Blog Archives

Analysts revise methods, find no metro Phoenix population rise since 2007

[Source: Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic] — Metropolitan Phoenix’s population has remained basically flat since 2007.  That calculation will generate its own set of questions in an area with an economy based on growth.  At the same time, it may be the first accurate estimate of population growth here in years.

This latest population estimate is the conclusion of an 18-month analysis by more than 30 of the state’s top economists and business and government leaders, who are trying to fix Arizona’s method for tracking population.  Their report, “Influx/Outflux: Metropolitan Phoenix,” was presented Tuesday at an Urban Land Institute Arizona meeting.  Problems with the formula used to track the number of people moving in and out of Arizona in recent years led to inflated population figures.  This exacerbated shortfalls in a state budget built on sales-tax projections.

Authors of the study used a new formula based on different data.  Results of the 2010 census will be the best measure of the new formula’s accuracy.  “Clearly, we don’t know exactly how many people we have,” said Rick Brammer, a partner with Applied Economics.  [Note: Read the full article at Analysts revise methods, find no metro Phoenix population rise since 2007.]

ULI to teach developers how to deal with neighborhoods and politicians

The Urban Land Institute, which bills itself as a non-profit education and research institute that focuses on the use of land in order to enhance the total environment, will hold a December 16 webinar for developers who have to, HORRORS!, deal with neighbors.

The ULI PR flacks lament that “Great plans and projects often collapse in the face of NIMBY opposition and the reluctance of public officials to make controversial or unpopular decisions.”  (Hmmm, maybe if they were indeed “great plans and projects” that respected “the total environment,” community and political support wouldn’t be so hard to gain.)

At the seminar you’ll get “practical how-to knowledge” to put together your own outreach and lobbying plans.  You’ll learn how to assess politicians’ decision-making styles and communications biases; avoid or manage hostile audiences; minimize community resistance; and turn pro-project attitudes into pro-project action. 

For your registration fee of $100 to $165, you’ll learn:

  • The three steps to avoid and manage hostile audiences.
  • The four steps to mobilize overt expressions of public support for your project.
  • How to minimize and manage the four causes of community resistance to land use proporsals (sic).
  • How to develop and implement customized lobbying plans to get the “yes” vote from public officials.

What ULI and developers apparently haven’t learned themselves is “people support what they help to create.”  It didn’t take $100 to $165 for that bit of advice.

Reality Check: short commutes key to metro Phoenix’s future

[Source: Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic] — The message delivered by top Valley real-estate and government leaders Tuesday at an annual growth conference at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa was twofold: the Valley needs to invest billions in transportation and create more jobs closer to housing communities if it wants to handle the 6 million people expected to move here by 2050.

The Urban Land Institute and Valley Partnership conference drew more than 500 people who gathered to hear the results of a growth exercise held in May aptly called Reality Check.  The goal of that exercise, the first of its kind in the Valley, was to come up with ways to better handle growth.  Among the key findings:

  • A $25 billion investment is needed in transportation, which would mean a sales-tax increase of 1.3 cents per dollar over the next 20 years.
  • 70% of transportation funding should go to light rail, commuter rail, and bus service and the remaining 30% to new freeways.
  • Most participants believe there needs to be a commuter-rail line connecting Phoenix to Tucson.
  • About 75% of new housing must be developed beyond the 101 and 202 freeways.
  • One-third of the new homes will likely need to go up in Pinal County.
[Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Idea of the Day: Adaptive Reuse

From time to time, we’ll throw out an “Idea of the Day” culled from sources here in Arizona and elsewhere.  The following idea was highlighted at the May 6, 2008 “kick-off” of National Preservation Month held at the Arizona Biltmore.  There Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon gave the following prepared remarks to 150 local and state preservation and neighborhood advocates on the city’s strengthened commitment to revitalize downtown and other parts of the city through the adaptive reuse of historic and vintage buildings.  At the podium, the mayor offered some personal reflections not written in the prepared talk.

2008 National Preservation Month Prepared Remarks, Phil Gordon, Mayor of Phoenix

Historic buildings help define the character of our communities by providing a tangible link with the past — and they’re a beautiful visual statement, showcasing some of the best architecture from different times throughout our city’s history.  Historic buildings are a critical part of what makes the Phoenix skyline truly our own, truly unique.

We’ve already got some great examples of “adaptive reuse” we can be proud of — the Phoenix Union High School buildings now being used by the University of Arizona College of Medicine; the Franklin Elementary School building that is the Franklin Police & Fire High School; and downtown warehouse now home to the Bentley Projects gallery and City Bakery restaurant.

The recycling of buildings — what we call “adaptive reuse” — has long been an important and effective historic preservation tool.  And, more than ever we are realizing how important adaptive reuse is when your goal is to build a truly “sustainable” city.

Historic districts around the country are experiencing unprecedented revitalization as cities use their cultural monuments as anchors for redevelopment.  In Phoenix, recently (and thankfully) the small business and artist community has been on the forefront of reusing historic and older buildings for restaurants, artist studios, and galleries.  Sometimes, however, their efforts to preserve and revitalize historic buildings have run up against obstacles — restrictive zoning and building codes, contamination, and structural problems that create real challenges for them — stretching their finances and, as some have told me, stretching their sanity. [levity]

And so the City has been working to make some real and positive changes:

  • We adopted the International Existing Building Code.
  • We worked for two years with the Arts and Culture Task Force, which resulted in creating two new occupancy types in the building code that made it simpler to obtain building permits for artist studios and artist live/work use.
  • The City adopted an Action Plan in 2004-05 for an infill program.
  • We created the Artist Storefront Program, which offers matching funds for up to 50% of the cost of eligible exterior improvements for commercial properties with an arts use within specific boundaries.
  • We created a Management Technical Assistance Program that provides private business consultants to small businesses at no cost.
  • On April 2, the City Council and I approved an overlay district, after working with the Downtown Artist Issues Task Force for two years.  This overlay zoning district will allow greater flexibility in a number of areas that would encourage adaptive reuse.
  • Based on input from business owners, community leaders, and artists, we developed ten high-priority, short-term strategies to enhance services for businesses seeking adaptive reuse.
  • And, the City Council and I recently agreed to create an internal task force to draft a comprehensive adaptive reuse ordinance.  The task force will ensure that the priority strategies be implemented within 120 days AND create innovative new processes and programs — including potential code changes — to deregulate and promote adaptive reuse.

The Urban Land Institute defines rehabilitation as “a variety of repairs and alterations to an existing building that allows it to serve contemporary uses while preserving features of the past.”  In Phoenix, we define it as the right thing to do — and the smart thing to do — in building the next great emerging city of the 21st Century.

A sincere thank you, to each of you here today, for YOUR commitment to historic preservation and all your hard work that has made a real difference to this city.  You show the world that in Phoenix we realize that a truly progressive city understands the value of its past when planning for its future.

Stardust Center joins ASU’s College of Design

ASU logoThe ASU Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family, with a mission to improve the growth of quality affordable homes and sustainable communities, is moving from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs to the College of Design.  There it will work in partnership with related departments: the Herberger Center for Design Research, the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, and the Planning and Design Academy.

The Stardust Center has been involved in two major demonstration homes on the Navajo Reservation (2005) and in the town of Guadalupe (2006).  At the end of October, it was selected as the recipient of a $20,000 Urban Land Institute Community Action Grant along with Local Initiatives Support Coalition to develop a presentation toolkit and campaign strategy to engage local residents, business groups, community organizations, and civic leaders in discussions about challenges presented by the population growth of metropolitan Phoenix, as well as realistic solutions and designs for building sustainable, affordable, and healthy neighborhoods.

The Stardust Center’s associate director for design, Daniel Glenn, is working with Chicanos por la Causa on a 47-unit subdivision under construction that uses structural insulated panels, a construction system that speeds on-site construction and creates a highly insulated home that reduces cooling and heating requirements.  This project will be the first “Green Communities” project in Arizona.

The Stardust Center will continue to be located at the ASU Mercado in downtown Phoenix and is searching for a new director.  Sherry Ahrentzen is interim director.  Click here for more information.