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Heritage District

A sample vision of a "Maricopa Station" from the strategic plan.

When the folks at City Hall talk about Heritage District redevelopment, they are not just talking about changing street names.

The ideas for the area between Honeycutt Road to the north and the Amtrak station to the south are very big, even revolutionary for an area known for long-standing family homes. Lately, it has been the site of City cleanups and demolitions. The City would like to see an “old town Maricopa” concept arise in a community that has never had a distinct downtown.

The vision: A=Amtrak station; B=bus stop; C=car-share station; D=connected bike network; E=neighborhood pedestrian connection. Parking: 01=train station parking; 02=train station west; 03=water tower lot; 04=Honeycutt lot; 05=on-street parking

Tuesday, the city council approved changing the names of the streets in the neighborhood, with one late change-of-a-change in the mix. After the 911-address paperwork is updated, Pershing Street will be Main Street, Burkett Avenue will be Stagecoach Lane, Maricopa Avenue will be Heritage Lane and a section of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway between Plainview Street and the curve to Maricopa Road will be called Mercado Street.

Rodolfo Lopez, deputy director of the Economic and Community Development Department, said the purpose is to “somewhat rebrand” the Maricopa Townsite subdivision to “create a sense of place.”

A neighborhood open house was held in November followed by a meeting of the Heritage District Committee in December to work out the new street names.

The plan had been to change slightly Arizona Avenue, a road between Plainview and Burkett, to Arizona Lane. However, Councilwoman Julia Gusse wanted one of the roads to reflect the “predominantly Latino” heritage of the area. Because naming streets after some local families might cause conflict within the neighborhood, she suggested instead changing the name of Arizona Avenue to Cesar Chavez Lane for the revered, Arizona-born labor leader.

City Manager Rick Horst affirmed he discussed the issue with Gusse earlier and took it back to city staff, which agreed with the change. The council also agreed.

The new street names come atop a redevelopment vision that would turn the area into a pedestrian-friendly marketplace, hence the street name of Mercado. Lopez said that was also homage to a former mercantile store that existed until 2007.

Early concepts from the strategic plan.

This month, during a strategic planning session, the council looked at ideas for a “Maricopa Station” that could include revamping the Amtrak station and adding areas for retail, restaurants and parking as well as an event plaza for gatherings and concerts. The idea is to have the new Main Street feed directly into a plaza south of the new Mercado Street.

(Maricopa has an existing commercial area known as Maricopa Station northeast of the John Wayne Parkway/Smith-Enke intersection that includes eateries from Freddy’s to Chipotle.)

A Horst caveat in the strategic plan was that the City’s role in the Heritage District redevelopment should be as a facilitator, not a driver. So, lining up commercial developers to buy into the vision is a priority.

As creative place-making, the redevelopment of the Heritage District is part of the city manager’s Wildly Imaginative Goals (WIGs).

A similar “economic development enhancement project” is a vision to revitalize the old section of Maricopa just south of the railroad tracks and along the shoulders of the overpass. The plan, called South Bridge, includes retail and green space.

The City of Maricopa is helping property owners in the Heritage District clean up their lots. Submitted photo

The City of Maricopa has launched a new department with a new mission – making Maricopa look good.

Flor Brandow joined the city staff in January as its Neighborhood Program specialist. Her main job is to clean up Maricopa, and it’s already working.

“The City of Maricopa is working in the Heritage District. Our primary focus is to see what we can do for revitalization. There is a lot of this area that’s been here for 40, 50, 60 years. That’s the oldest part of Maricopa,” she said.

The property from the top photo after being cleaned off. Submitted photo

With the construction of the State Route 347 overpass, Brandow said, city leaders want to first concentrate on cleaning up the neighborhood next door, identified as Phase One of three in the Heritage District.

Brandow said in the first neighborhood cleanup about a month ago, volunteers filled three, 40-foot long, roll-off, trash containers with refuse. In all, 11 tons of trash were removed in just six days.

“We were trying to do it over a two-week period, but they got so filled up,” she said. “My job is to also go out there and canvas the neighborhood and establish a relationship with this community. It’s going great right now. There are some strong leaders in this neighborhood and they want to be heard.”

In the second city clean-up rally in the same area, an additional 16 tons of refuse was removed from just two properties.

While the clean-up is good for residents, it’s also good for the city.

“The clean-up event is actually most important to the residents. Some of the homeowners do not have the financial means or physical abilities to clean up or maintain their property,” said Wes Moss, Maricopa’s Code Compliance officer.


“The ultimate goal of Code Enforcement is to help maintain a clean and safe community while working with the citizens, business owners and property owners. One of the best ways to do this is with voluntary compliance of violations and guidance rather than citations or other remedies through the court system. As a clean-up event is not necessarily easier, it can help build good relationships with the citizens, while addressing City Code violations prior to citations.”

Brandow said one of the leaders in the Phase One area is putting together a neighborhood meeting to get the clean-up going in the Heritage District.

“They have a contact person now,” Brandow said. “I’m kind of their voice to be heard. I relay that back to the city. This is a brand-new position and a brand-new department that the city manager and council created for these residents.”

She worked in a similar role for the City of Chandler for 15 years.

She said the city needs volunteers and groups to help pull off the clean-up projects. The properties being cleaned are not abandoned but rather homes of older citizens who need help removing unwanted items.

Also, seven older buildings have been identified in the Phase One area to be removed. Brandow said the city is working on a Community Development Block Grant to help fund the program, as the neighborhood is a low- to moderate-income area.

“These owners take pride in their home,” Brandow said. “Sometimes they just need a little help. Not just the Heritage District will benefit from this; the whole city of Maricopa [will] because we all come together and help one another and that’s what it’s all about. These residents are what started Maricopa.”

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Perlman Architects designed the planned administration building for the Maricopa Fire/Medical Department.

It been a decade in the works, but the construction of a new Maricopa Fire/Medical Department administration building has finally arrived.

The new building is colorful, bright, big and inspired by the community it will serve.

Rodolfo Lopez, Maricopa senior planner, told members of the Heritage District Advisory Committee Thursday evening they were there to vote on the elevation proposal for the facility. The proposed building will be south of Fire Station 575, which is on the west end of Edison Road.

“Our main criteria for reviewing this is to make sure that the elevation incorporates the colors, materials and the type of elements within the building,” Lopez said.

The committee gets early looks at developments coming into the Heritage District, which comprises a specific area of “old” Maricopa.

Gerrald Adams, with Perlman Architects of Arizona in Phoenix, told the committee the project is part of the campus with the fleet building and the fire station. The new admin building is budgeted at $5.6 million, paid for in part by funds from Arizona Department of Transportation after the state purchased the previous admin site on State Route 347 at Garvey Avenue to build the overpass. Fire/Medical Department personnel currently work out of modular buildings on the north side of Edison across from Fire State 575.

Adams showed a PowerPoint presentation detailing the new site plan, architecture, floor plan and landscaping, and presented detailed information about the building’s elevation due to it being in a flood plain.

The site will also include a memorial to firefighters, according to Adams.

“The public can enjoy the experience at the same time they are coming to visit the fire station and the fire admin facility. It is a general office. It is offices for senior staff and leadership. It has a community room, training room, break area, an outdoor courtyard and a warehouse,” he said.

The historic look of the building mattered to Adams and to fire department leaders.

“One thing we were challenged with is to respect the railroad and the history of Maricopa. We looked at the original Maricopa depot from the 1920s and ’30s and incorporated that using modern materials like those used on the fire station. It is a tribute to the railroad days of the roundhouse and the railroad days in Maricopa,” Adams said.

Adams said hopes are that construction can begin on the building in June or sometime in the summer and that it would be completed in six to eight months.

Members of the Heritage District Advisory Committee approved the plan for the new administration building 4-0 with two of the six committee members not present.

Gerrald Adams presents concepts to the City’s Heritage District Advisory Committee. Photo by Jim Headley

Still in early stages, a proposal for a Dutch Bros. Coffee store, with drive thru, came before the Heritage District Committee on Thursday.

Dutch Bros. Coffee is proposing a store in Maricopa, and the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee received an early look at plans Thursday.

That’s because the committee gets an opinion on any development in the Heritage District. Dutch Bros. Coffee’s proposal is on the north side of Fast & Friendly Car Wash.

City planner Rudy Lopez said the project still has to go through site plan review and meet criteria currently under discussion. Developers are also seeking a variance.

The project uses an existing access from John Wayne Parkway, but Lopez said there is an easement on the frontage.

“It’s like a no-build zone,” Lopez said, “so they’re going for a variance.”

Project Manager Michael Oakleaf of Archicon Architecture & Interiors said the current plans make sacrifices to fit into the area. That included abandoning some elements and using a color scheme that would “blend in” with the neighboring car wash.

Oakleaf said those concessions are unusual.

“We’re giving up a lot,” he said.

In what Chairman Brian Foose called “a formality,” the committee unanimously voted its support for the project.

An example of a house being used as a business and not necessarily a home.

City officials revealed a plan at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that could allow homes in the Heritage District to more freely be used as small businesses.

“What we’re trying to achieve here is that you don’t have to live in the home anymore to consider it to have a business in there.” — Rudy Lopez

The “Adaptive Reuse” Plan, Maricopa senior planner Rudy Lopez said, will allow for homes with fewer than 5,000 square-feet to operate “low-impact professional office or appointment base business [sic].”

Examples of potential “mixed-use” uses are insurances offices, accounting offices, hair salons, barber shops and coffee shops.

“A lot of cities across the metro Phoenix area, and even Pinal County as well, are using this type of tool to reinvest within older portions of town,” Lopez said.

As part of the Adaptive Reuse plan, the city will streamline the permitting process by modifying parking, landscaping and mechanical-screening standards allowing for minor developments to support the businesses.

The current city code, Lopez said, already makes room for “home occupation.”

“What we’re trying to achieve here is that you don’t have to live in the home anymore to consider it to have a business in there,” Lopez said.

This allows for the property to possibly even be leased to another small business without anyone living at the property.

“The biggest thing we are trying to get out is that business can now have signage,” He said. “They can expose their business.”

These types of businesses would still have to abide by nuisance regulations that prevent sight obstruction, loud noise and harsh smells.

Examples of other cities doing similar things are Phoenix, Chandler and Gilbert.

Council will likely vote on the matter in the coming weeks.

Heritage District map

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City floodplain manager Josh Plumb (standing) talks to the Heritage District Citizens Committee about the floodplain. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

Maricopa’s Heritage District doesn’t have too many options when it comes to addressing floodplain issues without a region-wide effort, according to a presentation to the district’s citizen advisory committee last week.

Josh Plumb, floodplain manager for the city of Maricopa, gave the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee an overview of the floodplain situation for the area and what would need to be done to find a solution to the issue.

Maricopa’s Heritage District has a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year, also called a 100-year flood, as a result of being a low-lying area from the Santa Rosa Wash and the Vekol Wash. This means that the area has been designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a floodplain.

As a result of this status, if any redevelopment to a property within the Heritage District equals or is greater than 50 percent of the value of that property, then the property would need to be brought up to floodplain standards. It also requires that any homeowner in the area purchase flood insurance.

“The challenge to the area is that it limits what can be done in terms of redevelopment,” Plumb told the committee at its monthly meeting.

One couple who purchased a home in the Heritage District recently learned they would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in order to bring their home up to floodplain standards.

Brian Foose, chairman of the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee, didn’t agree with the decision by FEMA to designate the area a floodplain.

“Unfortunately, the people in Washington who are looking through their satellites and their satellite imagery say that’s a lower area, that’s a floodplain,” Foose said.

Don Pearce, a member of the advisory committee and a long-time Maricopa resident, also didn’t believe that the floodplain status accurately reflects the situation, citing past experiences with flooding in the Maricopa area.

“This is ridiculous this floodplain,” he said. “I can’t see where they get this from.”

Plumb said any possible solution to the larger issue of limits to development in the floodplain would need to be addressed at a regional level with Pinal County, Pima County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Santa Cruz River, from which the Santa Rosa and Vekol washes are tributaries, flows from Mexico through Santa Cruz and Pima counties north to Pinal County.

Some options that could help the Heritage District include a drainage project or a flood-retention area that would divert potential flooding.

“Obviously, funding is a major issue in terms of trying to do a regional solution for this,” Plumb said.

Nancy Jones stands at her unique 1957 home in the Heritage District. She and her husband were “devastated” by the demands of a floodplain permit to improve the house. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa wants to revitalize the Heritage District.

The Heritage District is in a floodplain.

The impasse that creates for homeowners wishing to improve property can be frustrating and expensive.

A solution will be a long time coming.

Bill and Nancy Jones live in Senita but found a 1950s house on Condrey Avenue with “tons of potential.” They discovered it on the real estate website Trulia. A victim of foreclosure, the house had been empty five years.

Of course, empty is a relative term. Clearly animals and humans had made use of it. The entire quarter-acre property was full of trash.

As Washington snowbirds, the Joneses are do-it-yourselfers who saw the many challenges the home presented. But they did not even know about the biggest challenge.

What they knew about the property was that it was mid-century modern and had been in foreclosure.

“The bank foreclosed, sent the owners the paperwork, but they never followed through, so it went to a tax sale,” Nancy Jones said. “The people we bought it from bought it on taxes, and then we bought it off of them. So there were no disclosures. They didn’t know anything about the property, and we didn’t know anything about it.

The Joneses knew they had an expensive challenge in restoring the home on Condrey Avenue but were unprepared for the floodplain permitting process. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
The Joneses knew they had an expensive challenge in restoring the home on Condrey Avenue but were unprepared for the floodplain permitting process. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“If we had, we never would have bought it.”

Bill Jones said they hauled off 12 tons of trash from the house, the front yard and the back yard. The kitchen and bathrooms had already been stripped out. The Joneses took down all the sheetrock and plaster.

“It looks ugly, but there is nothing wrong with what we’ve got for a base,” Nancy said. “We’re working with an architect who has fabulous ideas for us. Until we get the floodplain permit, we can’t do anything.”

That has put the brakes on all of their plans.

In working with city planners on issues like setback waivers and variances, the floodplain issue came up. The Joneses were in contact with the Pinal County Flood Control District, which delivered the devastating news.

Engineer Chris Wannamaker told the Joneses the 1957 home on property that had not been surveyed since 1956 was built 26 years before the first floodplain map went in to effect. It is in a floodplain now, requiring a floodplain permit before any construction can be done, and that work must follow the “substantial improvement rules.”

“These rules state that if the cost of the improvements (including materials and labor) are more than 50 percent of the current value of the structure then the entire structure needs to be brought into compliance with the current floodplain regulations,” Wannamaker said. “In the case of this home, it would very likely mean elevating the entire structure.”

Half of the value of the Condrey house is about $16,000, a fraction of what their construction improvements will be.

“That’s the roof,” Nancy said. “We can’t get homeowners insurance because of the roof.”

They were able to get commercial insurance, which Bill said is $500-$600 per year.

“We’re out now about $55,000, and it just keeps adding and adding and adding,” Nancy said.

“I’d like to see the city of Maricopa get off their tushes and get that flood-retention area built that they need.” –Nancy Jones

That’s well beyond the full value of the home, so the work automatically requires the floodplain permit. That means before they can do anything else to the house, the Joneses must do one of two things.

“The only thing we can do right now is get a company to come in, burrow underneath the slab, lift it up two feet, backfill it with gravel, and then put the house back down,” Nancy said. “Or tear the whole thing down. At a minimum that would cost $15,000 to $20,000. Then we have to start from scratch.

“It’s a solid-built place. It’s disgusting to think that to do anything, we have to destroy it.”

For Maricopa, the option to help everyone in the Heritage District floodplain is to construct a flood-retention area or drainage project.

Joshua Plumb, a floodplain manager at City Hall, said a study to do a design for drainage is more than five years away. Then any plan must get approval from Pinal County at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. His best guess is six to seven years at the earliest before Maricopa has a project.

“Nobody’s taking a serious stand,” Bill Jones said.

“I’d like to see the city of Maricopa get off their tushes and get that flood-retention area built that they need,” Nancy Jones said. “Until the city gets their act together, anybody that wants to do anything in this area can’t.”

It is even a complicated situation for the city, which has property in the Heritage District it plans to develop. Plumb said an outside option is the opportunity for a development company to create its own drainage plan that meets FEMA requirements for much of the area.

“We’re always looking for development,” he said.

Nancy Jones said city planners were “wonderful” and very supportive of what the couple wanted to do with the house. The Heritage District Advisory Committee, too, heard their plight with compassion.

“We are sympathetic to what you have to go through,” said Brian Foose, committee chairman. “The whole 347 corridor is constrained because of the floodplain.”

“My heart goes out to you people,” committee member Renate Chamberlin said.

“My heart goes out to the neighbors,” Nancy Jones replied. “We want to get going on it.”

She called the situation “devastating.”

Plumb said the city tries to inform the public about the demands of being in a floodplain. It is considered one of Maricopa’s top three issues. While a city solution for the Heritage District is a long-range goal, potential homeowners wanting to improve the oldest section of town are forewarned.

“You have to know what you’re coming into,” Plumb said.

This story appeared in the April issue of InMaricopa.