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Carefree Courting the Phoenix Art Museum

Carefree hopes that the Phoenix Art Museum will consider a satellite location Town officials and developer Ed Lewis have been courting the museum for a few months.

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A rendering for a Phoenix Art Museum location being considered for Carefree. Butte Development.

The museum is being coveted as the anchor for the $90 million Butte Development of luxury condos and retail shops in Carefree’s town center. The development will include 80 condos and 50,000 square feet of retail and could break ground by the end of this year if the art museum comes on board. The proposed museum would be 10,000 square feet and plans include an exhibition schedule that rotates seven times per year.

“One of the things up here is that when you talk to people … is that people participate very broadly with the arts,” said Carefree Vice Mayor Les Peterson. “(The museum) fits right in with us and how we envision ourselves. It struck a chord with us.”

If approved, the museum would complement the town’s efforts to create a villagelike atmosphere similar to Santa Fe or Carmel, Calif., which would draw people not only from surrounding communities but tourists in other parts of the Valley.

Jim Ballinger, Phoenix Art Museum director, said the museum board is being cautious about the idea.

“The issue is, in one word, sustainability. Is there a business plan that can demonstrate this satellite can sustain itself through earned and contributed income?” Ballinger said. “Our board has a financial responsibility to the Phoenix Art Museum … and we’re still trying to come out of the recession. The board really wants to be able to know what their risk level is.”

Ballinger called the closing of the Heard Museum North in north Scottsdale after 15 years a “loud message” that “listening to your stomach” and “what you’re hearing” about future success of a satellite location is not enough.

Heard North, just south of the Carefree border in The Summit at Scottsdale, is scheduled to close in April. Among the reasons cited by Heard officials was that anticipated development in the surrounding area did not occur during the recession and many of the homes in the area are owned by part-time residents. Heard North operated for 15 years, first at the nearby el Pedregal shopping center, then at The Summit at Scottsdale since 2007.

Under the proposed art museum deal, the town of Carefree would buy a structure, built by Lewis, at cost and lease it to the museum for $1 a year. Town officials want a long-term commitment from the museum.

Ballinger has met this month with northeast Valley non-profits and the philanthropic community and will continue to discuss the potential for annual museum memberships, continuing donations and participation. “Will people from Anthem come over, will people from DC Ranch come over? I don’t know that yet,” he said.

At some point, a marketing study may need to be done that provides hard data, he said……. more……….

To See Home and Land in Cave Creek and shop the MLS like a Realtor, www.CarefreeProperty.com
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