New life fuels Chandler’s old core - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

New life fuels Chandler’s old core

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Posted: Friday, August 22, 2008 5:57 pm | Updated: 11:19 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Having lived in Chandler for more than two decades, I am intrigued with the way the downtown continuously changes its look and feel. In the late 1980s and 1990s, we saw a few changes with the development of the new office buildings on the east side of Arizona Avenue. But the rest of the main square went relatively unchanged. In the latter part of the '90s, some new restaurants and shops opened, facades and colonnades were spruced up and the appeal of the downtown again looked promising.

Somewhere in this time line, I found myself surprised by how much downtown Chandler had changed. With new residential projects, a square brimming with galleries, shops and eateries, and plans for a new City Hall that will include the community's new museum, our city core has an exciting future. A recent meeting of the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership provided an overview of downtown that really put its rich history in perspective.

The original townsite was mapped out in 1912 with some significant projects in the early years that included the San Marcos Hotel (1913), the Bank of Chandler (1913) and the development of several other buildings along San Marcos Place and Commonwealth Avenue (1920). Many of those historic buildings are still standing and are home to businesses such as La Stalla and El Zocalo restaurants, di Sciacca Glassware and Sushi Eye in Motion.

The old Arrow Pharmacy building was refurbished and now holds several new businesses including Light Rain Images, Latitude 8 Thai restaurant, the Urban Tea Loft, Art on Boston and Uptown Bridal and Boutique.

Moving just off the square to the north is the Chandler Center for the Arts, a facility that is planning for a $4.2 million phased renovation; and Chandler High School, with more than $30 million in improvements in recent years. The intersection that ties these facilities to downtown also underwent a renovation that widened the streets and created a fun little pocket park at the northeast corner of Chandler Boulevard and Arizona Avenue.

Heading south, Chandler's City Hall will finally begin construction at Chicago Street and Arizona Avenue toward the end of the year. Chandler's Historical Museum will be part of the complex that will also include a new Channel 11 studio and council chambers. Serrano's is also building a three-story corporate headquarters in the vicinity, ensuring that one of Chandler's great pioneer families will remain a strong presence for many years to come. And just to the west of that, plans continue for a large mixed-use retail and residential development by Desert Viking, the company responsible for much of what has already been developed in the downtown core.

To the east, the Boys and Girls Club is set to build a new facility with more than $8 million in voter-approved bonds. Finally, events such as the annual jazz festival and monthly art walks are also bringing people downtown in record numbers.

So, it is easy to be excited for our downtown in these times of constant transformation. Downtown Chandler is a very special place. If you have not experienced our city center lately, it's time to stop and see why the enthusiasm remains high for our historic community gem.

Kevin Hartke is a member of the Chandler City Council.

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