Giving residents a start date for the construction of an overpass across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, Mayor Christian Price also stressed the importance of partnerships in economic development during his State of the City address Wednesday.
With the overpass now at 30-percent design, the city and Arizona Department of Transportation are able to determine which properties will be impacted. The next year will be spent acquiring the necessary properties.
Price said the current schedule would set the groundbreaking for the overpass as Oct. 27, 2017.
Like last year, the State of the City address incorporated video cameos of city councilmembers talking about various highlights from the past year. It all started memorably with Price himself in video “skydiving” to match the theme of his talk, “A View from Above.” He entered council chambers in a skydiving outfit to press the illusion.
“It was very entertaining and educational,” resident Rosie Kuzmic said.
Besides taking a virtual flying leap, Price also took selfies in front of a packed room, which had an overflow audience in the foyer.
But his subject matter was serious under the playfulness.
Much of Price’s presentation centered on economic development, which he referred to as “a very difficult and complex subject” and the “new business dragon” that needed slaying.
Maricopa has the challenge of proving it is worth a business’s efforts to locate here, Price said.
“In the world of real estate the buzz phrase is ‘location, location, location.’ But in the city of economic development our phrase is ‘entice, entice, entice,’” he said.
He touched on the city’s attempts to get a hospital (from Dignity or Banner Health) and a hotel (hinting at Marriott). Despite the expansion of the hotel at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, a hotel is still needed in town. A feasibility study showed the continued need for a hotel, Price said, paraphrasing a conversation with casino General Manager Robert Livingston, who was in attendance.
“They, too, would like to book bigger events, and they can’t. If their hotel sells out, where does the overflow go?” Price said, adding not having a hotel stops events and economic development.
Price also teased the Edison Pointe project that is to fill in the empty lot south of Fry’s Marketplace. But he also stayed cautious.
“This location will house 12 new stores and restaurants, but I’m not telling you which stores,” he said. “Actually, I learned a very valuable lesson. You don’t actually reveal that until you’re cutting the ribbon because anything might happen in the meantime.”
Groundbreaking for Edison Pointe was originally planned for last summer, but that has been pushed back several months and is hoped for this winter.
Price touted the time and effort city staff and councilmembers have put into spreading the word about Maricopa to viable businesses and developers. He also promoted the city’s Shop Local campaign, saying it will “directly improve your quality of life.”
The council, he said, did not accept playing a minimalist role in economic development.
“In fact, it is crucial that you understand that we are constantly challenging the status quo, and we are doing all that we can to influence the decisions of various businesses to relocate to the city of Maricopa,” Price said.