May 14, 2024 - News

Grand opening heralds new era for Monroe Street Abbey

View from above of a courtyard inside a former cathedral with no roof.

The inside of the Monroe Street Abbey, viewed from the fourth floor. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

The wait is over and the Monroe Street Abbey is ready to begin hosting weddings and other events after a long renovation process.

The big picture: After years of work and one pandemic-induced pause, the downtown Phoenix abbey held its grand opening Tuesday.

Catch up quick: Originally built in 1929 as the First Baptist Church, the abbey was gutted by a fire in 1984 that collapsed the roof and left the building with severe structural damage.

  • The Housing Opportunity Center, led by former Phoenix mayor and attorney general Terry Goddard, bought the building in 1992 and saved it from demolition.
  • Restoration work began in 2016 and Goddard had several businesses lined up as tenants when the COVID-19 pandemic halted the plans in 2020.

State of play: BTS Event Management and catering company Fresh From the Kitchen are already leasing space in the building, which includes a ballroom and a commercial kitchen, and Goddard hopes to attract more businesses soon.

  • A fully renovated space on the first floor would be an ideal spot for a restaurant, Goddard said at Tuesday morning's event.

Zoom in: BTS held an event at the abbey in late April for the Wedding Industry Professionals Association and has a theater troupe booked for next month, owner Trista Croce told Axios.

  • She expects the abbey to be a popular venue, saying her company has been giving monthly tours of the abbey to show the progress of the renovation, and people always have a positive reaction.
  • "It always just seems like kind of a magical place, something that's very unlike anything that's in Phoenix already," she said.

Zoom out: Project architect Maria Salenger, of Jones Studio, said the abbey's proximity to venues like the Orpheum Theatre, Arizona Financial Theater, Crescent Ballroom and the Van Buren could help boost that area of downtown as "a music generator and appreciation kind of a space" like in downtown Austin or Nashville.

What's next: The eastern side of the abbey still needs renovation work before anyone can move in.

  • Goddard will find out in June if he'll get a state historic preservation grant he applied for.
  • "Right now we have to take a deep breath because there aren't any funds for doing the second half," he said.

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the name of Arizona Financial Theatre.

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