Downtown, Historic areas get Updates
in West Valley
Buoyed by an improving economy, some West Valley cities are working to breathe new life into older areas of town and create new centers of civic life.
Surprise, which seemingly grew overnight into a city of more than 125,000 people, is still playing catch up as it tries to use undeveloped land surrounding the Civic Center to create a downtown. The city’s years-long quest to create a downtown seems to be speeding up with the city’s master planner; Scottsdale-based Carefree Partners, announcing firm plans for development. The company owns 480 acres around the Surprise Civic Center where currently cattle sometimes graze and mesquite bushes abound. City planners are using a voter-approved General Plan that envisions a downtown with restaurants, residences, shopping, medical offices, hotels, a performing arts center and a university. The downtown could take many years to build and would be privately funded.
Surprise is also working to create a Heritage District to preserve its Original Town Site. The area has a library, community pool, senior center and a recreational complex, among other city-owned entities. The City is asking residents to complete an online survey to help determine other types of facilities, services and elements that they would like to be in the area.
Peoria, adopted a revitalization plan in 2009 for Old Town Peoria, its historical heart. Since then, it has invested $80 million in landscape, street and infrastructure improvements, undertaken property improvements and built a performing arts center, among other steps. This month, RV accessory superstore State Trailer RV & Outdoor Supply purchased the 173,000 square-foot Peoria Towne Center, with plans to renovate, occupy and lease a portion of it.
Buckeye, opened La Placita Cafe in 1962 owned by Manuel and Nellie Amabisca. The building has been remodeled and continues to be a landmark in Buckeye. Buckeye continues to rehabilitate its original main street, Monroe Avenue. Last year, the city spent close to a quarter million dollars on a street improvement project that created new parking, sidewalk curbs and landscaping.
Its new city hall, built in 2009 and located in the historic town site along the 2.5-mile stretch of Monroe, has helped build momentum, officials say. The Benbo Veterans Park contains a wall honoring past residents who died serving a war. The park was revitalized with help from the non-profit organization Main Street Buckeye.
Tolleson, shrank the five-lane Van Buren Street to three lanes between 91st and 94th Avenue to allow for on-street parking ,bicycle lanes, outside dining, landscaping, a central plaza and a series of public art installations. The city see the $10.2 million downtown enhancements as the first step toward drawing tourists and residents and also encouraging businesses.
Avondale, has also introduced a program to help improve its historic areas, namely, the half mile on Western Avenue known as Historic Avondale, and the areas of Las Ligas and Cashion to the East. The earlier investments on Western Avenue are bearing fruit. The street is home to the Mosaic Arts Center, Catitude Art Gallery and the Juice Box Dance Academy. Sernas Plaza is a meeting ground for artists and local performances. Also, the Historic Avondale Merchants Associated hosts a monthly art walk.
Glendale’s, quaint, Midwestern downtown has found a niche with antique dealers and other eclectic boutiques and restaurants, bolstered by city-sponsored festivals in the area.