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After A Decade, Can Mesa Revitalize Fiesta District?

Published: Tuesday, August 16, 2016 - 4:50pm
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(Photo by Lauren Gilger- KJZZ)
The Fiesta District, including the Fiesta Mall, used to be a real financial and retail hub for Mesa, but many big box stores were there closed over the years and the area has struggled.
(Photo by Lauren Gilger- KJZZ)
Mesa Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh.
(Photo by Lauren Gilger- KJZZ)
The area is getting its first residential construction in more than 25 years.

The City of Mesa is investing a lot in redeveloping its downtown, but there’s another part of town city leaders there have also spent years reinventing.

Tuesday night, the city is holding a forum for community members to learn about a Redevelopment Area project in the Fiesta District.

The city is working to expand its redevelopment incentive area to include parts of the Fiesta District, which is near the U.S. 60 and Alma School Road in Mesa. That would allow the city and private developers to more easily target local, state and federal resources for the area, according to Sara Sorensen, project manager with the City of Mesa’s Office of Economic Development.

The Fiesta District, including the Fiesta Mall, used to be a real financial and retail hub for Mesa, but many big box stores there closed over the years and the area has struggled.

Back in the early 1980s, Mesa Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh said the heart of Mesa had moved from downtown to the Fiesta District.

“This was the financial hub, the retail hub, this is where all of the best restaurant and entertainment places were, it was the place to come!” he said.

But, “we had to recognize the changing demographics in the city, population movements, competition from other retail, as well as nationally what was happening to retail.”

In the mid-2000s, Kavanaugh said online sales were devastating to many stores, like the ones that used to be in the Fiesta District.

“[It] was Mesa’s first power center…bringing together retailers like Best Buy, Cost Plus, Comp USA, Staples,” he said.

In the decade since, the city has spent about $25 million in streetscape projects and infrastructure in the area and their Economic Development Department has worked to attract private companies to fill in some of the old, empty buildings.

They’ve had some successes. The old Pierson Learning Center building was redeveloped into office space that’s now the headquarters of National General Insurance, Kavanaugh said. And The former Bed, Bath and Beyond complex was redeveloped into office space for Santander Financial Services.

And now, the area is getting its first residential construction in more than 25 years.

The Mesa City Council could officially designate the “Southwest Redevelopment Area” at its September 12 Council meeting, according to Sorensen.

If it’s approved, the city will work with their consultant, stakeholders in the area, and the city’s steering committee to create a plan for the area’s redevelopment, which will provide a blueprint for implementing the redevelopment efforts, Sorensen said.

Kavanuagh said designating a redevelopment area is one tool the city can use to help the area thrive, as well as creating infrastructure that lays the groundwork for future development.

“It’s like laying the tracks for a train, only today you’ve got to be very nimble when a user says ‘I’m going to have 1,000 employees here, can you handle the water, wastewater?’ he said. “Yes, we can.”

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