Daily Archives: September 28, 2008

Phoenix light rail route choice aims to draw passengers

Metro Light Rail

Light rail train in downtown Phoenix (photo: Jack Kurtz, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Glen Creno, Arizona Republic] — The people who planned the Metro light-rail route that opens Dec. 27 wanted to attract a lot of passengers, connect urban hubs, and provide an economic lift to neighborhoods along the line.  The result is a 20-mile route that runs between north-central Phoenix and the western edge of Mesa.  The $1.4 billion system strings together schools, sports arenas, commercial areas, new condominium complexes, and neighborhoods.  Any new light-rail route is controversial, and Metro was no exception.  When the new line opens, there likely will be more questions and complaints about why the line runs here rather than there, why one neighborhood and not another.

Jack Tevlin is a retired city executive who was Phoenix’s deputy city manager for transportation when Metro was planned.  He’s familiar with the complaints.  “People say: ‘I live in Paradise Valley.  This doesn’t help me,’ ” Tevlin said.  “But this is just the beginning.”  Planners see this first stretch as the trunk of a system that will branch out as extensions are added.  The story of how the first stretch of light-rail track was planned is about financial, political and physical challenges, some compromises, some high hopes, and a little history.

Where will be more more office space than downtown Phoenix? Why, Mesa (possibly)

[Gary Nelson, Mesa Republic] — Tens of thousands of jobs.  Millions of dollars in taxes.  Billions of dollars in salaries. The numbers flew like snowflakes in a blizzard Thursday as DMB Associates spelled out what it sees as the likely impact of its Mesa Proving Grounds project.   All well and good, the City Council said.  But they had one request: Put it in writing.  Councilman Scott Somers, who has worried aloud in several recent meetings about whether the project could deliver on its high-flying promises, said several sections of the Proving Grounds’ zoning ordinance should be rewritten to include those economic goals and how they’ll be met.  DMB attorney Grady Gammage Jr. agreed to do that.  The ordinance, still in draft stages, is expected to come before the council next month.

While talk about the possible impact of DMB’s project is nothing new, some of the numbers that came out on Thursday were.  DMB hired Valley economists Elliott Pollack and Alan Maguire to analyze the dollars-and-cents impact of its property in coming decades.  Here’s a sample of what they came up with, using a computer program developed by University of Minnesota economists:

  • At buildout, the 5 square miles is expected to have 20 million square feet of commercial space, 14.5 million square feet of which will be offices. There will be 4,000 hotel rooms, 1.2 million square feet of retail, 15,000 dwelling units with perhaps 37,500 residents and as many as 91,800 permanent jobs.
  • Construction on the entire site will create 116,497 “job years.”  A “job year” is enough work to keep one tradesman busy for a year.  Construction will generate $6.1 billion in total wages.
  • The city would collect $40 million a year in sales taxes and other revenue as the project reaches maturity.
  • Permanent jobs at buildout could generate $4.5 billion in annual wages.
  • The hospitality segment, headlined by the recently announced Gaylord resort, will generate 4,000 to 4,500 jobs with annual wages of $144 million to $162 million.
  • Total construction costs reaching $9.3 billion.

“This is a big deal,” Maguire told the council — echoing precisely the same words Mayor Scott Smith had used in council chambers only three days previously, when the council approved a new general plan for DMB’s land.  Maguire told The Mesa Republic that the numbers could be on the low side.  “All the analysis that was done was done relatively conservatively,” he said.  “These numbers are not sort of pie-in-the-sky numbers.”  

Gammage said the Mesa site is likely to build out with more office space than currently exists in downtown Phoenix and far more than the Scottsdale Airpark, which is hailed as one of the Valley’s economic successes.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix receives $39M for foreclosure aid and neighborhood improvements

[Source: City of Phoenix] — Phoenix officials were informed on September 26 that the city has been allocated $39.4 million in Neighborhood Stabilization funds under the recent Housing and Economic Recovery Act that Congress passed earlier this summer.  The U.S. Housing and Urban Development will allocate the funds, which can be used in a variety of ways to address abandoned or foreclosed properties, including buyer assistance or other finance mechanisms, rehabilitation, acquisition, demolition, or redevelopment.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon praised Congressmen Ed Pastor from Arizona and Barney Frank from Massachusetts for their push to secure the funding.  “As in the past, we’ll use this money to leverage millions of dollars more from our partners who work hand-in-hand with the city in neighborhood and community improvement projects,” said Gordon.  “These additional dollars will help leverage the economic stimulus package the City Council approved this week that is projected to create 73,000 jobs and $3.3 billion in capital projects over the next two years.”

Councilman Tom Simplot, chair of the Council’s Housing, Neighborhoods, Historic Preservation, and Arts and Culture Subcommittee, echoed the mayor’s sentiments.  “These funds will help improve the quality of life for literally hundreds of residents and neighborhoods impacted by foreclosures,” Simplot said.  “The timing couldn’t be more perfect.”