Beet sugar factory’s future remains unclear

By: 
CAROLYN DRYER Editor

Photo by Carolyn Dryer
Ray Klemp stands on the east side of the beet sugar factory.

Photo by Carolyn Dryer
Owner Ray Klemp said the city requested he dig below the supporting beams in the beet sugar factory and X-ray the soil beneath to determine the underlying condition.

Photo by Carolyn Dryer
The structure rises five stories high with heavy flat iron beams giving support.

It’s big — five stories high — made of hand packed bricks from a nearby quarry. The roof leaks in spots and the lower windows are boarded up. A padlock keeps most people out, but a few critters have traipsed across the floor, which has huge chunks missing in several places.

It once was a busy industrial building; it now sits empty, housing old memories dating back to 1906, and odd pieces of kitchen equipment brought in recently to store for a later use.

Kathleen Noon, Phoenix Public Library historian, wrote the following in a paper presented at the 2000 Arizona History Convention.

“The Arizona Republican, on Jan. 5, 1906, wrote an extensive article on all phases of construction and the description given of the buildings sizes shows what an extensive undertaking the factory was:

“The steel structure of the main building is now fully completed. It is five stories high in one part and three stories in another. Built on solid concrete foundations, it gives every appearance of standing for ages. This building is 293 by 67 feet and is the largest of the group. The foundations for the other buildings are well underway. There is a boiler house 160 by 52 feet; a lime kiln house 80 by 52 feet; a repair shop 60 by 52 feet, and a smoke stack with a base measuring 30 by 30 feet. When complete, this stack will be 165 feet in height and the material a patent brick.

“In addition to these buildings named there will be a sugar warehouse of the dimensions 120 by 67 feet and the immense beet sheds 400 by 100. The office building built apart from the other structures will be of modern construction, and although small, will be a handsome structure.”

It’s the beet sugar factory; some call it sugar beet factory. No matter what its name, the building conjures up various recollections from longtime residents.

For most people, though, it brings up questions about what is going to happen inside those cavernous walls.

Ray Klemp, who has owned the building since the early 1990s, talks about his vision for the property. It is hard to reconcile his plan with what one sees on the ground today.

Klemp would like to see a modern steel structure within the walls topped with glass.

“So, I could see us doing an entertainment alley,” Klemp said. “Take out the concrete and leave the steel.”

He said barrels of whiskey could be brought in for the aging process. His two daughters, Lauren and Morgan, started Arroyo, a Phoenix-based family company that produces vodka, flavored vodka, gin, whiskey and cordials.

What Klemp wants for the beet sugar factory is “to bring it back to life in a slow way.”

He vows the building will not house apartments. Instead, at some point, he would like to see the property house a successful spirits business, “then like in Dublin, an entertainment venue for the top,” where people could sample beverages. He said he wants to work with local businesses to promote beverages.

As he walks around the inside of the property, Klemp points to different areas around the massive flat steel riveted beams, where, he said, the city had him dig down and X-ray the footings. They are solid.

Klemp said he has already invested more than $100,000 in the building; he said he pays $4,000 a year in property taxes. But he is willing to do more if he can find a way to a clear title. The city has an easement of about 20 feet that at one time was to serve as a path for a railway system to run through town. That plan fell through, but the property easement stayed, and it remains the same today.

With no clearance on the easement, Klemp said no bank would approve a loan for restoration. Still, Klemp said he wants to hire a historical architect to come up with a final restoration plan. The building is registered as a national historic structure. It is not the first historic property in his portfolio.

Klemp said he owns Hardware Co-op in Provo, Utah; the Santa Ana Police Department building in California; an 11,000-square-foot building with a dumb waiter on Melrose, west of the Paramount Films building in Los Angeles; and a 60,000-square-foot building at University Drive and Alma School Road in Mesa (Westwood Plaza). The beet sugar factory is 19,631 square feet; not his largest investment, but big enough to house his dream — if he can make it come true.

From beet sugar to a popular citrus soda, Squirt, to now an empty structure with un uncertain future, the beet sugar factory is getting another look, a new evaluation, a renewed interest by its owner.

In an Aug. 3, 2011 article published in The Glendale Star, Glendale Economic Development Director Brian Friedman commented on the allure historic buildings have, the importance of preserving them, and the benefit businesses have in using them.

“Historic buildings often capture their own draw,” he said.

“They offer a new owner the ability to establish their business in a unique setting that is not available everywhere. Many shoppers and patrons enjoy the opportunity to experience the one-of-a-kind architecture and visual appeal that can only really be found in historic buildings.”

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