New Projects, Planning Highlight 2011 Outlook for Area
The South Mountain District News recently contacted several community leaders to get their thoughts on what residents can expect during the upcoming year in the South Mountain/Laveen area.
Comments were collected from the following people:
· George Young, member of the South Mountain Village Planning Committee, co-owner/co-editor of the South Mountain Villager and chair of South Mountain Village Clean and Beautiful
· Michael Moreines, owner of Sierra Sun Properties
· Carlie Back, realtor for The Carlie Back Team at Keller Williams Lifestyle Realty
· Mary Beyda, superintendent of the Roosevelt School District
· Michael Nowakowski, vice mayor and District 7 councilman
· Steve Glueck, executive director/ membership development for the South Mountain/Laveen Chamber of Commerce
How do you envision the South Mountain area a year from now? What changes will we see?
Young: I see a renewed energy and dedication from the community to improving South Central Avenue. By the end of 2011 we should have an approved the site plan for our new entertainment project south of the Rio Salado and the study for light rail should be completed and published.
Moreines: Virtually the same I dont see any new commercial development going on. I hope we dont lose any more retail and I am cautiously optimistic that we can actually get some new retail and restaurants I am hoping the shopping centers that are still bank owned get sold and the remaining operating centers get their loans restructured.
Back: I think its going to more of the same were going to see a lot of the phantom inventory. Were also going to see investors coming into the area big-time. Prices are at an all-time low and for the first time in ages, properties can be cash-flow positive from an investor standpoint.
Beyda: From a school district perspective, were going to be further along in our bond project so well be coming close to completion.
Nowakowski: I envision community leaders coming together and finding common ground to revitalize South Mountain. By coming together, we will work to overcome challenges and toward changing the image of South Mountain.
Glueck: We’ll have some of these major projects we’ve been talking about. The first is the Salvation Army Youth Center at 13th Street and Broadway, which actually will begin operating in 2012. It will be 90 percent complete by this time next year The other major project is the (South Mountain Community College) Library that will be in operation, I believe, in the second quarter of 2011 it’s going to have a big community center attached to it. The third one is the culinary headquarters building for the Roosevelt School District at 10th Street and Baseline.
What I’m hoping to see is some progress on the discussion about bringing light rail down South Central. That’s a conversation I think we need to intensify. This community deserves the priority of bringing light rail down South Central and bringing attention to revitalizing the South Central Corridor.
What do you believe is the key factor that will lead to greater economic recovery in the South Mountain area in 2011?
Young: Projects like the extension of the light rail to Baseline Road and the new RAPID Bus line, along with improvements on South Central Avenue. Also, the ground breaking for the new regional park at South 12th Street and East Elwood.
Moreines: Jobs, residential loan modifications and commercial debt restructuring.
Back: Job growth but in the South Mountain area great prices, lots of distressed property and historically low interest rates (will lead to greater economic recovery). We have such a big inventory because we experienced our growth at the peak, so well have more of our fair share of growth opportunities.
Beyda: Jobs will have to increase; theres too much unemployment. To have a vibrant economy, we need to have jobs.
Nowakowski: I have formed a committee of members with diverse opinions to focus on the implementation of upcoming projects. Next year, were going to start working on a study to bring light rail to South Mountain, by branching off the downtown line and going south. Weve gotten a lot of support for the light rail expansion, and Congressman Ed Pastor has been a great help bringing this vital infrastructure.
Weve got a great deal more going on, too projects in the works for the construction of an amusement park with a retail component and an old-town, South Mountain community feel. Also, this year, in partnership with local businesses, we enhanced holiday lighting down Central Avenue. Weve gotten such a great response from our South Mountain neighborhoods and business community that Im sure this will be a yearly tradition. I want people from all over to come and enjoy the festivities and showcase how South Mountain Village is a great place to play, live and work.
Glueck: Jobs are first you need to have jobs available and then the restoration of real estate values that have plummeted in our area. Those two things are huge, particularly for us because we’ve been hit so hard with devaluation of real estate in our zip codes anywhere from 50, 60, 70 percent and sometimes more. I don’t think it’s been emphasized enough how hard we’ve been hit.
From a business or civic perspective, what are you most excited about for 2011?
Young: From a civic perspective, I believe the April Transition III at SMCC will be a huge success and give us some guidance on how to proceed with development in our village. Along with the above mentioned projects and a new and improved Broadway Road, I believe the creation of a South Mountain/South Central Avenue Revitalization Committee will be a catalyst to the future of our village.
Moreines: From a business standpoint, I look forward to completing all of my debt restructuring and bringing new business to our communities. From a civic perspective, I look forward to our communities becoming even closer and working together to help everyone through these difficult times.
Back: (Im excited about my) business gaining more market share as agents go out of business, and helping families and people get back financially from the devastation weve been experiencing.
Beyda: Unfortunately, it looks like the legislature is going to cut education again. But what Im most excited about is our increase in student achievement. Our winter achievements just came out and were seeing reading levels at 80 and 90 percent they used to be in the 40s. Also, the thing Im excited about is we now have more students in kindergarten than in 8th grade. So were becoming the district of choice.
Nowakowski: What keeps striking me over the last couple of years is how our South Mountain community has been able to come together to bring projects that we thought were lost or stalled forever back to life. Over and over again, the key has been to bring people together who dont realize that theyre not interacting, to really see that all of the people in our community are allies, friends and neighbors. This coming year, the strength of our diverse, united community will continue to emerge, bringing peace, a sense of belonging and economic growth. Getting things such as a freeway, a hospital, mall, movie theater and light rail are great improvements and additions, but the real prize is the bond we forge among ourselves.
Glueck: The continued growth. Also, the new census information that just came out is going to basically reflect the legitimate population growth in South Mountain, which I’m guessing is around 250,000-300,000. Having that data is going to be helpful to people who start to look at investing and moving down into our area with business investment.
In general, I’m very optimistic about moving forward. We’re still realistic about the tough economic times we’re moving through but resolute about the future of the South Mountain area. All the reasons why people moved here and businesses opened here are still valid.