Tempe has named one of its busiest downtown intersections "Fackler Square" after the man who helped revive Mill Avenue, turning a road dotted with biker bars and head shops into a social hub.
Dave Fackler arrived on the scene in 1978, when downtown Tempe was, as he joked, "not a place where good girls went." He officially retired at the end of June, though he will continue advising the city’s redevelopment office through November.
Over a quarter-century span, this soft-spoken man — described as "almost-genius," "stubborn" and "a guy with a real vision"— headed Tempe’s redevelopment efforts.
The goal: To create a "salt and pepper" of old and new buildings. In all, Fackler worked to save 203,600 square feet of historic buildings. He helped plan 2.7 million square feet of new space and an additional 2.4 million square feet of development now in planning stages.
Few people across the country have labored so long on a stretch of street — and made such a difference in a community, said Rod Keeling, executive director of the Downtown Tempe Community, a nonprofit coalition of downtown Tempe businesses and residents.
"It’s got to stand out as one of the top careers in his field in the country," Keeling said.
Fackler said the intersection of Fifth Street and Mill Avenue, now called Fackler Square, is his favorite. He’s proud of helping to save the old Laird and Dines Building, circa 1893, that now houses parts of Hooters restaurant, the Library Bar and Grill and the Owl’s Nest.
Fackler also worked on the Ellingson Warehouse project, which took the bricks from a seed warehouse built in 1909 that burned in the mid-1980s and used them to build the building on Sixth Street that now houses Z Tejas restaurant.
From city officials to outsiders, people usually point to Fackler’s intelligence as his greatest strength in working with developers, three mayors and an ever-changing City Council.
"Things that are looked at as insurmountable — Dave many, many times has figured out a solution to bring to the table," said Patrick Flynn, the former Tempe assistant city manager who worked with Fackler on redevelopment.
But the 55-year-old Fackler also has a creative streak. He drives an inferno red Chrysler PT Cruiser with cherry red and orange flames. He already has a degree in architecture, and he’s 16 credits away from completing a second major in ceramics.
When he’s done working as a short-term adviser to Tempe, he said, he has visions of volunteering for the Phoenix Zoo.
"I’ll go feed the animals at the zoo," he said. "Some might say I’ve been doing that for 25 years."