Downtown Mesa may get 50-unit artist colony

courtesy of Parker Leavitt, The Republic | azcentral.com9:42 a.m. MST October 22, 2014 Non-profit developer Artspace wants to build an affordable-housing project for working artists in Mesa. (Photo: Artspace) STORY HIGHLIGHTS Non-profit developer Artspace wants to build a 50-unit artist colony in downtown Mesa Nearby light rail was a major factor in choosing the Mesa site The colony could be open by fall 2016  44CONNECT 23TWEET 1LINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE Downtown Mesa’s light-rail extension, set to open next fall, is driving new development in the area as plans have come forward for a 50-unit artist colony within walking distance of a future station at Mesa Drive. Non-profit developer Artspace, which has opened 35 artist housing projects in 13 states, plans to open its first Arizona colony near 2nd Avenue and Hibbert within two years. Artspace communities provide affordable housing for working artists who pass income and background checks. The apartments typically feature high ceilings, large windows, wide doorways and about 100 to 150 square feet of studio space, while the complex includes places for small businesses and community gatherings. Proximity to the light rail was a major factor in selecting the vacant lot at 155 S. Hibbert, said Heidi Kurtze, vice president of property development for Artspace. Also just two blocks away is the Mesa Arts Center, which the group hopes will provide opportunities for collaboration, she said. 5 artist colonies around the U.S. Here’s a look at several other artist colonies non-profit developer Artspace has opened in the U.S. Brookland Artspace Lofts | City: Washington, D.C. | Opened: 2011. | Cost: $13.2 million. | Size: 39 units. (Photo: Photo by: Artspace) Fullscreen Next Slide While...

Amid city challenges, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith’s stature grows

[By Gary Nelson The Republic | azcentral.com Fri Sep 27, 2013]   Amid city challenges, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith’s stature grows The Mesa that Scott Smith views from the expanse of windows in his seventh-floor downtown office is not the same one that existed when he moved in five years ago. The town has been through a lot. City Hall itself was battered by an epic budget crisis that blew some departments to smithereens, cost hundreds of public jobs and yet sparked creative surges that led to new ways of delivering government services. Out on the streets, a tsunami of foreclosures drove some neighborhoods to their knees. Unemployment soared. Bitter debates over immigration poisoned the well of public amity. For a time, it appears, Mesa stopped growing altogether and may even have lost population during the worst economic downturn since President Herbert Hoover. Yet for all that, if the mayor’s windows could offer 360-degree views, they would reveal stunning transformations from one end of the sprawling city to the other. In the southeast, a growing passenger airport surrounded by boundless square miles ripe for development, some of which has begun. In the northwest, a new Chicago Cubs complex and city park to open late this year as one of the top tourist draws in the Valley. In the heart of the city, light-rail construction accompanied by three new housing projects and the arrival of several branch campuses of old-line Eastern and Midwestern liberal-arts colleges. In all parts of town, park projects either planned or ongoing as a result of a citizen-led community brainstorming effort, as well as other new...

Mesa AZ to host Republican presidential debate, next to Light Rail

by Art Thomason – Nov. 1, 2011 Courtesy of The Arizona Republic [Editor’s Note: The Presidential debate next to the light rail extension in Mesa at the Arts Center shows the powerful will show up. Light Rail Advisors supports free and open political debate] Mesa will host the Republican presidential debate on Nov. 30. Arizona Republican Party Chairman Tom Morrissey made the announcement Tuesday that Mesa Arts Center will be the location.    The $98 million performing arts venue was a major reason that CNN, which is hosting the debate, selected Mesa, said Mesa City Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh. “When CNN toured the MAC recently they were simply blown away by all of its facilities which are well suited for handling all of their trucks and equipment,” he said. “I think it’s huge for the city to actually acquire an event like this. It’s a major news event that will have CNN headquartered here for a couple days for the debate. It’s an opportunity to showcase the city for a major national event like this.” The nationally televised debate is being sponsored by the Arizona Republican Party and will be conducted and aired live on CNN at 6 p.m. local time on Nov. 30. The arts center, which opened in 2005, is a world-class facility well-suited to host this world-class event, Morrissey said in a prepared statement. The complex is situated on a seven-acre campus and incomes more than 212,000 square feet of theaters, studios and exhibition space. “Mesa Arts Center is an ideal venue for the debate,” said Morrissey said in a release. “This state-of-the-art facility will be front and center as Arizona...

Opinion: Mesa on its way toward light-rail planning redemption

by Southeast Valley editorial board – Oct. 26, 2011 Our View Courtesy of the Arizona Republic [Editor’s Note: Light Rail Advisors fully supports the 3.1 mile light rail extension into downtown and to Mesa Drive. The company started LightRailConnect.com and the LightRainConnect Magazine to support business and economic growth in the light rail corridor] Mesa has a rare light-rail mulligan. And, thankfully, it knows it. The city dithered on advance planning for its initial, half-mile leg. It didn’t do enough to encourage and integrate development at its initial station. By the time it finally offered some much-needed direction for the area, the economy was in freefall. Not surprisingly, where Phoenix and Tempe have reaped billions of dollars in investment along light rail, Mesa has yet to see any appreciable economic benefit. But that’s not likely to be the case this time, now that the city is preparing for its next 3 miles of track. Mesa began studying options for redevelopment as soon as it approved the route through downtown to Mesa Drive and, eventually, Gilbert Road. Two years later, the city has created its Central Main Street Plan, a detailed yet flexible set of guidelines to help manage the change it knows is coming. Mesa also is nearly finished with a form-based zoning code for the area, which would focus less on segregating uses and more on ensuring buildings are well-designed. Those documents should be in place long before light rail opens in 2016, offering the clarity and predictability investors need to make serious infill and redevelopment proposals. And that’s important, even if the market for condominiums and high-rise buildings remains weak, because...

Mesa council struggles with downtown site near light rail

by Gary Nelson – Oct. 22, 2011 Courtesy of The Arizona Republic [Editor’s Note: Light Rail Advisors, the owner of the popular LightRailConnect.com website, endorses smart use of city land and building resources for the development of the Downtown Mesa area] Two decades ago it was the retail centerpiece of a development that was going to transform downtown Mesa. Now, however, it has become such an albatross that some on the City Council think bulldozers might be the only option. The funky building at 51-55 E. Main St. was part of the “Park Place” project in the late 1980s that also included the adjacent midrise office tower and a movie theater. Mesa bought the theater and the 51-55 building as it assembled land for the Mesa Arts Center. The theater was leveled, but Mesa kept 51-55 in hopes it could become a restaurant or some other complement to the arts center. No such luck. Over the past five years, Mesa has had at least three offers to buy and develop the building as a restaurant, but all the deals died. Bill Jabjiniak, Mesa’s economic development director, said interest remains high. Over the past year, 10 interested parties have inspected the building. Five were considering restaurant uses, and the others were looking at retail or arts-related businesses. There also have been numerous phone calls about the property, Jabjiniak said. But the only tenant at present is the Southwest Shakespeare Company, which uses part of the building for rehearsals. Most potential buyers shy away because of parking issues, the cost of redoing the building and uncertainties over light-rail construction, Jabjiniak said. The building’s future is on...
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