Corrections & Clarifications: A previous version of this story included some incorrect details of how monOrchid’s previous owner came to purchase to property. Wayne Rainey was living in Arizona when he learned of the opportunity.
One of Roosevelt Row’s most iconic creative spaces has changed hands, selling to a local developer.
The monOrchid, a multifunctional warehouse that is home to several galleries, co-working spaces, a coffeehouse, restaurant and two full-sized studios, sold for $3.5 million earlier this month to a neighboring urban developer, True North Studio.
Wayne Rainey, who has owned the building since the late 1990s, said it is an exciting new chapter for monOrchid.
“A lot of people have adopted monOrchid as something more than a place to go get coffee or to look at artwork — it’s an important place,” Rainey said. “But people should know we aren’t losing anything.”
Abandoned warehouse to cultural nexus
Two decades ago, Rainey, a third-generation Arizonan, was pursuing a career as a commercial photographer when he heard about the warehouse for sale.
The 14,000-square-foot warehouse was constructed in the late 1930s by Del Webb, a well-known real estate developer and co-owner of the New York Yankees baseball club.
Rainey said his career as a photographer gave him the flexibility to choose where he wanted to live and what he wanted to do, so on a whim he checked out the space.
Storing old boats and located in an area Rainey dubbed as “ground zero for crack and hookers,” the building Rainey visited was far from how the community knows monOrchid today. Rainey said he was enchanted by the high bow trussceilings, and his vision of what could be.
The growth of an urban center in Phoenix was still about a decade away, but Rainey said light rail and interstate construction gave him hope that the suburban-centric city might one day return its focus to the bustling city he had heard about in stories from his dad.
“I was so hungry for this urban lifestyle that I had never experienced here in Phoenix,” Rainey said. “I saw this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experiment on my own city and see if I could stir up some enthusiasm in urbanists.”
Rainey put an offer on the warehouse. At about the same time, he also purchased a space across the street which became Holgas, an affordable housing project with the city intended to bring creatives into downtown Phoenix. Rainey said the two locations quickly changed the dynamic of the area.
The monOrchid started as a studio space for Rainey and a location to collaborate with other creatives. He said he didn’t realize he was pioneering co-working spaces in Arizona.
They began using the warehouse to host fashion shows, create an art magazine and eventually hang art.
The space inside the white brick building covered with murals has lent itself to many uses over the years, including weddings, yoga classes, films and concerts. In 2017, physical modifications to add capacity and the addition of Dressing Room, a restaurant on the east side of the monOrchid building, increased the traffic and capacity for special events.
“It was the first of its kind in many ways,” Rainey said. Over the two decades, Rainey said the space grew into a cultural nexus where people come to imagine the future of the city.
“The space has always been a flagship of what is to come in the city,” Rainey said.
Jonathon Vento, founder of True North Studio, came into the picture about three years ago. Rainey said he was immediately impressed by Vento’s enthusiasm to learn about the community.
“He was taking a look at the possibilities to tap into the potential of the neighborhood and when he saw monOrchid, it was kind of like love at first sight,” Rainey said.
The space is memorable both for its physical beauty and history, Vento said. He said monOrchid is a true ‘third place’ — a nod to spaces outside of home and work.
Vento founded True North Studios about three years ago with a vision to take a new approach in urban development by weaving an area’s history with its future through adaptive re-use and careful curation.
“We want to elevate what exists while also curating it,” he said.
Over the past three years, Vento has been looking into the neighborhood and what it might be in its best life. He has visited cities around the world for ideas about how they model adaptive reuse to promote and maintain arts districts.
Rainey said what has been a 20-year journey for him, was just beginning for Vento.
Initially, Rainey said, he had no intentions to sell the property — he never put the property on the market. But after becoming a father six months ago and re-thinking his plans for the future, Rainey said selling to True North made sense.
“I am really proud of what we have accomplished at monOrchid, but I am excited to see what it becomes with a set of fresh eyes,” Rainey said.
A vision of the space’s best life
The change in ownership for the warehouse-turned-cultural-apex is not a harbinger of large changes to the space and its character, Vento promised.
Small enhancements to the building, including a shade structure for the Dressing Room and the installation of a 20-foot mobile public art piece are already underway. But Vento said the businesses inside the space are there to stay.
“It’s hard to make many improvements on what is already perfect,” Vento said.