A big splash. The next Arizona Biltmore area. Mesa's last chance. Buzzwords abound when talk of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport begins, and they are likely to get louder after the release of a new area development plan that includes more residential areas and space designated for resorts.
But taking the plan from paper to pavement won't be easy, Mesa leaders say.
In a recent presentation to the City Council, a consultant hired to study the area presented a map of the airport hugged by office parks and industry, adjacent to a large residential core, complete with spaces for golf courses and resort hotels.
The plans for additional houses near the airport are the most surprising, as Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker and other council members have been trying to prevent the red tile rooftops for years.
But the houses slated for this plan will be different, said District 6 City Councilman Scott Somers.
"We had no plan for the area until two years ago," he said. "If the city had not done anything, there would be a sea of houses in that area and that would've been a problem."
Instead, the plan developed by engineering and architectural firm HDR calls for high-density urban living that most say are more compatible with the noise and activity of an "aerotropolis."
These houses would also be out of the flight path, which is extremely important to another neighbor - Boeing, which has thousands of employees and works on aircraft such as Apache helicopters.
"Boeing has very much been part of the process," Somers said. "The last I heard they have a good agreement amongst the parties."
The other party would be Scottsdale developer DMB Associates, which holds claim to a 5,000-acre parcel planned for dense residential, mixed-use areas that combine houses and office space, and recreation such as golf courses and first-class resorts.
If DMB brings its development and attracts the kind of projects local business leaders think it will, the area would become the new high-end destination for the Valley, said East Valley Partnership CEO Roc Arnett.
"Elliot and Ellsworth will become the new 24th Street and Camelback in the East Valley," Arnett said.
The East Valley Partnership is a consortium of business leaders dedicated to promoting the East Valley.
One way DMB might be able to attract quality development is through the use of a Government Property Lease Excise Tax, a tool that would require transferring the land to the city, leasing it back and lowering the tax burden for a number of years.
"In this national economy, no, this global economy, we need all the competitive tools we can get our hands on," Arnett said.
The next step in the plan will be to further the airport's success with more passengers and higher revenue, Somers said.
The Federal Aviation Administration is scheduled to visit the site next week for a tour, and HDR will be back before the City Council in May with more information about transportation and how the city would pay for the plan.
Somers said he would like to see a three-dimensional model showing how the mix of houses, businesses and aviation would work together.
He also would like eventually to see the plans for the airport area on the ballot.
"This is that important that everyone look at it and say 'I like it,' " he said.
"Of course, the end result is that I think people will like that plan."
Mesa mayoral candidate Scott Smith said he has been involved since the early stages, when the area was first identified as "truly a gem."
But the former homebuilder said he is not planning to do any building out there.
What he is doing is forming a plan for what he would do if elected mayor, including pulling together all the area's local governments - Queen Creek, Florence, Apache Junction, others - and agreeing on a common vision.
Smith said Mesa's next mayor and council would take the plans for the area up to the next level, including the implementation of plans currently on paper.
"We have to make sure it's done right and whatever we do there fits the ultimate vision," he said.
Mesa mayoral candidate Rex Griswold said he has been working to promote the airport for the past five years as the District 5 city councilman, working on issues such as zoning and building codes.
The job for the mayor, Griswold said, will be to act as the spokesman for the city and to think regionally in the planning.
"Airplanes don't just fly over your city, but the other cities, too," he said. "We have to involve them and bring them to the table."