(Source: EastValleyTribune): Wayne Schutsky
The city of Mesa will make a concerted effort to transform the area surrounding Fiesta Mall from an aging retail district to an employment hub.
In a unanimous vote, the City Council officially adopted the Southwest Redevelopment Area Plan at its Sept. 11 meeting. The adoption will allow the city to take advantage of a series of redevelopment incentives, including the Government Property Lease Excise Tax, also known as GPLET.
The Southwest Redevelopment Area includes areas along Southern Avenue surrounding Fiesta Mall along with a stretch of land along Country Club Drive roughly between Broadway Road and U.S. 60.
The plan, which is the result of work by the city’s Economic Development Department in concert with contractor Logan Simpson Design Inc., includes ways the city can leverage the district’s proximity to major employers like Banner Health and Maricopa County Community College to turn the region into a major employment hub.
Because of demographic shifts and the boom in online retail, the Fiesta District is not the retail destination it once was. However, a market study found that the area is a prime location for an employment hub because of its proximity to U.S. 60, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and a sizable workforce, said Bill Jabjiniak, Mesa’s director of economic development.
The area has seen some investment prior to the adoption of the RDA. Notably, Santander Consumer USA occupies the redeveloped former Circuit City and Bed, Bath and Beyond site on Southern Avenue.
“I think the RDA will enhance what the ongoing private investment (is doing in the area),” Jabjiniak said.
The RDA plan lays out a series of ways that the city can incentivize private businesses to participate in that shift, including infrastructure investments and a modification of zoning codes to allow for more office and mixed-use facilities.
Infrastructure improvements – including road, intersection and access improvements along with pedestrian and streetscape improvements – could cost $3 million to $5 million and take five to 10 years to complete, according to the plan
The plan also calls for the programs to incentivize the consolidation of properties and the creation of a demolition assistance program to reduce the costs property owners face in tearing down outdated properties.
In recent years, the Fiesta District has been plagued by a glut of empty retail spaces. While creating the Southwest RDA, the city met with business and land owners in the area – including Fiesta Village owner W.M. Grace – to come up with solutions.
“When I see (vacant retail properties), I don’t see an empty shopping center,” Jabjiniak said. “I see an opportunity.”
The city also has been in discussions with the stakeholders who own property at Fiesta Mall, and the three landowners are currently in discussions with one another to develop a unified development plan moving forward, Jabjiniak said.