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Messy yard laws selectively enforced at Mesa Fiesta Village?Messy yard laws selectively enforced at Mesa Fiesta Village?
Mesa's Fiesta Village code case on hold
Code issues frozen while city, owner talk
by Gary Nelson - Aug. 19, 2010 09:53 AM
The Arizona Republic
A code-compliance case against the vacant Fiesta Village Shopping Center is on hold while Mesa and the owner work on short- and long-term plans for the property.
But those talks are moving too slowly to satisfy Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh, who said Mesa is on the verge of a major effort to raise the profile of its economically vital Fiesta District.
"I continue to be very frustrated at the glacial pace this is taking," Kavanaugh told the Mesa Republic in an e-mail. "For such a high-profile corner to remain abandoned for such a substantial time . . . has had a negative effect on surrounding properties and on the city's economic-development efforts in the Fiesta District area."
Mesa has brought two code-compliance cases since 2007 against the site on the northwestern corner of Alma School Road and Southern Avenue. Once a premier shopping and entertainment venue, the center has been fenced off for three years and is seen by area residents as an embarrassing blot on the neighborhood.
Mesa opened the first case in February 2007 when neighborhood activists filed complaints about dead plants, deteriorated parking areas and debris.
Mesa initially demanded numerous repairs but closed the case in October when the owner, W.M. Grace Development Co., fenced off the site after tenants left.
The second case was opened on Feb. 16 of this year when Mesa sent Grace a "courtesy notice" regarding two battered monument signs, one on Alma School and the other on Southern.
"The signs are in disrepair and, having been unused for two years, meet the definition of discontinued signs and shall be removed," the notice said.
Two weeks later, the case was frozen. Christine Zielonka, Mesa's development and sustainability director, told staffers in a note, "We just need to let this one sit for a while due to other issues."
Those other issues, she said, are being hashed out in the city's talks with Grace.
"The city has met with representatives of the Grace family and is trying to come up with a larger and more long-term solution for that corner" while working in the short term to improve its appearance, Zielonka said.
She said the last meeting was about a month ago and the talks are to resume when vacation season ends.
"There are lots of different moving targets out there and if we have a strong commitment on both sides, hopefully we can accomplish some things," Zielonka said.
That won't come a moment too soon for Kavanaugh, who represents the neighborhood on the council and worries that Mesa's Fiesta District beautification efforts could be undermined by the blighted shopping center.
After several years of study, the first visible evidence of Mesa's revitalization efforts will appear this fall, Kavanaugh said. Illuminated street signs and some metal street signs employing the Fiesta District logo are to be installed.
On a much bigger scale, Mesa is negotiating with a consultant who will help design a new streetscape for Southern Avenue. Mesa officials said this year those plans might involve narrowing Southern to two lanes between Dobson and Alma School roads.
Finally, Kavanaugh said, the city will soon decide where to build a police substation for the Dobson area along or near Southern Avenue.
"We need commitment and cooperation from Grace to redevelop their site into a productive property consistent with the Fiesta District design guidelines or we need them to consider selling the property to a developer who has a commitment to make positive changes on this critical corner," Kavanaugh said.
The Grace company did not respond to a request for comment.
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