Jones Studio leads transformation of a burned church into a new event space in downtown Phoenix

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Jones Studio leads transformation of a burned church into a new event space in downtown Phoenix

Phoenix-based architecture firm Jones Studio has transformed a burned church into an event space. (Bill Timmerman)

In downtown Phoenix, a comprehensive restoration has transformed a burned church into a “cultural garden in a ruin.” Such is Arizona architecture firm Jones Studio’s description of Monroe Street Abbey, a new event and restaurant venue located one block from the Phoenix City Hall. 

The original structure is an Italian gothic revival–style building that housed the First Baptist Church. In 1984, after the congregation relocated, a fire destroyed the roof and main sanctuary. The interior was severely damaged while the exterior remained partially intact. In 1992, the nonprofit Housing Opportunity Center protected the structure from demolition. 

Monroe Street Abbey front facade at dusk
The original structure is an Italian gothic revival–style building that housed the First Baptist Church. (Bill Timmerman)

Jones Studio’s restoration closely considered this history, demonstrating the “impact of time” through “juxtaposing contemporary materials with the historic shell,” project architect Maria Salenger explained in a statement. Original elements—pre-existing doors, windows, masonry, plaster, and interior finishes—were salvaged and restored. A recessed rose window and a 100-foot-high bell tower were also preserved. 

new staircase and doorways in shell of existing brickwork
The renovation focused on maintaining the building’s architectural integrity and modernizing its structure and mechanics. (Bill Timmerman)
existing brickwork
Throughout existing windows, masonry, and plaster were restored as needed and left intact. (Bill Timmerman)

“As it enters this new phase, the Abbey promises to be a local treasure and a symbol of Phoenix’s resilience,” added founding principal of Jones Studio, Eddie Jones. “Literally rising from the ashes, this project is a testament to the vision and commitment of its guardians, who saw beyond the ruins to envision a space that could once again pulse with life.”

Much of the transformation focused on modernization while maintaining the original frame. Jones Studio stabilized the structure using a steel-and-concrete decking framework. New HVAC, plumbing, electrical, lighting, and fire sprinkler systems were also installed.

rose window of the church
Among the preserved elements was the rose window. (Bill Timmerman)

The new Monroe Street Abbey features prominent outdoor space, particularly as the former auditorium has become a courtyard garden. The garden includes native ash trees and a fountain at the main entry which uses harvested rainwater. Landscape architect Chris Winters & Associates, based in Phoenix, was also tapped for the project.

a courtyard at the center of the former church
Chris Winters & Associates led the project’s landscape architecture. (Bill Timmerman)

A slew of upgrades to the audio/visual and lighting infrastructure have readied the courtyard for a range of events and performances. Repurposed interiors flanking the courtyard include leasable tenant spaces available to house restaurants, bars, galleries, studios, and offices. 

Monroe Street Abbey joins several venues integral to downtown Phoenix’s music scene, including the Orpheum Theatre and the Arizona Federal Theatre. Jones Studio’s restoration has primed the building to join this conglomerate of beloved event spaces.

event space in the former church
Upgrades were made to the mechanics of the building, a necessary addition given its second life as an event space. (Bill Timmerman)

“We have attempted to tie together the Abbey’s many lives: first as a church, then as a training center, a ruin, and now as a new community gathering space and cultural canvas where the historic and the possible converge,” former Phoenix mayor, Terry Goddard, said in a statement. “We hope this elegant building will enhance the vibrant artistic fabric of its neighborhood and our city.”