A youthful vision for Mesa's challenged Fiesta District would call for the renovation of a nearby community college's stadium, a miles-long park beside U.S. 60, and more condominiums and shops sprinkled throughout the district.
More than 20 students from Arizona State University have formed a think tank this semester, solely focused on providing Mesa leadership with a youthful and inspired vision for the area, which includes Mesa Community College, Banner Desert Medical Center and Fiesta Mall.
The urban planning students are more focused on the commercial blight of shops closed down and fenced off for the better part of two years. Among some of the blight, and recently the focus of intense city pressure to clean it up, Fiesta Village still sits empty, abandoned by a laundry list of stores beginning in 2007.
W.M. Grace Development Company, the owners of Fiesta Village, did not immediately return a phone call for comment on the status of the site.
On the corner where a former steakhouse took up the prime real estate, now an empty restaurant stands with only an industrial dumpster in its parking lot.
Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh, who represents the district, said the ASU Planning Studio approached him weeks ago. After attending a presentation at the university in mid-September, he signed on to support the 25 student planners.
|Click for full version|
"It's the class project for the semester - working on design ideas for the district," Kavanaugh said. "I'm hoping to be able to harness the energy and ideas of the students."
Led by their professor, former Phoenix planner Dean Brennan, the students have participated in meetings with the public, as well as city government and business leaders.
Kareem Abdullah, a senior with a focus on urban planning, told city and business leaders at a recent meeting his class had a distinct vision for the area surrounding MCC's stadium.
"The vision that we have is outdoor cafes, bars, open space, mixed-use development," Abdullah said. "One of the goals that we came up with is a linear park that goes along the U.S. 60."
Student Cesareo Luna, a senior, said the plan was to attract younger homeowners to the area, as well as entice the people of Dobson Ranch to migrate north for their shopping and leisure needs.
"We don't see a lot of open space around here, pedestrian connections, public squares," he said.
Student Alexandra Weinrich said the idea of incorporating more shops and commercial outlets in groupings - or mixed-use projects - was to encourage people to walk around in their community for their needs, instead of driving to shop.
Abdullah said the idea was simple: "People want to go to what's new."
Kavanaugh said the students' work would culminate at a Planning and Zoning Board meeting in December. He said he was particularly curious about what the students would come up with for the park proposed for the long retention basin along U.S. 60.
"We asked the students to look at a whole variety of issues," Kavanaugh said, including "what would be the plans that they would recommend if they were in charge."
Two years ago, ASU students partnered with west Mesa officials to generate ideas of what Main Street should look like along the light rail, Kavanaugh said.
"The city has had various partnerships throughout the years with ASU," he said.