Southwest Redevelopment Area Approved Around Fiesta District Mesa

16-0946 - Presentation
Article originally posted on HERE on September 14, 2016

A short drive down Southern Avenue in southwest Mesa is sure to be filled with scenes of vacant buildings and abandoned shopping centers; however, a plan passed by Mesa City Council is trying to fix that.

The area around the Fiesta District West Mesa has been deemed “blighted” by the Mesa City Council following a study that began in May.

The council voted to create the Southwest Redevelopment Area in a unanimous, 7-0 vote Monday, Sept. 12. Voting yes were Mayor John Giles; Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh; and council members Dave Richins, District 1; Alex Finter, District 2; Chris Glover, District 4; David Luna, District 5; and Kevin Thompson, District 6.

The Southwest Redevelopment Area totals just under 1 square mile. It spans Country Club Drive from Broadway Road to U.S. Highway 60 and along Southern Avenue between the Tempe Canal and Country Club Drive. It also includes the shopping centers south of U.S. 60 at Alma School Road and Isabella Drive.

The study, conducted by the city of Mesa in conjunction with Zions Public Finance Inc., includes several exhibits in which dilapidated houses and long-vacant businesses are shown in disrepair.

As many as 52 percent of the parcels in the area were found to demonstrate at least one factor of blight, according to the council report. The most common factor, demonstrated by 22 percent of parcels, was deterioration of site or other improvements, due largely to high vacancy.

The other common factors were improper or obsolete subdivision platting, 23 percent; dominance of inadequate street layout, 15 percent; and diversity of ownership, 9 percent.

Sara Sorensen, the project manager, said that the labeling of the area as a redevelopment district is crucial to being able to provide economic aid and clean up the area.

“The main goal is to secure additional economic development tools to help us with our business attraction and retention efforts while also eliminating blight,” she said in a study session on Sept. 8.

The plan also expands the Central Business District to include both the Town Center Redevelopment Area, established in 2004 and the Southwest Redevelopment Area; which will allow the government to provide additional aid.

Scott Jackson, representing Verde Fiesta 1 LLC, a company that owns several buildings in Fiesta Mall, supports the plan so that the area can utilize the Government Property Lease Excise Tax in order to encourage investment in the Southwest Redevelopment Area.

The GPLET is a government incentive program that uses an excise tax as opposed to real property tax, effectively lowering the cost of operation to help redevelop struggling areas.

The goal is “to bring business back and make Mesa more competitive” with neighboring cities, according to Mr. Jackson.

Christopher Nickerson, the director of physician integration and business development for Banner Desert Medical Center and Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Southwest Mesa, suggested that the blight and low economy of the area may be a bigger issue than aesthetics and business interests.

“I have noticed … an exodus of physicians from the area,” Mr. Nickerson said. “I believe this is an access to health care issue.”

Arizona law requires a one-year waiting period before the city can begin providing economic aid. The period is set to expire on Sept. 12, 2017, according to the council report.