Developer to Buy, Preserve Tempe's "Most Important" House

Medium-sized image unavailable for this photo.
Monti's La Casa Vieja's 2.5-acre site will be sold, but the
Hayden House will be protected.

Credit: Michael Monti

A Tempe restaurant, in business since 1954, is a de facto city landmark, but it also operates out of one of the oldest buildings in Tempe: the Hayden House, an 1873 Adobe row house built by city patriarch Charles Trumbull Hayden.

Now Monti's La Casa Vieja restaurant, located in what has become one of Tempe's most fashionable neighborhoods, is being sold to a developer. Owner Michael Monti and Phoenix-based developer 3W companies have inked a deal that will keep the building safe and sound.

"[The Hayden House] is probably the most important building in Tempe," says Bob Gasser, chair of the Tempe Historic Preservation Society. "It's the founding pioneer home for the Anglo community in Tempe, and much of the building is still intact." The house has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994 and the city register since 2000.

The sale with 3W Companies will be finalized this fall, and construction will begin in another two years. Once the property is sold, Monti will operate the restaurant under a long-term lease; the rest of the 2.5-acre property will be developed into a mixed-use building.

"Downtown Tempe is becoming an urban, high-density area, whereas it used to be rural and small town," Monti says. "The rapid growth made it necessary to retool our business."

He adds that, since purchasing the structure in the 1950s, the Monti family has expanded the restaurant and spent more than $1 million to restore the historic portion of the property: "I was born and raised in this town, and I grew up in the restaurant; I'm not going to let anything happen to it."

"It's very valuable land," Gasser confirms, adding that Tempe is "fortunate" to have a preservation-minded businessman like Monti. "Most people would have gone for top-dollar and not cared about the building. Much to [the owner's] credit, he held out until he could find a buyer who would preserve the building."

Monti says that selling the property will allow him to renovate the restaurant's kitchen and construct a patio for outdoor dining. "I get to attract a new crowd, and people can still experience Tempe's founding and history in this facility." 

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