By Teri Walker, True North Communications
Glendale’s Midtown District has been ripe for revitalization for some time, but city and business leaders have been challenged in determining what economic development, transportation and employment strategies to use, and in what order of priority, to energize, renew and grow this critical district, which is the gateway to Glendale’s downtown.
Yes, light rail has been a boon for Mesa and Phoenix, but not without growing pains while the development process unfolded. If the proposed light rail extension comes to Glendale, can the businesses in the Midtown District endure throughout the lengthy construction? Does light rail guarantee revitalization? And how quickly? What about the acres of vacant buildings and lots left after the exodus of the multiple car dealerships that once defined Midtown? And, how can the city continue to strengthen its employment sectors to draw the people needed to energize the District with spending in retailers, services and housing?
Last fall, the City of Glendale brought the collective expertise of 12 Arizona multi-disciplinary development industry thought leaders to bear on the subject by contracting with ULI Arizona to conduct a Technical Assistance Panel (AzTAP) at Glendale City Hall, and recently, the panel presented its findings to the Glendale City Council.
In short, the panel concluded the Midtown District has strong “bones” around which to rally, with a rich combination of cultural authenticity and community roots in the long-standing businesses and established neighborhoods, historic assets, and the abundance of land ready for redevelopment and reinvestment. Catlin Court, Cerreta Candy Company, the Beet Sugar Factory and Murphy Park are community landmarks that border the District and bestow downtown Glendale with a unique sense of place.
The panel agreed there is great potential for the proposed light rail extension to add value to real estate and attract economic activity, as demonstrated elsewhere in Valley cities and in communities across the country. But light rail isn’t a panacea for Glendale, the study noted; enduring success will depend upon how well the city focuses its policies, makes strategic improvements, and shapes the environment for reinvestment.
The AzTAP panel framed their ideas for Glendale with a P3 theme to emphasize the importance of the public-private-nonprofit partnerships and collaborative solutions that will be necessary to bring about success. The P3 recommendations are expressed through Policy, People, and Place strategies that will be integral to rejuvenating downtown Glendale. Specific recommendations signal emphasis on land development, transit readiness and infrastructure; establishing progressive planning and zoning mechanisms; recognizing and building on the District’s unique and distinctive assets; creating an authentic brand; partnering with community development organizations; supporting small business start-ups; encouraging neighborhood oriented schools and more.
As the City and its partners make decisions about how to invest in the short and long term, emphasis on how to exhibit sustained leadership support for the area to attract investment and how the City can maximize the greatest value in planning through the commitment of key resources are critical. Consistency and staying power are key for Glendale to move beyond the cusp and capture its fullest potential for greatness.
Read the full AzTAP report. CLICK HERE for the Glendale AzTAP Summary Report