When Dave Richins was first told about a planned retail center at Loop 202 and Dobson Road, he wasn’t too impressed. It appeared to be a typical "big-box" center, the Riverview Park ballfields were going to disappear and a gas station was planned adjacent to the remaining portion of the park.
Richins said the neighborhood was told this was just the first phase, but Richins and his neighbors wanted more.
"We told the developer we want a master plan for the entire area, we want something special and if you need incentives to do it, fine," said Richins, co-chairman of the Mesa Grande Community Alliance that represents the west Mesa
The Mesa Grande alliance encompasses between 60,000 and 80,000 residents from the Tempe-Mesa border east to Mesa Drive, and from McKellips Drive south to Southern Avenue.
Richins’ input was made about two years ago. Today, the plan includes a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, movie theaters, restaurants, auto dealerships and a business park.
"They did exactly what we asked them to do," Richins said.
Added to the mix, though, was an estimated $80 mil- lion incentive package for Kimco Developers and De Rito Partners Development, an agreement sparking a referendum effort that has forced a May 17 election.
At the request of the neighbors, the developers agreed to alter their plans, changed architects and last week donated $5,000 to the Mesa Northwestern Little League, resulting in "Mesa Riverview" appearing on the uniforms.
In exchange, the Mesa Grande Community Alliance steering committee endorsed the project. Richins and group co-chairwoman Stephanie Wright have been quoted in campaign materials, and Richins represented the neighborhood at a campaign news conference.
LaRue Gates, who like many of the neighbors actively opposed the Arizona Cardinals stadium proposal on the same site but supports this project, lent her name as a plaintiff in a developer-funded lawsuit that tried to throw out the election.
Neighbors have praised the project during public city meetings on cable television, including the Mesa 2025: Financing the Future committee, whose members are studying the city’s long-term finances.
The latest campaign effort involves "Info Parties" planned by neighborhood resident Darlene Brinkerhoff, who said the gatherings at supporters’ homes will "get the truth out."
"I have reached to every corner of the city, calling all my friends everywhere and are finding people agreeing to do it," said Brinkerhoff, a 57-year area resident.
In addition to promoting Riverview, the group is looking at new uses for Banner Mesa Medical Center, which will relocate in 2007, and is battling the prostitution problem on Main Street.
"One of our main concerns in this older part of town is what to do with infill pieces, what to do with land that hasn’t been developed, what to do with places that need to be redeveloped," Wright said. "For us, (Riverview) seems like a wonderful opportunity to kick-start northwest Mesa again."
Valley Business Owners (And Concerned Citizens) president David Molina, who does not live in the neighborhood, said his group looked at how the project’s financial arrangement would affect Mesa as a whole.
"The tax incentive package doesn’t make economic sense," Molina said. "You cannot justify the need for a tax incentive package for, in my view, the best location for commercial development in the state of Arizona."