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5 court divisions for crime in Mesa appear on way out (to downtown Phoenix)

[Source: Jim Walsh, Arizona Republic] — Efforts to fight the move of Maricopa County Superior Court’s criminal divisions from Mesa to [downtown] Phoenix appear to have hit a brick wall.  Presiding Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell rejected Mesa Mayor Scott Smith’s idea of leaving one criminal division in Mesa or to delay her expedited consolidation plan for six months.  “It seems like they have made their decision,” Smith said.  “They’ll do what they do.”

Smith, longtime Mesa activist Milt Lee, and former County Supervisor Tom Freestone also worry that moving the five criminal divisions to Phoenix might be the first step toward the loss of additional county services in the southeast Valley.  When the Southeast Regional Facility was approved by voters in 1986 and opened in 1991, the idea was to create a one-stop shop that would bring county services closer to southeast Valley residents.  “I think they have a lot of people watching them to make sure they keep their commitment,” Smith said.

A key setback in efforts to block the move was that voters authorized the criminal-court consolidation in 2002 when they approved the extension of a jail tax that built the Fourth Avenue Jail and other facilities.  [Note: Read the full article at 5 court divisions for crime in Mesa appear on way out (to downtown Phoenix)]

Mesa mayor to fight court’s move to downtown Phoenix

[Source: Jim Walsh, Arizona Republic] — Mesa Mayor Scott Smith doesn’t want East Valley residents to get stuck paying for the closing of Maricopa County Superior Court’s criminal divisions through extra travel costs and inconvenience.  Smith plans to fight against plans to move the criminal divisions to Phoenix by the end of this year by meeting with Presiding Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell and the East Valley’s two representatives on the Board of Supervisors. “I think it would be a huge disservice to the East Valley for these courts to move,” Smith said.  “It’s shifting the costs and burden to individual citizens.”

He said the size of Maricopa County alone justifies a full-service courthouse, including criminal courts. “We’re a huge county. The citizens are not served when the services are so far away,” Smith said.

But Mundell’s not budging, saying the move is necessary to improve efficiency and save money on transporting defendants from Phoenix jails to the Mesa courthouse for hearings on felony cases.  “I would love to have criminal in all of our facilities,” in Mesa, northeast Phoenix, and Surprise, she said, but county can’t afford it.

The county also is building a controversial $343 million criminal tower in downtown Phoenix that is scheduled to open in 2012. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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.]