August 29, 2004
Crews have begun refurbishing two prominent buildings in downtown Mesa that have been dormant since 1997. The work comes much to the delight of City Hall and neighboring downtown merchants.
The former Bank One building and the former Paul L. Sale Co. building sit on prime commercial corners a block apart on Main Street. They are several blocks from the site of the city’s $94.5 million performing arts center, scheduled to open next year.
John Morehouse, a downtown businessman, told the Tribune last year that the buildings constituted one of the major obstacles to positive change downtown. "There’s nothing worse than a vacant building," he said.
City officials have tried for 25 years to revive Mesa’s once-active core. Some believe the renovation projects could be the beginning of that elusive rebirth.
"I think it’s finally starting," said Dan Alber, co-owner of Domestic Bliss, a furniture store on Main Street. The store will relocate to the former Paul L. Sale building when construction ends in November.
Mesa has spent $554,900 on 14 studies to improve downtown since 1978. Millions more went toward a variety of improvements suggested by the studies. In the past seven years alone, the city spent more than $130 million building the Mesa Arts Center, beautifying Main Street and making other changes.
For all that, the sidewalks along Main Street are deserted at night. The area lacks restaurants, high-end retail shops and entertainment venues.
Officials are hoping the arts center will be the spark. They justified its high cost partly by saying the facility would be a catalyst for private-sector investment.
The city owns the fivestory former bank building at 1 N. Macdonald. It was built in the 1960s. The city has agreed to transfer ownership to the developers, Outsource International and M3 Development, when they finish the $6.5 million re n ovatio n project. Plans call for a restaurant and retail outlets on the ground floor, and highquality office space on floors two through five.
The Paul L. Sale building at 166 W. Main St. was built around 1912. The new owner, the Brent Berge family, longtime car dealers, plan to rename the building to honor C.M. Berge. The renovation project includes uncovering most of the building’s original windows, which the Sale family plastered over decades ago.