The buzzwords around Gilbert’s Heritage District lately are beer, pizza and pedestrians.
The redevelopment of the town’s original core is taking its cues from businesses eyeing vacant land and residents seeking to walk, drive and park downtown easily.
Spotty, crumbling sidewalks will become new ones, officials say, as empty lots become businesses and trails.
A request for proposals for a microbrewery restaurant in the district goes out Monday. And a downtown parking study and a request for proposals for a designer for a downtown trail connection are ongoing, said deputy town manager Tami Ryall. The simultaneous economic development, parking and pedestrian efforts represent a larger vision.
"We’re really kind of taking a big picture look at how that
whole area is going to operate together," she said. "It’s a very optimistic time."
Businesses seem optimistic about locating in Gilbert. The microbrewery concept was spurred by business owners who approached the town about old park-and-ride land adjacent to the future location of an Oregano’s Pizza Bistro.
"Oregano’s has been the buzz for a while . . . there’s definitely a lot of excitement and anticipation," Ryall said. "I think other businesses would like to be around that."
The former park-and-ride sits vacant because the town opened a new 250-space park-and-ride in the district in May. Though the new lot averages only about 30 cars a day on weekdays now, Ryall said it was built with a 20-year life span, with the capacity the town will need by 2025.
Representatives of the Friends for Life Animal Sanctuary near the new park-andride are optimistic about the area’s future, said volunteer spokeswoman Jannelle Cosgriff. The organization has been at the west end of Vaughn Avenue since 1996 and keeps about 60 cats and dogs on site.
"With them wanting to do foot traffic through here, that would be perfect for us," Cosgriff said.
As the area turns toward its future, keeping Gilbert’s past evident there is important to the town.
Ryall said there is a grant pending that would allow Gilbert to restore a small adobe pumphouse that sits at the bottom of the town’s landmark water tower. The pumphouse was Gilbert’s original jail.