Mesa explores condemning Fiesta Village
Sonu Munshi, Tribune
May 28, 2009 - 9:42AM
Fiesta Village, a fenced-off shopping center on the northwest corner of Southern Avenue and Alma School Road in Mesa, will be condemned if a city councilman has his way.
Mesa City Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh has asked the city attorney to explore the possible use of eminent domain on the fenced-off Fiesta Village site in west Mesa.
The councilman said the site could be used for a police substation and would be paid for by voter-approved bonds.
Kavanaugh, who represents the area, says residents and neighboring businesses consider the owners of this blighted site "public enemy No. 1."
The site, once a bustling home to a movie theater, niche clothing stores and a cigar shop, among others, has sat completely vacant since mid-2007 after K-Momo, a hip-hop clothing store, left the complex.
Since then it's been a crime magnet, attracting vandals, and it now sits fenced up as an eyesore at a prominent Mesa intersection on the northwest corner of Alma School Road and Southern Avenue.
Mesa routinely gets inquiries from potential buyers about the site that are forwarded to the site owner, W.M. Grace Development Co. of Phoenix, but there reportedly has been no response, Kavanaugh said.
The fate of the site is also the most frequently asked question for the councilman, who says enough's enough.
"Frankly, I'm getting tired of defending them," Kavanaugh said.
In a last-ditch attempt, after several futile attempts to initiate conversations since last year, Kavanaugh in February sent a letter to the company, urging them to discuss the site's future with the mayor and city officials.
"It is increasingly difficult for me to defend your company's inaction on the site against criticism that it is blight on the surrounding businesses and neighborhoods," Kavanaugh wrote. "I am asking your company to be a responsible corporate citizen and to initiate discussions with Mayor Smith and our economic development staff on the future of the site."
The continued lack of response prompted Kavanaugh to ask the city attorney last week to explore the possibility of using eminent domain on the site. He says part of the site could be used to establish a planned Dobson police substation.
In November, voters approved through a bond election the construction of a $15million station as one of the public safety projects that will trigger a secondary property tax to pay it off.
Kavanaugh says the use of eminent domain, unlike the much-maligned attempt by the city to condemn Bailey's Brake Shop in downtown Mesa, is different in this case, because the property would be used for a public purpose.
The police station would not need the entire 15 acres. Kavanaugh says he's still waiting for details from city officials on how the rest would be used or whether the city is even required to condemn the entire property.
Kavanaugh says the company has been stonewalling city leaders ever since it was miffed several years ago over an incentive package it hoped for from Mesa, which Mesa turned down.
"The city said, 'We don't do such incentive packages, but we could do a sales tax incentive package.' But the Grace family got angry with city staff and that's when they let the property go and look like a concentration camp," Kavanaugh said.
Officials with W.M. Grace Development Co. could not be reached for comment.