 1968) and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts (constructed in 1975).

Scottsdale Civic Center Library. Photo: Kevin Bondelli

Decades later, award-winning architect Will Bruder further shaped the Civic Center, designing the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (constructed in 1999). His design paid homage to the curved facades of the neighboring Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Sculptures including Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture and George-Ann Tognoni’s The Yearlings further amplify the center’s art scene. Adjacent to them, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, with its stages and galleries, has hosted notable events like the Arizona Concours d’Elegance, enriching the center’s aesthetic and cultural offerings.

George-Ann Tognoni’s The Yearlings at the west entrance to the Civic Center.
Photo: Scottsdale Public Art

The Scottsdale Civic Center has recently seen major renovations, with its western two-thirds reopening back in January 2023. With plans to showcase 80 annual outdoor events over the next several years, ranging from national touring acts and orchestras to dance ensembles and community events, the Civic Center remains committed to cultural vibrancy and communal engagement.

Keen on exploring upcoming Civic Center events? Follow the link here for more information.

Phoenix’s Fabulous Fox West Coast Theater: Then and Now

At the intersection of Washington and First Street in downtown Phoenix, the Fabulous Fox West Coast Theater once stood as an emblem of the city’s cinematic and architectural heritage. For locals and visitors, it was a chapter of shared memories, community, and an ode to a bygone era. 

The Fabulous Fox was part of a chain of marquee-lit venues that began to pop up in cities across the U.S. in the 1920s, just as the motion picture industry — and the novel entertainment of “going to the movies” — took America by storm. Officially opening its doors in July 1931, it was strategically located down the street from the legendary Adams Hotel. This locale once housed the first Phoenix City Hall and fire station, adding layers of history to the theater’s presence.

Designed by the acclaimed architect S. Charles Lee, this 1,800-seat marvel swiftly became the center of entertainment in the city — perhaps due, to some degree, to being the first air-conditioned hall in Phoenix, offering respite from Arizona’s heat.

Beyond its steel and terra-cotta faced concrete walls, the Fox Theater captured the shared experience of collective gasps, laughter, and moments of poignant silence. And as Phoenix came alive as a 20th century American city, the Moderne-Deco façade, the grand billboard announcing the week’s films, and the flashing marquee lights were integral to its vibrant downtown nightscape.

Ticketing booth at the Fabulous Fox West Coast Theater
Ticketing booth at the Fabulous Fox West Coast Theater. Photo: Phoenix Gazette

Inside the building, guests were greeted by a floating staircase, futuristic lamp posts, crystal chandeliers, and elaborate frescos. These intricate designs, combined with the desert-themed candy counter, reflected an eclectic blend of global luxury and local charm.

Despite its significance, the theater lost its luster with a shift of commercial activity to the suburbs. By 1975, with the property under Phoenix ownership, the decision was made to demolish it, followed by an auction, where remnants of its architectural elegance, from chandeliers to ceiling panels, were sold.

Today, the ground where the Fox Theater once stood is part of the city’s evolving landscape. Once lying vacant and later serving as a parking lot for the America West Arena, is now poised as the site for RED Development’s mixed-use project, including a Fry’s Food Store.

For longtime residents and history buffs, it remains a cherished memory, and as Phoenix continues to grow and change, it’s vital to remember and celebrate the landmarks, like the Fox Theater, that laid the city’s cultural foundation.

Discover the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

We’re always thrilled to spotlight attractions for our residents at Optima Kierland Apartments, including the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Nestled in the heart of Arizona’s picturesque landscape, this preserve stands as a testament to Scottsdale’s dedication to preserving the captivating beauty and wonder of the Sonoran Desert. This urban preserve offers a haven for flora, fauna, and eager adventurers alike.

The Preserve’s history began on January 1, 1994, when Scottsdale formally dedicated the initial area of the preserve, which then consisted of three parcels of land totaling approximately five square miles. Since then, this preserve has grown and flourished, now spanning 27,800 acres, and deeply intertwined with the passionate efforts of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. This non-profit organization, in collaboration with the City of Scottsdale, has been a driving force in the completion and sustainability of the preserve. Their dedication ensures that this part of the Sonoran Desert remains untouched for future generations. The Conservancy also plays a vital role in managing the land and maintaining the extensive trail network.

Gateway Trailhead Building View
View of the Gateway Trailhead Building. Photo: Al_HikesAZ

Apart from its breathtaking vistas, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve boasts a range of facilities designed to enhance the visitor experience. Major trailheads include the Gateway Trailhead, Tom’s Thumb, and Brown’s Ranch. These provide free parking, access to a variety of trails, and restroom facilities. With an extensive network of non-motorized, multi-use trails, visitors can indulge in activities ranging from hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The paths cater to all skill levels – from gentle terrains to challenging ascents. 

 

Cactus Wren on a cactus.
Cactus Wren. Photo: Rick Cameron

The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy offers guided hikes, where knowledgeable guides share insights about the desert ecosystem, its history, and its inhabitants. But the preserve is more than just a recreational spot. Through the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, it offers a variety of educational programs designed to foster public awareness and appreciation of the desert ecosystem.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is more than a slice of “untainted desert;” it’s an experience. Its vastness captures the essence of the Sonoran Desert, providing those with a penchant for exploration an opportunity to connect with nature. With its diverse activities, rich history, and the backing of a dedicated conservancy, the preserve promises something for everyone. And for Optima Kierland Apartment residents, whether you’re an avid hiker, a curious student, or simply someone to find peace amidst nature’s splendor, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve awaits only five miles away.

Then and Now: The Remarkable Rebirth of the Hotel Adams

At Optima®, we revel in opportunities to explore the layers of architectural history and cultural significance found in the places we reside. In the heart of Phoenix, one structure stands as a testament to the city’s vibrant evolution over time: the Hotel Adams.

The journey for this architectural gem began in 1894, during Arizona’s territorial days, when Phoenix was a city of merely 5,000 residents. Attorney J.C. Adams, a recent arrival from Chicago, sought to enrich the city’s modest accommodations. Leveraging his financial connections, Adams constructed the city’s first luxury hotel, a grand Queen Anne-style building that immediately elevated Phoenix’s stature.

Adams lobby (pictured in 1920) (Photo: McCulloch Brothers Inc. / Arizona State University Libraries)

With balconies, private bathrooms in many rooms, fireplaces for heat, and an innovative cooling system featuring electric fans blowing air over giant ice blocks, the Adams Hotel wasn’t just elegant, but innovative for its time.

In 1910, the Adams Hotel succumbed to a devastating fire, and rose from its ashes as a five-story, Mission Revival-style structure, rebuilt on the same site with fireproof, reinforced concrete. Reopened in time for the statehood celebration in 1912, the Hotel Adams once again became a hub of social, political, and cultural activity.

The Hotel Adams located at Central Avenue and Adams Street,
1960. (Photo: Douglas C. Towne)

From its storied lobby, which housed Arizona’s first commercial radio station, to its altruistic pledge during World War II to always have a room available for servicemen, the Hotel Adams remained a symbol of the city’s community spirit.

As Phoenix evolved, so did Hotel Adams. In 1973, the decision was made to replace the aging building with a modern hotel to support the new Civic Center. The result was the 17-story, 538-room hotel that today is known as the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Yet, within its modern shell, the Renaissance Phoenix retains the spirit of the Hotel Adams.

The now Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel

The basement area is a testament to the hotel’s tenacious spirit. Encased by concrete walls poured back in 1910, it’s now home to Melinda’s Alley, a clandestine hangout known for its rotating cocktail menu.

As we celebrate the extraordinary journey of the Hotel Adams, we are continually inspired by such symbols of resilience and reinvention. These architectural narratives speak to the enduring power of creating spaces that carry forward the spirit of evolution, community, and cultural significance. We’re proud to be a part of Arizona’s rich architectural history, and we look forward to the stories yet to be told.

Unearthing the Desert’s Splendor at the Desert Botanical Garden

At Optima®, we’re always excited to spotlight spaces that celebrate the captivating beauty of nature while enriching our communities. Today, we venture to the sun-drenched landscapes of Phoenix, home to the remarkable Desert Botanical Garden. This natural wonder encapsulates the magic of the desert, bursting with over 50,000 desert plants across its sprawling 140-acre expanse.

Founded in 1939, the Desert Botanical Garden has curated an outdoor gallery that beautifully showcases desert plants’ resilience and diversity. From towering saguaro cacti to delicate desert wildflowers, each exhibit is a testament to the rich biodiversity that thrives in the seemingly harsh conditions of the desert.

The garden is more than just a collection of desert flora; it’s a living, breathing embodiment of the Sonoran Desert’s essence. It presents a series of trails such as the Desert Discovery Loop Trail and the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, each unfolding a unique story of desert life. As you walk these trails, you’ll find yourself immersed in an incredible mosaic of desert beauty.

Sonoran Desert Nature Walk Trails in Phoenix. Photo: Desert Botanical Garden

But the marvel doesn’t end with its spectacular plant life. The Desert Botanical Garden is also an active hub for research and conservation. It is deeply committed to protecting the desert’s natural splendor, ensuring that future generations will be able to marvel at these landscapes just as we do today.

Beyond the exploration of desert life, the garden hosts an array of vibrant events and exhibitions. From awe-inspiring art installations to engaging educational programs for adults and children, the Desert Botanical Garden pulses with an energy that extends beyond its plant life. There’s always something to delight in, learn from, and explore.

Ottosen Entry Garden. Photo: Bill Timmerman and Adam Rodriguez

Visitors are also greeted by the striking Ottosen Entry Garden. This architectural delight, inspired by desert patterns and interspersed with bold plant colors, sets the tone for an immersive desert exploration. It’s a testament to how architecture can meld seamlessly with nature, creating a grand entry into the desert’s heart.

As we at Optima® celebrate the places that elevate our appreciation for the natural world, the Desert Botanical Garden stands as a magnificent testament to the desert’s allure. It challenges the perception of deserts as lifeless terrains, instead revealing an ecosystem brimming with life, beauty, and countless stories waiting to be discovered. The garden invites us all to step into the desert landscape, uncovering the rich, abundant life that flourishes under the Arizona sun.

Phoenix Architecture Spotlight: The David and Gladys Wright House

At Optima®, we have an unending fascination for architectural masterpieces, especially those that have shaped and defined the Modernist movement. Today, our focus rests upon an extraordinary residence, the David and Gladys Wright House, designed by none other than the father of architecture himself, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Located in Phoenix, Arizona, this house stands out as one of Wright’s most innovative residential designs. Constructed in 1952 for his son David and daughter-in-law Gladys, this home reveals the intimate connection Wright shared with his family, articulated in his distinctive architectural language.

Crafted towards the end of his prolific career, the David and Gladys Wright House reflects Wright’s refined understanding of organic architecture and his remarkable ability to adapt to the character of the site. The house, built with native concrete blocks, rises in a spiral form from the desert landscape, its curvilinear design echoing the shape of the nearby mountains.

David and Gladys Wright House, Photo: Andrew Pielage

The unique spiraling form of the house is a significant departure from the typical linear construction seen in many of Wright’s works, and it manifests his deep reverence for the natural world. The spiraling design ascends gracefully from the ground, turning 360 degrees to provide panoramic views of Camelback Mountain and the surrounding landscape.

Inside, Wright’s naturalistic design philosophy continues — the interior floor plan unfolds like a nautilus shell, with rooms radiating from the central hearth, embodying the hearth’s symbolic role as the heart of the home. The characteristics Wright touches—built-in furniture, extensive use of natural light, and harmonious color palettes—are in full swing here, creating a seamless dialogue between the exterior and interior spaces.

David and Gladys Wright House interior

Notable, too, is the home’s thoughtful integration of modern technology for its time. It was designed with innovative features such as energy-efficient passive solar heating, natural cooling, and a functional, open kitchen that was ahead of its time.

Despite facing threats of demolition, the house has been preserved thanks to the concerted efforts of preservationists, historians, and fans of Wright’s work. Today, the David and Gladys Wright House stands as a testimony to Wright’s genius and his enduring influence on Modernist architecture.

At Optima®, we’re continually captivated by such Modernist masterpieces that speak volumes about the era’s architectural ethos. Frank Lloyd Wright’s David and Gladys Wright House, with its distinctive design blending built form and natural environment, remains a profound source of inspiration and a vivid embodiment of Wright’s creative brilliance. 

Ralph Haver: The Unsung Brilliance of A Mid-Century Arizona Architect

Ralph Haver’s work may not have gained the same international recognition as his contemporaries Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, or Eero Saarinen, but there’s no mistaking his defining influence on Arizona Mid-Century Architecture.

Haver was born in Pasadena in 1915. He attended Pasadena Junior College and later studied architecture at the University of Southern California (USC) before the United States entered World War II. After a stint in the military with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, he moved to Phoenix, and started his own architectural practice. In 1945, he founded Haver, Nunn & Associates, partnering with fellow architect, Jimmie Nunn. The duo focused on designing affordable tract homes that were stylish, functional, and suited to the desert climate.

Northwood Haver Home in Phoenix. Photo: ©2016 Modern Phoenix LLC

His passion for simple, affordable, and elegant design made him an instant hit among Arizonans who were seeking a fresh architectural perspective.

While Wright’s organic architecture and luxurious designs were the talk of the town, Haver was working diligently behind the scenes. He envisioned a world where every family could live in a well-designed, modern home without breaking the bank. And thus, the “Haver Home” was born.

Haver Homes For All

Haver’s homes were designed for the average family. Their clean aesthetic and open floor plans allowed homeowners to bask in the natural beauty of Arizona while having a comfortable, stylish abode.

Marlen Grove Haver Home. Photo: ©2020 Modern Phoenix LLC

With the thousands of Haver Home designed and built, their iconic design elements included low-sloping roofs, expansive windows, and a post-and-beam construction, similar to that of another Arizona contemporary we wrote about recently, Al Beadle. These elements allowed for a seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, maximizing both beauty and functionality.

Ralph Haver and his firm didn’t limit themselves to residential projects. They also designed schools, churches, and commercial buildings, leaving their mark on many aspects of Arizona’s mid-century architectural landscape. Many of their projects were concentrated in neighborhoods like Marlen Grove, Town and Country, and Windemere.

Windermere Haver Home. Photo: ©Modern Phoenix LLC

Although Ralph Haver passed away in 1997, his work continues to influence architects and homeowners, and his designs have become highly sought-after by those looking to own a piece of Arizona’s unique modernist architectural heritage. In fact, many neighborhoods throughout Phoenix and Scottsdale still boast a high concentration of Haver Homes, lovingly maintained and restored by their proud owners. These communities serve as a testament to Haver’s enduring vision of affordable, stylish living for all. At Optima®, we’re inspired by the innovative spirit of Ralph Haver and his dedication to creating beautiful, functional living spaces.

Al Beadle: The Mid-Century Modern Master in Phoenix

When it comes to mid-century modern architecture in Arizona, the name Frank Lloyd Wright tends to come to mind first. It’s exciting to note, however, that there have been other luminary architects who made enormous contributions to modernist architectural traditions here in the desert. Today, we are happy to introduce one of these under-the-radar designers — a true pioneer in his time whose work continues to inspire practitioners and homeowners alike.

Born in 1927, Al Beadle grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. He served with the United States Navy Construction Battalion, the Seabees, in the South Pacific during World War II. His experiences included building piers, designing command bases, and constructing hospitals. After his time in the military, where he acquired much of his architectural prowess, Beadle eventually moved to Phoenix where he would make his mark on the city’s architectural scene. Starting his own architecture and build firm in 1967, Beadle believed in the principles of minimalism, efficiency, and the seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces.

Beadle’s unique design approach is evident in his many residential and commercial projects throughout the Phoenix area. His signature style often features clean lines, flat roofs, expansive glass walls, and a keen attention to detail. His buildings effortlessly blend with their desert surroundings, creating a harmonious balance between the built environment and the natural landscape.

Paradise Gardens

One of Beadle’s most iconic projects is the Paradise Gardens community. Developed between 1958 and 1964, this neighborhood showcases a collection of mid-century modern homes that embodies Beadle’s design philosophy. These homes are characterized by their post-and-beam construction, open floor plans, and large windows that blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living spaces. 

Single-family home in Paradise Gardens
Single-family home in Paradise Gardens. Photo: ©2016 Modern Phoenix LLC

Beadle House 11

Another noteworthy example of Beadle’s work is Beadle House 11, which he designed for himself and his family. Completed in 1963, this stunning residence exemplifies the architect’s minimalist approach, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed steel beams, and sense of effortless elegance.

Beadle House 11 in Phoenix
Beadle House 11 in Phoenix, AZ. Photo: ©2016 Modern Phoenix LLC
Beadle House 11 remodeled interior
Beadle House 11 remodeled interior. Photo: ©2016 Modern Phoenix LLC

Today, Al Beadle’s architectural legacy lives on in the many buildings he designed throughout Phoenix and the surrounding areas. His work continues to be celebrated by architects, designers, and mid-century modern enthusiasts who appreciate the timeless quality of his designs. Preservation efforts are underway to ensure that Beadle’s architectural gems remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

In a city like Phoenix, where the natural beauty of the desert meets the sleek sophistication of modern design. Those who call this place home or are simply visiting, should consider checking out Al Beadle’s architectural masterpieces. From the effortlessly cool Paradise Gardens community located on 32nd Street to 36th Street and Mountain View, to the striking Beadle House 11 on 4323 E McDonald Dr, there’s no shortage of Beadle-designed gems to explore and appreciate.

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