Saluting Arizona’s Builders: Herman Chanen
“Our construction firm does things differently,” the late Herman Chanen told The Arizona Republic in 1962. “Most contractors are just that. They bid on a building and then contract to do the building for so many dollars. We do some of that, but most of our work is negotiated, and we don’t confine ourselves to just building.”
The Independence, Iowa native explained that his firm, Chanen Construction Company, was “developer-builders in a single package…where all work is coordinated under one roof.” Chanen then described his favorite client. “The one we like best is the fellow who comes with an idea to develop. It may be for a different type of apartment, an original idea for a shopping center, or a new design idea. Then it’s our job to pull all the pieces together and make the idea a reality.”
And that Chanen did when he launched his company in 1955, with Phoenix-area projects that eventually included the Sands Hotel, Sky Riders Hotel, Courtesy Chevrolet, Terminals 2 and 4 at Sky Harbor Airport, Biltmore Fashion Park, Hyatt Regency Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort, Midwestern University, and the Superstition Ho Hotel.
But perhaps Chanen’s piece de resistance was the 21-story Arizona Title Building at First Avenue and Monroe Street in Downtown Phoenix. Now called the 111 W. Monroe office tower, it was designed by architects Fred Weaver and Richard Drover. Chanen formed the Monroe Development Company partnership with Louis Himelstein and Milton Cochat to create the skyscraper and its six-story companion structure.
When work began in 1962, sidewalk “supervisors” loved the marketing spin Chanen had created on the openings in the surrounding safety fence. There were artistic cutouts labeled for eggheads, bellhops, bachelors, and even for dogs called the “K-9 Keyhole.” The building’s grand opening warranted a special section in the Republic in 1964. In a full-page advertisement, Chanen Construction recognized the 1,322,682 hours workers spent creating the development.
Chanen would go on to expand his business to California and Las Vegas, be selected by the U.S. State Department to tour the Soviet Union examining construction practices, and become a well-known philanthropist. He recently died at age 94.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, May/Jun 2023 issue, Vol. 12, No. 3.