Economic woes have slowed growth on Mill Avenue, but that might not be a completely bad thing, declared the woman now responsible for marketing and maintaining that shopping/entertainment district.
Nancy Hormann, the Downtown Tempe Community's new executive director, noted the area was flush with new developments during the boom time of a few years ago. But she feels none of these projects fit together.
"Now that development is not coming at us in droves, we need to be a little choosy about what we decide is good or not for the area," Hormann said. "I can't tell you anything proposed was bad, but I can't figure out the plan."
Mill's appearance and how its developments interact are just some of the issues before Hormann, now in her third week on the job. She has experience managing business districts following years of establishing and operating them nationwide.
The Downtown Tempe Community hired Hormann to manage Mill Avenue's improvements, activities and marketing, actions funded through city taxes raised within an enhanced multiple services district.
A disadvantage for Mill, compared with other districts, is how all the buildings are individually owned. Northeast Phoenix's Kierland Commons center, Hormann noted, has one landlord.
"They have standard hours of operations, they have standard tenant improvement allowances, they have standard leases," Hormann said. "Everyone is different on this street."
Her solution is to establish within the DTC a leasing office, a "one-stop shop" where prospective tenants learn which available properties suit their needs. Then, the businesses will be matched with the right landlords.
Kierland also comes out ahead in another comparison by Hormann: reputation as a business-friendly place.
"If a business goes out of business at Kierland Commons, people automatically think, 'That business didn't know what they were doing,'" Hormann said. "If a business goes out of business in downtown (Tempe), it's downtown's fault."
Reputation aside, Mill Avenue is struggling. According to city statistics, sales tax revenue in July and August, compared with the same months last year, is down 18 percent.
Receiving some of the blame for this is developer DMB Associates, which owns the Centerpoint on Mill complex. In preparation for a massive renovation that has been put on hold, DMB allowed its tenants to leave. Consequently, one of Mill's gateways is anchored by half-empty buildings.
Hormann and city leaders recently met with DMB, and Mayor Hugh Hallman credited Hormann with making progress in bringing activity back to Centerpoint.
"She strikes me as somebody who is going to help us advance the ball down the field," Hallman said.