Two highly visible economic development projects – the Heritage District and South Bridge – would blend together as envisioned by city staff.
During a recent Future Planning session, city manager Rick Horst laid out a vision for the area that reflects the city’s history while providing a springboard into the future.
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“We’re rebuilding the past for a prosperous future,” Horst told city council.
The Heritage District and South Bridge, areas east and south of the overpass, respectively, are a major focus for the city.
“What these projects will also do is tie in that other part of old Maricopa to create a crossover so eventually these two projects begin to bleed into each other,” Horst said. “We’re trying to create community opportunities through all this area.”
Horst envisions major upgrades in the redevelopment of the Heritage District, a project formerly known as Maricopa Station, including an open-air marketplace to encourage mixed-use development. The city already has been approached by two potential tenants for this area: one would have a ground-floor storefront with a residence above and the other would feature a small retail shop at street level with a business on the second floor and an apartment on the third floor.
The pedestrian-friendly area would have a throwback feel, according to Horst.
“The roads would be narrower and there would be more of a free flow of parking,” he said. “We won’t have the same set-backs as required in some areas, and we’ll utilize the property to allow for signage that has more of a retro feel to it. I think we could have things like an antique store, a candy shop, create this eclectic site that doesn’t follow all those standard, rigid rules.”
The first signs of progress in the Heritage District would likely be some smaller shops near the overpass. Eventually, roads would likely disappear in favor of a pedestrian area that could, over time, stretch out of the corridor.
“We’re trying to help people dream,” he said.
PEDESTRIAN BRIDGES OVER THE TRACKS
Two new pedestrian bridges over the Union Pacific railroad tracks are envisioned to promote greater access to the area.
The first bridge, on the west side of the overpass near the Amtrak train station and where the old State Route 347 crossed the tracks, would have a similar design and appearance to the overpass.
Access would be via stairs and open-air elevator on each side.
Safety in the area would be improved with the installation of corrugated tin fencing, designed with a weathered look to fit the historic feel, Horst said.
“It becomes a barrier that keeps kids from running across the tracks, it’s aesthetically pleasing, it’s fairly cheap, and if you ever need to move it, it’s easily moved,” he said.
A second bridge, east of the overpass, would move pedestrians between the Heritage District and South Bridge.
The first major element of South Bridge is the construction of the Exceptional Healthcare community hospital on the northwest corner of John Wayne Parkway and Honeycutt Avenue.
On the east side of the highway, Horst proposed a Copper Sky-like boulevard with kiosk-type spaces for small businesses to test their viability without expensive rents. The area could include big box retail pads for stores like Kohl’s or Target (but Horst stressed neither was imminent).
The pedestrian bridge would “link the old boutique part of town with the newer, larger retailers,” he said, noting the population of the extended Maricopa shopping area is getting very close to the “magical number” of 75,000-80,000 sought by big retailers.
Attracting large retailers would benefit the city as well. Horst said Maricopa residents spend about $400 million a year outside the city on things they can’t find in town.
Mayor Christian Price emphasized the benefits of the two projects from a broader perspective, saying that for too long there was “very much a north and south side Maricopa.” Heritage District and South Bridge would help blend the city into one entity and improve traffic patterns by moving some shopping activity south of the overpass.