Mesa downtown group planning for future - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa downtown group planning for future

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Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:25 pm | Updated: 12:30 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

A walk in downtown Mesa along Main Street Tuesday offered some of the hallmarks of a ghost town: empty storefronts and little pedestrian traffic.

But Downtown Mesa Association president Tom Verploegen said there is a lot of life, vibrancy and potential, and his group is tapping resilient businesses, civic leaders, residents and others downtown sources to determine the best course.

The association hosted a meeting last week that drew people even on one of the recently stormy nights, in creating a vision for the square mile known as Mesa's downtown.

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"We're trying to cast a net as wide as we can," Verploegen said Tuesday.

Wednesday night will be more of the same, and the public is encouraged to attend the second meeting on the same topic of a "vision for downtown" at 7 p.m. in the Community Room of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, 120 N. Center St.

Verploegen said the process of idea mining will go through October and his association will report to city officials in November. A third meeting is scheduled for June 2.

"What we're looking for is a lot of interaction," said Verploegen, who ran off a list of several viable suggestions received at the last well-attended meeting. "We're looking for additional input in terms of what we would add to the vision."

That vision includes one suggestion received from a resident that a cultural district was sorely needed downtown, one that would rival downtown Scottsdale's maze of art galleries and arts venues to lure visitors from far and wide.

Verploegen said some suggested more museums, night clubs and a grocery store. "We had some really, really great discussions and great ideas," he said.

Members of the association include businesses located downtown as well as larger organizations, such as the Mesa Arts Center.

The center's spokeswoman, Sarah Moran, said her organization considered itself a national draw more than a regional one.

"We're the largest arts center in Arizona," she touted, pointing to the sprawling campus that includes Mesa Contemporary Arts and its five galleries, art studios and theaters.

"It pulls a lot of different people from across the Valley," she said of the $100 million center.

MAC Executive Director Johann Zietsman is scheduled to attend next month's meeting to discuss ways of incorporating the center in the vision being planned for Mesa.

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