Town of Gilbert planning and development officials will continue reaching out to the community as they gear up to bring the proposed downtown Heritage arts, culture and entertainment district to the Town Council on Sept. 5.
Planning and development officials recently met with the Gilbert Arts, Culture and Tourism Commission and will meet next with the Gilbert Redevelopment Commission during a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Gilbert Town Council Chambers, said Mike Milillo, Gilbert zoning administrator. The Gilbert Redevelopment Commission advises the Town Council on matters involving the redevelopment area in downtown Gilbert.
“We’ve continued to reach out to various groups who we believe would be interested in this, like Gilbert public schools and churches,” Milillo said. “We would hate to put this in front of the council without people knowing about it.”
The proposed Heritage arts, culture and entertainment district is an area that officials hope will attract museums, art galleries, bars, restaurants and microbreweries and would stretch through about half of the downtown area, which runs from Juniper Avenue in the north down to just south of Elliot Road and stretches about one quarter of a mile on either side of Gilbert Road, Milillo said.
While state law allows cities and towns to designate entertainment districts, the Town Council would need to lift a ban on certain types of liquor licenses that fall within 300 feet of a church or school. If officials lift the ban, then the Town Council would be able to consider each bar or restaurant on a case by case basis, Milillo said.
“We hope this will act as a catalyst so that we all get the more artistic types of uses and cultural ventures to locate there or expand,” Milillo said.
One school located near the proposed area is Gilbert Elementary School. Gilbert Public Schools spokesperson Dianne Bowers said district officials met with planning officials in late July to discuss the proposal.
“District representatives expressed their support for the entertainment district overall, with the desire for the Town to impose a 500 foot limit, rather than the 300 foot limit currently allowed in the entertainment district,” Bowers said.
Kevin Ballard, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ stake that covers a portion of the proposed district, declined to comment.
Milillo said 90 percent of the approximately 20 people who attended a community meeting on June 17 supported the proposal.
“We had one person in particular who was opposed and she felt that this would lead to some problems,” Milillo said.
Milillo said the Town of Gilbert is in competition with cities such as Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa to attract people and businesses to their downtown area. However, Milillo said the town is going to be careful about thoroughly checking this history of any business applying for a recommendation on a liquor license.
Also, officials have created a Good Neighbor Principles document, which liquor license applicants would need to read and sign. The document asks businesses to commit to keeping the downtown area safe and clean, respect property, manage noise and remain accountable to the community.
“We realize that it’s a voluntary thing, but we think that it will get them thinking about the potential negative effects that they could have.”