Mesa’s plan to make it easier and cheaper to fix up old buildings moved one step closer to reality Thursday.
The city’s General Development Committee — a City Council subcommittee — voted 3-0 to adopt a rehabilitation code modeled after one in New Jersey. The full council is expected to adopt the code in September.
Under the rehabilitation code, old buildings would no longer have to meet modern city code requirements. The new code would ease the financial burden on property owners by allowing them to avoid some of the more rigid requirements under Mesa’s building code.
Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh, a committee member, said adopting the code is one of the most important steps the city has ever taken because it will encourage investment in older areas.
Councilwoman Claudia Walters, also a member of the committee, said the city has worked on developing the code for years.
"I’m nearly giddy about this," Walters said.
Greg Marek, Mesa’s redevelopment director, called the rehabilitation code a "tremendous asset."
Under the current rules, renovators have to ensure old buildings meet new building code requirements if they undertake a major remodeling project. Required changes can include replacing all the building’s wiring and mechanical systems, and altering halls and doorways.
Some owners of centuryold buildings, including many in the downtown area, say the requirements can push the cost of renovations to the point where the project no longer becomes economically viable.
The new code is designed to emphasize safety while recognizing there is only so much an owner can do to change an old building. It would also make it easier for an owner to subdivide a large building, making it easier to parcel out prospective office or retail space.
The code will be especially helpful in downtown, where it is common to find structures between 50 and 100 years old that are designed in ways that make it difficult to attract a new tenant. A number of downtown property owners helped draft the rehabilitation code.