On the future of First National Center:
To steal from a bit of classic literature, it may be the best of times, it may be the worst of times for First National Center. If one entity buys the entire First National Center and converts the new annex buildings into parking, then yes, it's a bright future for the landmark. But if an entity is planning to just buy the annex buildings and convert them into parking, and leave the historic iconic tower in the current ownership of a man facing up to 10 years in prison for embezzlement in Arizona, then I know of a lot of key decision makers downtown who say this deal is disastrous. And if it's structured this way, the buyer and broker on the annex buildings won't be very popular in some circles.
Keep in mind, First National Center once had attached parking. Over a dozen years ago, when I was still somewhat of a pup reporter, former owners with Irish Realty donated the office buildings to Feed the Children and kept ownership of the cash cow, the Main Street Parking Garage. That deal is seen by many as one of the actions that have kept First National from making a comeback.
On when another downtown skyscraper/tower will be built:
Within the next five years. Maybe sooner.
Rick Dowell has had a mid-rise residential tower in his master plan for the past decade. It's also true that he's the slow but steady turtle in this discussion. He reverse finances his development - a brilliant move that allows for him to proceed with very little risk or vulnerability to economic ups and downs. He's proceeding with construction of the garage extension on Walker Avenue, and then he'll likely finish Dowell Center, the former Midland Mortgage Building on Robinson Avenue, in the next two to five years. With reverse financing on those projects ... yeah, he'll likely have the money to build the residential tower.