Quinn Whissen and her fiance, Ryan Tempest, believe a revival of Phoenix’s humble downtown is just around the corner. And they plan to be at the heart of it — in a refurbished condo right in the middle of Roosevelt Row.
“The location,” Whissen, 29, says when asked what first attracted them to their loft home of just under 1,250 square feet. “We had to be in a very constrained area — close to the light rail, work, friends. ... Without a car, we couldn’t go too far.”
You heard that right: two Phoenicians living without a car in the nation's sixth largest city, known for its impossibly big brown sprawl.
“We’ve built our life down here," says Tempest, 32, an architect at Gould Evans in Phoenix’s warehouse district, a quick light rail ride away. "We only hang out down here.”
Whissen, a marketing consultant and graphic designer, agrees.
“Ryan and I have centralized our lives so much,” she says.
Being real urbanites is part of their MO so much that they started This Could Be Phoenix, a community engagement and awareness group that aims to facilitate discussions about urban living and sustainability in the greater Downtown neighborhood.
So they found a place close to everything — just down the street from the place she gets her hair cut; a short bike ride from the grocery store; across the street from morning coffee at Lola.
The one-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath is located in the historic Fontanelle building on Roosevelt and Fifth Avenue. Whissen explains it was built around 1924 as an apartment building. The building was then converted into a group home for mental health patients before it was remodeled into its current incarnation as modern lofts in 2003.
Tempest had been eyeing the building for years. As an architect, he loved the interiors of exposed brick and wood floors.
“The walls don’t hold up anything,” he said, pointing out the steel columns that reinforce the walls and ceilings throughout the place.
Another nod to the building’s history are the sunken floors — you can see the line of the original foundation a foot or two up the walls.
The bare bones structure gave the couple ample space to mesh their different styles.
“I’d lean more toward eclectic, worldly, earthy,” Whissen says, while Tempest is more “modern, streamlined.”
The result is modern, square furniture with a lot of personal accents and structures. Like an old printing press found in a local antique shop and framed photos from their international travels.
And a lot of plants.
“My big thing,” Tempest says of his need to be surrounded by greenery, which hang down from the high alcove above the stairs. Many come from the Bosque shop Downtown.
Upstairs, the windows look onto lush green trees surrounding the outside of the building.
“It feels like you’re in a treehouse,” Whissen says. “It doesn’t feel like Phoenix.”
But the pair want to be in Phoenix. For the long run.
“Community is a big thing here," Whissen says. "Everyone’s active in the neighborhood in some way. I used to live in L.A. — I can’t tell you the people that lived next door.”
Phoenix is different.
“For how big Phoenix is, you can have a lot of influence,” she says of their work with This Could Be Phoenix to get Downtown on the proverbial map of cool places to live in the Valley. “You get to be a bigger voice.”