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Diverse 19North Corridor Takes Shape Around Light Rail In Phoenix

By Christina Estes, Steve Goldstein
Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 2:19pm
Updated: Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 12:02pm

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STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Progress is being made in a part of Phoenix that’s faced challenges since the arrival of light rail.

CHRIS MACKAY: We are starting to see the fruits of everyone’s labor.

GOLDSTEIN: That’s Chris Mackay, Phoenix’s economic development director talking about 19North. It’s an area KJZZ’s Christina Estes has been covering and joins me now for an update. Christina, first let’s define the area that’s called 19North.

Christina Estes/KJZZ
A coalition of businesses, faith groups, city offices and residents have branded the area "19North."

CHRISTINA ESTES: It’s the area surrounding light rail along 19th Avenue. It starts just south of Bethany Home Road and goes north to Dunlap. It stretches from 15th avenue to 23rd avenue. This was the first light rail extension in Phoenix and, unlike the original light rail line and the planned extension into south Phoenix, there was  for the 19th avenue corridor.

GOLDSTEIN: That’s where 19North stepped in. It’s an alliance of residents, businesses, nonprofits and others working with the city to create a community vision plan for the area, right?

ESTES: Yes. Last year I covered a meeting where residents picked priority areas for investments. Their priority areas are: 19th Avenue and Glendale, 19th and Northern and 19th and Dunlap. They looked over maps and suggested changes they’d like to see — including more greenspace, better landscaping and lighting, a variety of housing, and restaurants and retail.

GOLDSTEIN: So, as you said, that meeting was more than a year ago. What’s happened since?

ESTES: The city reviewed community input and created some images and maps with examples of what the priority areas could look like incorporating their ideas. Then, in April, there was another community meeting where the city asked residents to get a little wonky.

GOLDSTEIN: OK, what do you mean by wonky?

ESTES: The planning department asked residents to place stickers that represented specific land planning elements under their priority areas.

GOLDSTEIN: Could you give us some examples?

ESTES: Yes, I will. A walkable urban corridor or a main street corridor would fall under the land use element. Safe bikeways and crosswalks would fall under mobility, while park spaces and farmers markets would fall under health. Again, that was the focus during the last meeting in April. Maja Brkovic, with the city’s planning department, said the information will help establish the community’s vision.

MAJA BRKOVIC: That way when someone comes to redevelop an area along this corridor — let’s say they have to rezone — we can let them know, 'Hey, this is something that was really important to the community. We want to make sure that you have, let’s say detached sidewalks, because we want to increase the shade or this is the kind of land use that the community would like to see here.'

Light rail phoenix
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Valley Metro light rail train in downtown Phoenix.

ESTES: Since light rail started running along the 19North corridor, the area has seen more affordable housing developments — these are designed for lower income households. Right now, there are three affordable housing projects that are either under construction or recently opened near 19th Avenue and Northern.

GOLDSTEIN: Affordable housing has been sort of a touchy subject for some people in the area, right?

ESTES: It has. Most people agree there is a need for more housing for lower income people. Some residents in the 19North corridor, though, are concerned about what they see as saturation. They say there’s a need across the city — not just along 19th Avenue. But here’s the thing: developers get tax credits and financial incentives for building affordable housing near the light rail line.

19North is arguably among the most socioeconomically diverse areas of Phoenix. Within a one-mile radius you have city-owned housing for low income residents and large private lots valued at a million dollars. You have older apartments renting for $600 a month and new infill houses going for $600,000.

GOLDSTEIN: You mentioned infill houses. Where’s that being built?

ESTES: The higher end housing is just off 15th avenue, mostly between Glendale and Northern. But there’s a market rate townhome project that opened this year at 21st Avenue and at least one more market rate single family project is in the works. Also, there’s a retirement community under construction that will reportedly cost $240 million.

GOLDSTEIN: Wow. $240 million. Where is this planned?

ESTES: The Beatitudes Campus Senior Living Community is at 16th Avenue and Glendale. It will include traditional apartments and patio homes with a lot of amenities like an on-site hair salon, bank and medical facilities. The first phase should open this year with additions expected through 2027.

GOLDSTEIN: What about non-housing development?

ESTES: Northern Avenue just west of 19th Avenue has seen most of the new stuff over the last few years — there's an LA Fitness, IHOP, and other restaurants. But there’s also been movement at 19th Avenue and Bethany Home. Just a few months ago, an Olive Garden opened on the north side of Christown Mall. There’s a Chipotle planned for the northeast corner of 19th Ave and Bethany and two more restaurants that have not yet been named expected to go in on the same corner.

GOLDSTEIN: That must make some residents pretty happy.

ESTES: Some are really excited, others are feeling like 'c'mon, already.' To those who feel like progress has been too slow, Chris Mackay, the city’s economic development director, says hang in there — developers are paying attention.

MACKAY: It’s almost like they’ve rediscovered this corridor. They've rediscovered that there is a strong home ownership. There is a corridor where there is strong densities and truly, to the east of this area, some  pretty significant household incomes that are in the area, that are leaving this area to spend their money in other areas of the city.

ESTES: She thinks retailers and developers are realizing they can tap into those higher income households, but she says it’s going to take time.

GOLDSTEIN: So what is next when it comes to community input for a policy plan for 19North?

ESTES: City staff is organizing input from various meetings to create a draft policy plan. Then it’ll be reviewed with community for more feedback and the goal is to have a completed plan by the end of the year.

GOLDSTEIN: And of course, we will plan on hearing back from you then. KJZZ’s Christina Estes, thank you.

ESTES: You’re welcome.

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