Residents of two of Mesa’s oldest and most different areas are teaming with the city to preserve what’s special about their neighborhoods as they look to the future.
Overlooking the city from slightly higher ground on the northwest side, Lehi was the 1870s launching pad for Mesa, and to this day residents fight to maintain a distinctive rural atmosphere with big yards and horse properties.
South of downtown, the Nuestro neighborhood may be Mesa’s most urban section, with half-century-old homes bunched together in a quarter-square-mile area.
Both neighborhoods are being guided by city staffers who say they will do the residents’ bidding.
"When the process gets started, we will work with the local residents, and they determine who their leaders are and what the plan will address," said Mesa planner Wahid Alam, who will help lead the first meeting on Lehi’s sub-area plan within a few weeks. The process will include, among other things, community meetings, neighborhood surveys and mapping out a blueprint for preserving what gives the area its unique character.
Nuestro is a little further along in crafting its neighborhood plan, expected to be finished in September.
It grew out of a push to be named as the city’s second "opportunity zone," a city designation to help an area. Last month a City Council subcommittee recommended against the designation, intended to encourage upgrades in areas where homes are just beginning to age and deteriorate.
"That’s OK," said 28-year Nuestro resident Jack Hannon. "We don’t mind being called a revitalization zone."
He said residents as a whole hope that whatever blueprint comes out of the planning, it will speed up the process of sprucing streetscapes and houses.
Mesa neighborhood outreach specialist Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo said Nuestro has a population of 2,100, 84 percent of whom are Hispanic.
Hannon said Nuestro has older families and arrivals from Mexico, "who find a neighborhood here that’s a place they can transition into life in the community."
Nuestro is the first section of Mesa to undertake the planning process on the neighborhood level. As a subarea within Mesa’s general plan — or an area which the city designates as having strengths to capitalize on — Lehi is starting a process already completed by other unique parts of the city, such as the Citrus area.
Page Dewitt, secretary of the Lehi Community Improvement Association, said working on the sub-area plan could force neighbors who want to keep a rural focus as their special character, but don’t always agree on the details, to hash things out.