Apartments Coming To Arizona’s Oldest American Legion Post Site

By Christina Estes

After two years of debate, Phoenix leaders have unanimously approved the sale of a city-owned lot that houses Arizona’s oldest American Legion Post.

The 1.7-acre site at Seventh Avenue and Polk Street will include 132 units, a mix of market rate and lower income, with preference given to veterans.

During Wednesday’s council meeting, Dana Krieger urged members to approve the plan, “As a Vietnam era veteran and current member of Post 1 who has lived in the downtown Phoenix area for the last 15 years, I now find myself struggling with rent increases of 27% and now another 24% just since the start of the pandemic.”

Cardinal, based in Milwaukee, developed two projects in Wisconsin that cater to low-income veterans and include supportive services. In Tempe, Cardinal developed a project for lower-income seniors who are hearing impaired.

“The more we can get some income mix in there, the more likely we’re going to have a bunch of extra individuals who are willing to go out of their way or care for maybe the people who need extra care,” said Erich Schwenker, president of Cardinal Capital Management. “We find very good outcomes with that.”

After some residents pushed the city and developer to preserve all or most of the existing structures, Cardinal worked with Luke Greenway American Legion Post 1.

“The current building is too large with materials and systems that are too outdated and impossible for us to maintain,” said Larry Busser, Post 1 commander. “They have agreed to focus on the portions of the building that have historical significance to us. Our meeting hall, kitchen, canteen area, memorabilia will be preserved.”

The project will include 3,000 square feet of space for veterans support services and an interpretive display highlighting the history of American Legion Post 1. It is not only Arizona’s oldest post, but also it’s among the first in the country — one of three chartered in the United States on the same day in 1919. The iconic 150-foot flagpole will also remain.

Cardinal will pay Phoenix $1.6 million for the site and could get more than a half million back if it preserves the oldest portion of a building and provides public access to a limited area.