Tuesday, December 29, 2015

International Existing Building Code Analysis - Downtown Mesa - RFP Announcement - Adaptive Reuse

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is being advertised for use in submitting information that will be used to select a firm/individual with whom the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) hopes to negotiate an agreement for the described services.

Consultant will perform an analysis of a certain number of existing structures in downtown Mesa in accordance with Chapter 14 of the 2015 International Existing Building Code with the purpose of creatively analyzing what alterations, repairs, or additions would be needed to achieve potential changes of occupancy without requiring full compliance with Chapters 5 through 13, except where compliance with other provisions is specifically required by the 2015 IEBC.

It will be essential for the consultant to think creatively and critically about the opportunities of each individual building and the most cost-efficient way to meet the goal of maintaining or increasing the current degree of public safety, health and general welfare in the building. The consultant will be expected to work in concert with the City of Mesa’s Building Safety department.

Responses will be accepted until Friday, January 29, 2016. A copy of the full RFP is available on the NEDCO website at nedco-mesa.org/IEBCRFP.html.

Monday, November 16, 2015

10 Top Tips to Get Your Business Ready for the Holidays.

Ho! Ho! Ho!  - It’s Holiday Season - Merry Main Street is BACK! by Lani Lott, NEDCO Consultant

The countdown to the busiest time of the year for most businesses has begun.  With less than 40 days until Christmas, there is no time to waste to make sure you have your marketing in place, your employees geared up and YOUR customers excited to come downtown, shop with you and then enjoy the array of festivities planned.   The City, Downtown Mesa Association, NEDCO, RAILmesa, VisitMesa and the Mesa Chamber of Commerce are busy planning numerous activities beginning the Saturday after Thanksgiving (November 28) and continuing through January 3, 2016.  Do the math - that is six full weeks of events and promotions for your business to leverage.   Let’s get going and make this the best year for both Downtown Mesa as well as for your business.   To kick-start your creative juices, below are 10 tips to keep in mind as you set your marketing and promotional calendar. 

Tip 1:  Be in the Know
Make sure you know what is going on during the next six weeks.   Regularly check the Merry Main Street website www.merrymainstreet.com and Downtown Mesa’s website www.downtownmesa.com.  Watch for email updates and attend all merchant meetings.  Activities are being added daily and you don’t want to be left out.   Inform your employees of the various activities, when the events are planned and how you will be participating.  Most importantly get the word out to YOUR customers.   Incorporate the Merry Main Street website into your holiday advertising and printed marketing materials.  Spread the word -- the holidays in Downtown Mesa should NOT be the best kept secret --- we want the entire Valley to know about Merry Main Street and Downtown Mesa.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Mayor John Giles Love Letter To Mesa: Mayor Giles, native of Mesa, talks about his life in Mesa, and his commitment to help make Downtown Mesa all that it can be. 

When did you first come to Mesa? How did you get here?

"I was born in Mesa, Arizona. I was born in what is now Benedictine University at the corner of Main and Hibbert St. My family lived at 250 W 9th St which is just on the other side of University from here, and I went to all local schools including Westwood High School. After I graduated from ASU Law School I began practicing law at 30 W 1st Street, a short walk from where we are sitting right now. When I started my own law practice I ventured out all the way over to 44 W University it's about a mile from here. When I first got involved in the whole historic reuse idea I moved to 238 W 2nd Strett which is even closer to the Mayor's Office. So, I have spent most of my life, especially my adult professional life in this neighborhood. I literally started my life and was raised in Downtown Mesa. So, it is in my DNA, I am a Downtown Mesa guy. I have great memories as a child of going with my mom shopping for whatever we needed on Main Street. At Newberry's and a place called LaSuers Men's Store and Everybody's Drug Stores, my friends worked at the lunch counter at the drug store. I remember the transition from Downtown Mesa to Tri City Mall and how difficult that was for Downtown Mesa back in the 1970's and saw the effects of the freeways and Fiesta Mall siphoning off life and vitality and traffic from Downtown Mesa. So, I have seen Downtown Mesa at it's heyday and I have seen Downtown Mesa at it's low point. When I was on the City Council in the 1990's we tried to do everything we could think of to find a pulse on Main St. We were not particularly successful at that. What we were successful at, and I am very proud to have been a part of, was the decision to locate the Mesa Arts Center in Downtown Mesa at the corner of Center and Main Streets to revitalize our Downtown. We could have put it anywhere, and there was a lot of pressure to put it elsewhere. I am very excited about the good things in Downtown Mesa, about the way it is, but I am also excited about it getting better. It is a personal thing for me, I would take a lot of personal satisfaction from being a part of revitalizing Downtown Mesa."

What is your most central mission here?

"My most central mission is to increase the prosperity of Mesa. It is not focused specifically on Downtown Mesa, but that is of course a part of it. My job is to help the folks who live in Dobson Ranch, Eastmark, Falcon Field, the Groves, Riverview and everywhere in Mesa to take it to the next level: to give them the opportunities to have a good job, and good schools, for this to be a great place for them to live and work."

What are your favorite things about Mesa's downtown?

"Well I love the Mesa Arts Center. It is a world class facility and I am anxious to shine as bright a light as I can on the Mesa Arts Center because it deserves it. Downtown Mesa is very authentic. It is not a Disneyland re-creation of a  downtown: it is the real thing. We have credentials, we have credibility for being a genuine downtown. I am getting tired of hearing how good our bones are. The saddest word in the English language is "potential". I am anxious for it to reach it's potential. I love the restaurants, but I want the restaurants to be dramatically a bigger part of downtown then they are now.  I do love what we have and the opportunity for more. I love the genuineness of the whole place, it really is a good old downtown."

What are your hopes for the future, what do you envision when Downtown Mesa reaches it's potential?

"What I see is people. They are not just going to eat in a restaurant, or the Mesa Arts Center or Benedictine University or other universities or just going to retail shops or taking their kids to school. They are doing all of the above and doing other things too. I think residential options are certainly a part of what we need to bring to Downtown Mesa as well. People need to live here, it can't be a 9 to 5 place, it needs to be a 24 hour place. So the vision is people, more people, more businesses but also more places to live."

What can we as residents do from the ground up to help?

"You are doing it. There is a great Downtown culture and support group and enthusiasm. I love the folks who are already committed to living downtown and doing renovations to existing homes and there is a real renaissance in our old neighborhoods right now. We need to just keep encouraging people to live in downtown Mesa and to open businesses here. We need to have folks encourage and support the City Council to make people understand that this is a good use of city resources to revitalize downtown Mesa. We need more attractions and more reasons for people to come downtown Mesa. We need the city, and the Mayor, to be very proactive in jumpstarting some good quality development downtown; residential, entertainment and other good uses. Additionally, the folks that are here need to continue to be enthusiastic about it. The makerspace environment and the arts environment that is great. It is going to get stronger when we get Artspace down here, that will help with the arts community. It is an ideal fit for downtown Mesa with the Mesa Arts Center the artists that live there can work teaching at the Mesa Arts Center in addition to what they do in their own studios. It is inevitable that it will happen. I struggle with the patience to let it happen, I want to jumpstart it anyway I can."

Mayor Giles expresses a great identity for downtown Mesa: a unique combination of ties to our historic community with the vision of a prosperous and vibrant Downtown. He sees arts and culture infusing a new inviting vibe to Downtown Mesa while preserving our authentic Main Street identity. 

Mayor Giles's Love Letter To Mesa is "#nextmesa starts Downtown"

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Downtown Mesa Celebrates the Arrival of Smitholator Cookies and Prime Cut and Sew!

Friday June 5th, 2015 was a red letter day in Downtown Mesa, Arizona! Two new, unique businesses both had their Grand Openings! Smitholator Cookies, homemade designer cookies and gifts  opened on Main Street and Prime Cut and Sew, Barber and Boutique opened on S. Macdonald St.

Smitholator Cookies

Heather Smith at her Grand Opening
Heather Smith, owner of Smitholator Cookies says says that Mesa " Is where my heart is! I could not see Smitholator Cookies living anywhere else!"

She opened her online custom cookie bakery in December 2011 and for the past two years has been planning to open her cookie store on Main Street.

From the beautiful glass walled bakery  to the eclectic fun assortment of gifts, this shop is a delight to visit!

Smitholator City of Mesa Cookies!

Visitors can buy cookie making accessories, fun retro-themed gifts, and even cookies for your favorite puppy! And then there are the delicious and beautiful cookies! Smitholator Cookies has yummy treats for all and will custom design your cookies to order for any occasion. Have a seat, grab a cookie or two, and enjoy a glass of delicious Danzeisen milk in this cute shop! Custom cookies can be ordered in person or on the web.
The beautiful kitchen, watch the cookies being made!

Smitholator Cookies is open for business at 124 W Main Street Mesa, Arizona 85201
Hours: Sunday 11Am-4 Pm, Mon, Tue by appointment, Wed-Sat 11am-6PM
 Smitholator Cookie Website

Prime Cut and Sew

Friends grab a cut and shave at Prime Cut and Sew

Zeke Mendoza, Paul Mallory, and Roman Romero all attended Westwood High School together and now have joined forces to open Prime Cut and Sew in Downtown Mesa. Their Barber and Boutique also opened for business on Friday on South Macdonald Street. For Zeke it is "Bringing it all back home" after he left to study fashion in Los Angeles. He and Roman had another clothing store in South Scottsdale but they "never felt like part of the community.

On Sunday they reflected that they were all overwhelmed by the welcome they have received back home in Mesa.

Many Downtowners visited and welcomed them to the neighborhood including NEDCO and Mayor of Mesa John Giles. 

They are bringing hip street wear, motorcycles, and an old fashioned concept of the neighborhood barber where friends can come and talk.

This combination seems to perfectly mirror Mesa's growing Downtown identity of combining traditions of our past with new direction and energy for the future. Roman likes Mesa's "Unlimited potential, and that was certainly present in the over 300 people who came out for Prime Cut and Sew's opening party. 

The mission of Prime Cut and Sew is to be welcoming and inclusive while bringing diversity to Main Street.

Paul says "Mesa's time is now", and they hope to contribute with art, fashion shows and events to make Prime Cut and Sew a part of Mesa's Downtown Community.

Zeke, Roman and Paul (from top left) are thrilled
 to be back home in Downtown Mesa
Prime Cut and Sew is located at 61 S Macdonald Street in Mesa, Arizona 85201

They are open Tues-Sat 10am-8pm and Sunday 10am-4pm

Phone number and website coming soon.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Creative Placemaking: Transforming Communities through the Arts, Part 2

This coming Monday NEDCO, with local partners Mesa Arts Center and LISC Phoenix, are bringing the regional Creative Placemaking conversation to Mesa! Join Jaime Bennett, Executive Director of ArtPlace America, Artplace grant recipients Greg Esser of Roosevelt Row, Cindy Ornstein of the Mesa Arts Center, and Tracy Taft from the Sonoran Desert Alliance and the Curley School in Ajo, as well as Mesa Mayor John Giles.
Erik Takeshita leads the discussion with Naomi Cytron,
Bedoya, and Beth Siegel at the first creative
event at the Herberger.

Our last event, sponsored by LISC Phoenix, NEDCO, Mesa Arts Center, and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, was held at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix and brought together over 250 local artists, developers and professionals interested in Creative Placemaking. This event will follow up and expand on that conversation. Last time a small group was able to meet and continue the conversation, and the same will be true of this event, with an "after-party" and conversation at the Mesa Urban Garden.

The event is free, but an RSVP is required at Eventbrite

The conversation after the event brought together a 
number of Creative Placemaking practitioners to discuss 
how this tool is used in the Valley.
Creative Placemaking is increasing the vitality of communities across America, in large measure due to support from the national consortium of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions behind the work of ArtPlace America. Hear from ArtPlace's Executive Director on what is happening with this movement, its impact on community development, and how you can help foster cross-sector collaborative work in service of your community.

Monday, June 8, 2015
4:30 - Refreshments/Networking
5:00-7:00 - Panel and Q &A
7:00-9:00 - Conversation & Networking

Friday, May 29, 2015

Downtown Mesa Celebrates the Arrival of Valley Metro Light Rail Test Trains!

Welcome Valley Metro Light Rail to Downtown Mesa!

NEDCO joins all of Downtown Mesa in congratulating Valley Metro with the arrival of the very first Light Rail Test Train #101A on Wed May 27, 2015. The exact time and date of the first train's arrival was not known due to the unpredictable nature of the test, but a few lucky people saw the train and quickly the word spread. One of the lucky ones to witness this long-anticipated moment was Mesa's Mayor John Giles who came out to welcome the train around 6PM. 

The trains will continue to be tested along the Central Mesa Light Rail Extension from Sycamore Station, the current terminus to just past Mesa Drive.

The question on everybody's mind right now is WHEN will the train be open for passengers? That question will be revealed at a public celebration of the fifth milestone for the Central Mesa Extension and to welcome the arrival of the Light Rail trains to Downtown Mesa on Wed June 3, 2015 from 9:00-10:00 AM on the steps of the Mesa City Hall Plaza at 20 E Main Street in Downtown Mesa.

Join NEDCO as the Celebration continues!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cindy Ornsteins Love Letter to Mesa

Cindy Ornstein Arts and Cultural Director for the City of Mesa
 and the Executive Director of the Mesa Arts Center

In 2010, Cindy Ornstein arrived in Mesa for her first job interview for the position of the Arts and Cultural Director for the City of Mesa and the Executive Director of the Mesa Arts Center.

Never having been to Mesa, or even Arizona, she arrived early and was captivated with the beauty of the area. Even from her first glimpses of the metro area she was impressed by the attention to including art in public spaces, such as on freeway bridges and walls. Coming from Michigan, with much older infrastructure, there was nothing like that.

Arriving downtown at the Mesa Arts Center, she was excited because of the potential that exists here. She was excited to see the beautiful facility with all its assets: studios, theaters, the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum and the stunning surrounds. She was also struck by the charming downtown Mesa. She immediately thought it had good bones on which to build. Lucky for Mesa, Cindy got the job. She oversees the Arizona Museum of Natural History, the I.D.E.A. Museum, the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, cultural events in the City of Mesa and, of course, the Mesa Arts Center. Cindy now makes her home in Mesa.

Since her arrival she has worked hard, not only to develop Mesas museums and the Arts Center to be nationally recognized destinations for arts and culture, but to connect them at the ground level with the community. Her desire is that the community understands that the Arts Center is theirs, and that together, we are all invested in making Mesa's Downtown an amazing place.

Interviewing Cindy was enlightening.  She says her mission, at heart, has always been that the arts are for everyone and that they are critical to a healthy, just, and successful society. I believe deeply that arts are important to community development, social fabric, economic development; all of it. I also believe that the assets of the arts, whether they be public buildings or non-profits, work in the public trust. When I was head of non-profits for many years I always said almost every opportunity I get that this organization, this venue, does not belong to me, or the staff or even the Board; it belongs to you, the community. Our responsibility is to manage it and keep it healthy, in the public trust because it is your place. That is what the arts should be all about.

So, in this case where we manage facilities that are literally owned by the public. My mission is for every citizen to feel pride, ownership and engagement with these assets and resources. That they are there, for their enrichment, to make their communities better, to make their children inspired to learn. Our job is to make an impact on the community in a positive way, in all the ways we can. It is really about finding the things that are going to be most effective, what the community is going to find delight in, those things that are going to make them come check it out and make them get involved more.

When asked about her favorite things in Mesas downtown she said It feels like community, it feels so good because we have independent mom and pop stores, it feels very accessible. I love its feel. I love that it is walkable. We already have potential to have a constant activation over time, I think. But it is charming. The trees, the size, the feel of it: it feels like a charming downtown.

Cindy has a vision for Downtown Mesa that builds on its good bones of community, a committed group of downtown activists, an arts community that is here, the influx of visitors for the museums, cultural events, performances, and classes at the Mesa Arts Center.

She is excited that Mesa will become even more of a destination with the opening of the light rail extension into Downtown Mesa. She sees Downtown as an increasingly welcoming place where fun and unusual activities are going on. A place that is vibrant and inviting, with public art where community members of all ages can gather together in public spaces, cultural venues and enjoy places to eat and drink. Cindy envisions a packed events calendar in a beautiful, active, art-infused environment that is a place where strong partnerships create involvement in the city for its citizens, visitors, arts organizations, the city itself, and those in the region connected by the Light Rail.

Cindy has chosen for her Love Letter to Mesa “’Mesas Charming Downtown-Good Bones, because, though we all know we have more work to do to make Mesa what we envision, it is all about the foundation we already have here to build on for an exciting, welcoming, involving, and charming Downtown Mesa, Arizona.

Find out more about all the arts and cultural opportunities in the City of Mesa at http://www.mesaaz.gov/things-to-do/arts-culture

Information on upcoming festivals, performances and studios classes at http://www.mesaartscenter.org

Friday, May 1, 2015

Love Letter To Mesa❤️: Amy Del Castillo

Amy Del Castillo is the co-owner of Lulubell Toy Bodega in Downtown Mesa, Arizona and online toy manufacturers and distributors.

Previously located in Tucson, Amy has always wanted to move Lulubell to the Phoenix Metro area. She visited the downtowns of Phoenix, Gilbert, Chandler and Mesa and kept coming back to Mesa's downtown. She loved Mesa; the appearance, the feeling, and even though she did not know anyone else, she could just picture it as home. She loved the small town feel, the community, the look, and saw a tremendous potential in the area. 

Amy loves to be a part of things; making them happen and didn't see a better fit anywhere else. She knew it would take time and she was prepared for the challenge with the Central Mesa Light Rail construction beginning at the same time she moved her business to Mesa. She was optimistic that the Light Rail would ultimately be a great asset.

NEDCO's (Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation) business assistance helped Lulubell Toys during the light rail construction. She says, "being a small business with no staff, the NEDCO assistance was a lifesaver!"

Her business mission is to bring art of all kinds to Downtown Mesa and have a place for all kinds of artists to be.

Amy is invested in Mesa. She bought a house here and is putting down roots. For her, the best thing about number one, is the people. She has made new best friends here, her business neighbors have become partners in positive change and they help motivate each other. Together, they are all invested in making Mesa's Downtown an amazing place.

Now when she hears about another new business opening on Main or an ice cream shop opening she exclaims, "yes! It is so exciting now! It is like Christmas every day!" 

Amy has found Mesa to be a community where like-minded people with different backgrounds and interests can all come together. She thinks we can create a friendly, down to earth and supportive neighborhood.

Amy's Love Letter to Mesa: "I love the Community!"

Find out more about Lulubell Toy Bodega located at 128 W Main Street in Downtown Mesa: http://www.lulubelltoys.com

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Local Artist Brightens Mesa’s Downtown

Artist Jake Early and his father install the
temporary art. Photo: Ryan Winkle
Local artist Jake Early has spruced-up 3,000 square feet of outdoor space in Mesa’s Downtown with custom designed and hand-printed art. Placed in both surprising and conspicuous locations, these fine-art images, inspired by street art and wheat-pasted posters, reflect Mesa’s heritage in a variety of ways. Sponsored by the DMA and NEDCO, this temporary public art project is made possible through the Valley-wide InFlux project, now in it’s 5th year. Various art is installed throughout the Valley. You can find a variety of these temporary installations in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Scottsdale, Phoenix and other valley cities!

Jake made ten individual designs, which can be found around 15 businesses downtown -- can you find them all? Which is your favorite?

For more information:
In Flux - www.influxaz.org
Downtown Mesa Association - Press Release
Downtown Mesa - If you knew it, you’d do it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In Mesa, Community Groups Discover Power of Voice

Guest post by Gordon Walek. 

Everyone pays lip service to the notion that community involvement is a critical element in determining how urban areas evolve and change – that residents, and the businesses and institutions representing them, have a say in what gets built when, where and why.
Attendees at a Mesa Workshop. Photo: Gordon Walek

In older cities with histories of neighborhood activism and activists, such as Jane Jacobs in New York and Saul Alinsky and Gale Cincotta in Chicago, local governments have institutionalized systems for engaging local people in planning everything from new houses, businesses, and parks to highways and rail systems.

But what about newer cities, where such planning traditions don’t exist? There’s no blueprint that local governments can apply to ensure thorough and robust community engagement in shaping how they grow. But in Mesa, Ariz., they’re working to create one.

With 440,000 residents, Mesa, just east of Phoenix, is Arizona’s third largest city and receives about $3.5 million annually from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through Community Development Block Grants, HOME funds and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program – mostly for the development of affordable housing and other community-related assets. The money, of course, comes with a few hitches, including that the city prepare five-year plans laying out how the money will be spent. Those plans require public comment.

Planning without community voice
“Historically, that planning has been done without active community voice,” said Tammy Albright, director of Mesa’s Department of Housing & Community Development, which is responsible for creating those five-year consolidated plans. “Everyone, including the city, wanted that to change. But it’s very difficult to get people to engage. We’ve put it (notices of meetings for public comment) in the newspaper and on our website and maybe one person shows up. They don’t know what a consolidated plan is.”

Photo: Gordon Walek
That’s not a knock on the citizenry. Even in older, more established cities there’s rarely a public stampede to discuss arcane urban planning matters. But in Mesa, there’s no history, and no structure, for such comment.

That wasn’t lost on HUD, a couple of national community development intermediaries (Enterprise and LISC), and a handful of Mesa-based organizations engaged in local economic, housing and transportation development. During the last year, they set about working with the City to improve the process.

For the last few years, Enterprise had been kicking the tires in Mesa, identifying local community development organizations such as the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) and A New Leaf that were involved in new business, affordable housing and social services development, while at the same time assessing the city’s efforts to come up with a new plan to spend the HUD dollars. This was at the same time Valley Metro was extending the light rail system from Phoenix to Mesa and the Phoenix LISC office was promoting community development “along the line.”

Good time for planning
“This seemed to be an ideal time to start working with the community development organizations,” said Enterprise’s Ed Rosenthal. “NEDCO had already begun to assist the community in preparing for light rail and A New Leaf had just finished an affordable housing development (the 80-unit La Mesita Apartments) on Main Street near the light rail.”
Presenter Joel Bookman Photo: Gordon Walek

Rosenthal figured that if groups such as NEDCO and A New Leaf got additional technical assistance and training not only would they strengthen their development skills but they could also, with their community roots, be a catalyst for shaping the city’s five-year consolidated plan. In short, a win-win.

So he enlisted Teresa Brice, executive director of the Phoenix LISC office, which had done work in Mesa a few years before employing the LISC MetroEdge the consulting team of Helen Dunlap, Joel Bookman and Amanda Carney – specialists in community engagement and business development – to work with the neighborhood groups and the city.

“Mesa is kind of a conservative place,” said Rosenthal, who until he retired earlier this year directed Enterprise’s rural program from Santa Fe. “You don’t have a lot of active community development corporations, as in New York and Chicago. And solid groups like NEDCO and A New Leaf didn’t coordinate their efforts or understand the power they have. Part of training was to get them to understand the role they could play…in moving the city in a certain direction.”

Enter Helen Dunlap and company, who over the past year presented a series of workshops – open to community development organizations, arts groups, transit advocates, developers, city employees and anyone else – ranging from the basics of community organizing, to how to conduct a meeting, to the value of telling your story. All within the context of helping the city write its five-year consolidated plan.

New breed of Mesa community developers
NEDCO’s David Crummey, an urban planner and public transit advocate, was in the vanguard of whipping up local enthusiasm for the workshops and influencing the consolidated plan. His youth – he’s 33 – and his can-do attitude are consistent with the tone and demographics of many Mesa-based community organizations. Crummey was aware of the consolidated plan – and the opportunity it represented for NEDCO and other groups to influence it. He was troubled to learn that the original meetings to elicit public comment were scheduled on the same day, within an hour of each other.
Workshop Attendee Photo:Gordon Walek

“There’s no way anyone would get to those meetings,” he said. “We needed to make clear what we wanted and how we could leverage those dollars. How do we move forward with a vision for our community rather than just letting things happen?”

Meanwhile, Ryan Winkle, a Mesa native who studied urban planning and cut his community development teeth running an urban garden a couple years ago, acted as a connecting thread among Mesa’s community based organizations, hosting meetings, encouraging attendance at the NEDCO-sponsored  workshops, helping them see themselves as having a collective power when they acted together.

“People are now asking how they can get more involved,” said Winkle, 35. “They’re coming together. They’re talking about what they learned in the workshops. That’s pretty amazing.”

After hearing from Crummey, Winkle and others, the city scheduled three additional public meetings at times when working people could attend, to shape the consolidated plan.

It takes a village
“We have to put a big thank you out to Enterprise, LISC and NEDCO,” said Tammy Albright. “We wouldn’t have had the level of community engagement without their efforts. This is the most community engagement we’ve had on a consolidated plan.”
Photo: Gordon Walek

Crummey credits the workshops with not only boosting the skills of local community groups, but with allowing them to get to know each other.

“At the first one – What is Comprehensive Community Development – aimed at nonprofits and government employees, you could see a few light bulbs going on,” he said. “How do we come together, instead of just distributing the money? But the conversations at those meetings, and the people who met each other, were the most important part.”

Shay Meinzer, director of real estate and asset manager at A New Leaf, who’s spent the last 16 years working in the nonprofit and for profit housing and community development sectors in Pennsylvania and Ohio, noticed upon arriving in Mesa last May that the neighborhood dynamics – even the definition of neighborhoods – differed considerably with the what she was accustomed to.

“I don’t see neighborhoods fighting for themselves,” she said. “As developers, we can identify opportunities, but if you don’t have the backing of residents, you won’t go anywhere. It’s a very slow process. But whenever you can get people together, you can really start a discussion. Then you have to keep it going.”

As for the consolidated plan? A draft is on the city’s website.

“There’s not as much impact in the plan as I would have liked,” said Rosenthal. “There’s some important language that opens the door to transit-oriented-development planning, but it’ll be meaningless unless the groups apply pressure. They have to keep at it.”

One of the many Mesa workshops. Photo: Gordon Walek
Crummey and others now active in groups like RAILmesa (Retail, Arts, Innovation, Livability), which advocates for increased citizen participation, responsible development of housing, transit options and the creation of quality jobs along Mesa’s light rail corridor, agree. But he sees the planning experience as simply a prelude to an era of larger public engagement in Mesa development.

“The biggest thing that needs to be conveyed is that a group of people with a common purpose can bring about change,” he said. “If the community wants to see things happen, it needs to work together and speak in a concerted voice. This experience has changed the level of interest in downtown Mesa. And it’s reduced the fear that the community is some ugly beast that would bite you.”

Gordon Walek, a Chicago-based writer and photographer, has spent that last 15 years working in various communications capacities for Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Prior to his work with LISC, Gordon spent 20 years as a newspaper and wire service reporter in the Chicago area, where he also worked as an adjunct professor at Columbia College.

More photos of the events are included here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Downtown Mesa: If you knew it, you’d do it.
Impromptu Restaurant Crawl is Successful in Downtown Mesa

Recently, a group of passionate friends formed Project Downtown Mesa and DTMesa.org, with the goal of bringing another restaurant to downtown Mesa. Excited by new people interested in downtown, NEDCO decided to host a restaurant crawl to show off a few of the great restaurants open for dinner downtown. Many of the group had no idea that downtown Mesa had such a variety of restaurants open for dinner including 26 restaurants within a half mile of the arts center, 14 of which are full-service.

Beginning at Republica Empanada, we enjoyed a delightful spread of empanadas and their fabulous Arroz con Pollo. Marco Meraz, the manager, introduced the food and told us the history of the restaurant, and about his family’s commitment to Downtown Mesa. From there, we transitioned to Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine, where we were overwhelmed by three featured dishes and spring rolls - Pad Thai with Shrimp, Cashew Chicken, and Massaman Curry with Chicken. Nunthaporn shared her family’s story and history in downtown, moving from Country Club and the US60 to downtown in 2009.

As it began to lightly rain, the group made it’s way over to Queen’s Pizzeria where they were delighted with bruschetta and margarita pizza. Emilie and Gannon Nikolich shared their family’s history in downtown and were delighted to show off their recently renovated new location with a full bar & craft beer on tap. Il Vinaio (the Wine Merchant) greeted the group with a full dining set up and individual portions of their goat cheese linguine with grilled chicken. Cameron and Cindy Selogie talked passionately about their decision to open their business on Main Street and their hopes for the continued growth and local support in downtown. Feeling a little fuller, the group then transitioned to Mango’s Cafe, who generously offered to stay open a little later to accommodate the group. We enjoyed street tacos made with carne asada and al pastor, and were offered chips and salsa and horchata to accompany our tasting. Long-time Mango’s employee, David Jimenez, welcomed the group with enthusiasm and warmth providing an atmosphere tailored for our enjoyment. Our final stop was Margarita’s Grille, where we were greeted with a full table set up and individual sample platters of chimichangas, tacos, taquitos, and fried shrimp. Ryan Caldwell, shared the family’s 30 year history in the restaurant business and in the valley, with Margarita’s being the newest addition to the restaurant family.

The final stop also allowed for easy conversations between the DTMesa group and the NEDCO staff. Discussion was passionate and curious, and everyone spoke with an open mind and excitement about the possibilities in downtown. The downtown vision was mentioned, noting that the initiative to bring 1500 new housing units to downtown would not only support the existing businesses but would also provide evidence and support for new businesses to join our downtown family. There was general consensus that the local restaurants in our downtown need help spreading the word and getting attention from new patrons, as it was clear how easily they were overlooked even by interested local residents. Everyone involved walked away feeling the excitement of a collaborative effort to support and improve downtown.

MESA: If you knew it, you’d do it proved true once again - inviting people to experience our downtown challenges the common misperception that there is not much to offer. In reality, downtown Mesa is made up of locally-owned shops and restaurants and filled with passionate and involved business owners, organizations, and neighbors. If you knew it, you’d do it.

If you are interested in participating in a future downtown restaurant event, please contact us at nedco@nedco-mesa.org. For more information about NEDCO, go to: nedco-mesa.org.

Click here for more photos from the crawl.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Main Street Gets Creative, Artists Invade Downtown Businesses

Local Artists get $1000 mini-grants to partner with Local Businesses in Downtown Mesa

Mesa, AZ: This fall, five local artists will partner with Downtown Mesa businesses to engage the community and bring vibrancy and life to Main Street. In a program called Ripple, the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) will fund artists with mini-grants to do placemaking projects in an effort to support community and economic development.

Ripple is inspired by Irrigate in St. Paul, where a local non-profit discovered the value of creative placemaking during their light rail expansion. Downtown Mesa has experienced some of the same challenges as St. Paul and responded in a similar way – finding ways to celebrate the extension of the light rail line and inviting the community to do the same by participating in ongoing events and taking part in a “Shop on Main St.” initiative to support local businesses. Ripple takes these efforts a step further by giving local artists the opportunity to build relationships with the independently owned businesses along Main Street and to use their art as a tool for community development.

All artists were required to attend a day-long workshop on creative placemaking that took place in August and was taught by Springboard for the Arts’ Artist Community Organizer, Jun-Li Wang. Jun-Li focused the workshop on examples of creative placemaking and necessary collaboration and leadership skills. Artists were then required to develop a proposal and submit it for review. Projects were chosen based on three criteria: 1) Quality of Partnership – Is the project mutually-beneficial to both the artist and business? 2) Impact – Will the project have a meaningful, visible, potentially ongoing impact on the community? 3) Viability – Does the project fit with Downtown Mesa and do the partners have the capacity to see the proposal through to successful completion? Five projects were chosen ranging from activities encouraging participation using social media to live mural painting, interactive window displays, and community art workshops.

Terry Benelli, Executive Director of NEDCO, shared her enthusiasm about Ripple, stating “We are so excited about the partnerships that have already been created between these artists and the local businesses and cannot wait to see what these projects further inspire. Ripple provides an opportunity to not only share local artistic talents but to also expose more people to the unique independent business in our downtown. We are witnessing the unique marriage of arts and economics – let’s support our local economy by supporting our local artists!”

Ripple projects are set to take place at several Downtown businesses including Lo-fi Coffee, Queen’s Pizzeria, Lulubell Toy Bodega, Margarita’s Grille, Linton-Milano’s Music, and more to be announced. Projects will begin within the upcoming weeks and wrap up during the winter holidays. 

For more information, contact Jennifer Disbrow at jdisbrow@nedco-mesa.org or 480-258-6932.
About NEDCO: NEDCO is a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution based in Mesa, AZ. Primarily offering micro-loans to low-moderate income census tracts, NEDCO also seeks out opportunities to support the local community through economic development. Find more information at nedco-mesa.org

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mesa’s Arts & Culture District, needs more arts & culture.

Yes, we have the Mesa Arts Center (MAC), the i.d.e.a. Museum, Mesa Contemporary Arts, and the Second Friday Art Walk, so why does it still feel like something is missing? That question can be answered with two words: Creative Placemaking.

You may be asking yourself, what is this thing, this placemaking? In the words of Springboard for the Arts, “Placemaking is the act of people coming together to change overlooked and undervalued public and shared spaces into welcoming places where community gathers, supports one another, and thrives. Places can be animated and enhanced by elements that encourage human interaction – from temporary activities such as performances and chalked poetry to permanent installations such as landscaping and unique art.”

In July of this year, the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) hosted a Creative Placemaking workshop. Carefully selected leaders in Arizona’s art scene participated in three days of training to learn how to administer this workshop to others in the future, representing the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Mesa Arts Center, Childsplay AZ, the i.d.e.a. Museum, and the Mesa Art Bizarre. Along with these leaders, over a dozen artists from Mesa and the Valley participated in the eight-hour interactive course, learning how to begin using their art as a tool for community engagement. Jun-Li Wang, from Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul, used activities, visual examples, and animated discussion to teach artists about placemaking, collaboration techniques, leadership, and teamwork. The workshop wrapped up with Jennifer Disbrow, from NEDCO, answering questions and reviewing the requirements to apply for a mini-grant for artists to fund their own placemaking project.

The sense of connection, engagement, empowerment, and overall excitement coming from those who attended was undeniable. Artists were inspired to start working on their projects to make an impact in Downtown and that is what they did.

Jaime Glasser, a local artist whose craft is iphonography, stated "It has given me an opportunity to think of how public art can bring art in different ways to more people and help connect people with their place and encourage interaction too between businesses, people, places and art. I am really excited and empowered to see what I can do to engage more people this way!"

The Mesa Art League was well-represented at the workshop too, and Loralee Stickel, president of the Mesa Art League, shared her excitement about the experience. "I had no idea this workshop would make a difference. How wrong I was. Not only was I able to network with other artists and business owners, but I was presented with opportunities to work with them. They taught skills on how to cooperate with diverse individuals and what real collaboration is. Thanks to NEDCO for sponsoring this workshop."

Kyllan Maney, “I found the Placemaking workshop to be a gathering of artistic minds seeing downtown Mesa in a new light. I have a greater appreciation for the historic quality of the area. I was enlightened by the projects I saw in other cities presented. It helped me see how Mesa can keep it's historical roots and move forward with the progression of the area. I also liked the aspect of the workshop on communication and collaboration.”

The program is called Ripple, inspired by Springboard for the Arts’ Irrigate program in St. Paul. Ripple applications were due on September 1st and will be reviewed by a collaborative group representing NEDCO, MAC, the Downtown Mesa Association, and downtown businesses. Five artists will be funded to do their project in collaboration with a local business.

We expect the results to be a hit - encouraging a blossoming relationship between artists and downtown, and bringing the arts to the Arts & Culture District in an exciting and reimagined way.

NEDCO is a Community Development Financial Institution based in Mesa, offering microloans and technical business assistance. NEDCO also organizes the Mesa Entrepreneurial Artist program which spans eight weeks and teaches artists business basics and provides networking opportunities. Find out more about NEDCO and this program here: http://www.nedco-mesa.org/calltoartists.html.

Participants discuss leadership styles.

The winners of the tallest tower building contest, demonstrating exceptional teamwork!

More passionate discussion about leadership!

Councilwoman Terry Benelli, on leave from her position as Executive Director of NEDCO, stopped in to speak with participants.

Jun-Li Wang and her exceptional facilitation skills engage participants in discussion about placemaking and collaboration.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ASU State Press and Downtown Mesa

The student newspaper at ASU mentions Downtown Mesa as a potential hub for music after light rail!
"There could be three hubs: downtown Phoenix, downtown Tempe/ASU, and downtown Mesa. Each hub could have different events in the various cultural centers within walking distance of the light rail."
Check it out

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lighting Octopus reports on our Downtown

Some people like steampunk. Some people really like steampunk.

And some folks like it so much they reserve a big ol’ chunk of space in Downtown Mesa’s 2nd Friday and fill it up with the stuff.

These people are awesome.

Just like last time, Evermore Nevermore (and their neighbors) are going all out again in October’s 2nd Friday. If you’re a fan of the genre at all, you can help make this event shine. You can participate officially, or if you have any sweet gear or outfits to show off to fellow fans, just show up and represent.

It’s all going down Friday, October 8th from 6pm to 10pm.
On the south side of Main Street, between Robson & MacDonald.
(Just find Evermore Nevermore.)
Steampunk artisans, vendors, costumes… contraptions? (I hope so!)
Let them know if you want to be a part of it.
Otherwise, just show up and enjoy!

BTW- Lighting Octopus is another friendly blogger

Saturday, September 11, 2010


No I have not turned all linux on you! This is the day of the next Motorcycles On Main AND Randy and Maria's wedding on MacDonald and Main - center stage. Our M.O.M. newlyweds are probably the oposite side of the spectrum when it comes to computer geeks who are looking forward to this rare date. Come join the fun 7:pm is the ceremony.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Az Republic Editorial Board and Downtown Mesa feasibility study

Mesa has learned a valuable economic lesson.

The city used federal grant money to commission two studies on downtown: one on the viability of health-care-related industry, the other on higher education. City Council members had hoped the studies would recommend specific developments for Site 17, the notoriously empty swath of land near Mesa and University drives.

But that's not what happened.

Consultants had a difficult time studying the viability of either industry on the site because most of Mesa's assets in those fields exist outside downtown.

Both studies concluded there were significant health-care and higher-education opportunities to be had in Mesa. That's good news, considering those industries are the "H" and "E" of the city's "HEAT" economic strategy.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith unveiled the strategy just after taking office in hopes of attracting more high-wage jobs by strengthening the city's existing health-care, education, aerospace and tourism industries. It's good to know the city is on the right track.

But neither study broke much new ground. The conclusions mirrored what Smith and others within the city have been saying for more than a year.

Neither included detailed recommendations for Site 17, a point that visibly disgusted several council members last week when the studies were presented during a study session.

But that's where the lesson comes in.

Smith recognized after the meeting that Mesa had fallen into a common trap, hoping the studies would offer grand ideas to fill a vacant piece of land. It was focusing on a real-estate opportunity, rather than on the most effective strategies to woo high-wage jobs Mesa's way.

Site 17 needs to be filled. But engineering the market to build something there is not the way to do it.

Smith says Mesa should focus its energy on selling the city to health-care companies and colleges and letting them choose the best site for their needs.

He's right.

Though much work remains to finalize that strategy, Mesa now has a much sounder foundation on which to build it - one filled with third-party data about Mesa's assets, not just city intuition and a desire to fill empty real estate.

An important lesson, indeed.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/community/mesa/articles/2010/09/09/20100909mr-edit0910.html#ixzz0z5tVakYu

Friday, September 3, 2010

Downtown feasibility studies complete

The Az Republic revealed some detail regarding the idea of bringing more of the HEAT initiative to Downtown Mesa. HEAT is the acronym for the area of emphasis for business attraction in all of Mesa. (Healthcare, Education, Aerospace and Tourism).

A "healthplex" was suggested in the study; it would include doctors' offices, diagnostic centers and healthy restaurants and spas. Seems logical (although a big ole bummer) since our health-care assets- Cardon Children's Medical Center, A.T. Still University and Banner Health's medical simulation center are close by.

The Higher Education study confirmed that Arizona is under-served by colleges, especially private schools. A suggestion was made to have a delegation head out to Notre Dame to see what it would take to get them thinking about a western campus in Downtown Mesa. Councilman Kavanaugh said such efforts go back more than a decade when in 1997 Mesa went to Lewis University with the same concept.

Councilman Finter hit the nail on the head about both of the studies- "Everything I'm reading so far, I knew".

So the ideas were confirmed and maybe the dream whittled down a bit. But we still don't have tens of millions of dollars in the bank to plant the seeds like the Mayor said. What about the 84 million potentially on the table for Wrigleyville west. Would concentrating on the "T" in HEAT for Downtown be a bad idea?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Councilman Elect Glover

Yesterday District four elected a new councilman to represent Downtown Mesa. I have taken an excerpt from an article in the Az Republic in July about Christopher.
"My name is Christopher Glover, and I am a candidate for the Mesa City Council District 4 seat. Born and raised in Mesa, my lifelong ties to the area make me an ideal candidate to stand up for the issues that are most important to Mesa citizens.

Recently, I graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a bachelor of arts in political science and minors in Spanish and Latin American history.

I have worked for the law firm of Udall, Shumway and Lyons, as well as the office manager for our family business.

I have seen firsthand the importance small businesses have on the economy and the community, and I am eager to bring this knowledge to the Mesa City Council."

Changes are coming to Downtown Mesa as I've mentioned in a previous blog and this is the beginning!