The City of Mesa has undertaken an ambitious plan to revitalize its downtown along Main Street, which is anchored by the Mesa Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormon church) on its eastern end and by the Mesa Performing Art Center on its western end. The City’s plans include the adoption of the Central Main Street Plan and a form based code which will foment a comprehensive approach to planning, designing and regulating mixed use transit oriented development in downtown Mesa for decades to come.
Drawing similarities to the Mesa’s historic roots and those of Salt Lake City is not difficult. Moreover, current bold efforts by Mesa’s leaders to seek federal funding to extend light rail along Main Street through downtown Mesa and to adopt such cutting-edge planning and development tools begs the questions…if Salt Lake City can do it, why not in Mesa? Granted there are distinctions to be made…but the mere fact that Salt Lake City, with its conservative roots was able to look so progressively into the future and that the residents saw the wisdom of investing in their downtown speaks volumes about the opportunities for Mesa.
While the future of City Creek remains to be seen [PBS video], so far Salt Lake City residents have embraced mixed-use, transit-oriented development. TRAX serves downtown, the University of Utah area, and the suburb of Sandy, and carries an average of 43,400 people per day. The Gateway District, lauded by the EPA for its successful revitalization of an abandoned historic area, is home to 130 stores and restaurants, 500 residential units, and major employers like the Salt Lake Tribune and Fidelity Investments. When complete in 2012, City Creek promises 900,000 square feet of retail space, six acres of public space (with a man-made creek running through), five residential towers with 600 condominiums, 1.6 million square feet of office space, and a gourmet grocery store.
When the light rail reaches Mesa Drive on its eastern terminus, it will be a short block from the Mesa Mormon Temple and will likewise serve the powerhouse campuses of Arizona State University in Tempe and downtown Phoenix, Mesa Community College students, and connect Mesa to thousands of square feet of retail, residential and other mixed use sports and entertainment sites along the Tempe and Phoenix corridor. The light rail has the ability to serve as a tremendous catalyst for redevelopment and growth in downtown Mesa.
Noone expects the Mormon church to invest so heavily in Mesa’s downtown but what if Mesa was Salt Lake City…to the many East Valley residents of Mesa who trace there roots back to their Mormon pioneers ancestors…“this is the place.”