Bacon donuts (Rollover Donuts), colorful wall murals, collaborative workspace (Gangplank), gritty dumpsite meets nature (Rio Salado Audubon Center), old warehouse turned art/retail/catering/coffee shop (MonOrchid), yarn bombs, artist container housing (Grand Avenue) and lavender ice cream (Novel Ice Cream) were just a few of the delights experienced on the ULI Arizona Technical Assistance Panel (AzTAP) tour in January with members of the Payson Council, Tonto Apache Tribe, Town officials and ULI. The Payson delegation came to the Valley to study and experience what the cities of Gilbert, Chandler, and Phoenix have accomplished to revitalize their downtowns and nearby neighborhoods.
Gilbert’s Heritage District was an impressive start of the day to see how a once small, agricultural area with few restaurants, has grown into a top-notch dining and retail hub with welcoming streetscapes and engaging murals. Gilbert officials fondly call it a “thirty-year overnight success story”, a recipe of steadfast commitment, vision, planning, and political will that even through uncertain times spurred the district’s ongoing success. In Chandler, the delegation visited the collaborative workspace Gangplank. The city’s partnership with this nontraditional startup incubator is a unique economic development model for communities seeking to recruit entrepreneurial companies. Chandler’s many other downtown successes were discussed over lunch at SanTan Brewery. Independently owned cigar shops, breweries and retail shops have given downtown Chandler a unique vibe, and the city’s business friendly environment and street and water system improvements are attracting smart new development and operators. Turning vision into reality requires leadership and patience. The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center showcased how a once empty, dried up dumping ground of the Salt River was revitalized into a lush Sonoran riparian habitat and visitor center with extensive recreational walking and riding trails. Downtown Phoenix at the monOrchid through Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue exemplified how arts-influenced locations are experiencing exceptional success. Embracing local culture, art, and artists is vital to the creation of unique places.
The tour inspired new experiences, concepts, and people and places to connect for more ideas. In April, a ULI Arizona panel of industry experts will convene in Payson to assist Town officials with strategies for revitalizing their downtown main street area. CLICK HERE to learn more about how the ULI AzTAP Program assists communities and nonprofits on complex land use and real estate development issues.