Newsflash – Mayor and Council to consider Danelle Plaza’s future this week
January 1, 2024
Danelle Plaza offers the community and the City an opportunity to develop a parcel of land with a unique history and a deep connection to our local landscape. As the development process moves forward, will the City Council and staff operate democratically with transparency or will we once again see the decision-making patterns we’ve witnessed in recent years with developers holding sway over neighborhoods? Tempe residents are entitled to more than just a token “voice” in this process. We have the right to expect that our needs will be met.
We are already seeing a concerted effort by developers, real estate attorneys, and lobbyists to transform neighborhood intersections, such as Southern & Mill, into high-density hubs. During the recent 2050 General Plan review process, we saw how this process works. Despite a great deal of community opposition and protest by area residents, City staff decided to nearly double development densities at Danelle Plaza and other major intersections.
Interestingly, in the case of Danelle Plaza, the rhetoric from developers’ lobbyists is that the community doesn’t want to see any change, but that’s far from the truth. The community voiced its opinion clearly and repeatedly on the need for engaging, accessible, and thoughtfully-paced growth that reflects the character and preserves the livability of our neighborhoods.
In contrast to the heavy-handed, imbalanced growth trending in the downtown area, residents living adjacent to Danelle Plaza have laid out clearly and concisely their interest in maintaining a neighborhood-scale redevelopment solution. Meanwhile, developers are lobbying aggressively for high-density projects to max out their returns while simultaneously financing the political campaigns of incumbents who support their aggressive overreach.
Downtown Mill Ave was once a thriving community of locally owned businesses and restaurants with a few major chains, happily co-existing and creating a unique shopping experience for residents. However, developer overreach enabled by the City Council resulted in projects that ultimately destroyed the local flavor. Out-of-scale projects, partially funded by our tax dollars, often slid into bankruptcy. Yet the mostly out-of-state developers persisted, reappearing in some other guise years later and repeating the scenario. Locally owned retail businesses disappeared under landlord preference and political support for national franchises.
Rarely do we see parents pushing strollers, families shopping, elders walking, or the thriving retail businesses that once filled the streets. Mill Ave is no longer a destination for most of us who live in Tempe.
Our once-thriving downtown—inclusive, family-centered and unique to the Valley—has reverted to its early 1970’s appearance of bars and many empty storefronts that don’t cater to our residential community but to ASU students who party on major sports days. Rarely do we see parents pushing strollers, families shopping, elders walking, or the thriving retail businesses that once filled the streets. Mill Ave is no longer a destination for most of us who live in Tempe.
Successive City Councils have had multiple opportunities to sustain a vibrant and engaging downtown. They have failed miserably. The current state of Mill Ave negatively impacts the local economy and our identity as a livable city. Development lobbyists now claim that increasing “density” can save Tempe, as if shoving more people into a space magically translates into vibrancy and economic salvation. Experience tells us, however, that high-rise hotels and towers of condos have done little to invigorate our ghostly downtown.
Community values and common sense should drive our decisions, not the greed and shortsightedness that is undermining the integrity, livability and sustainability of our city.
We need to incentivize true affordable housing. Most families can’t afford the cost of high-rise condos but developers make money while the increased density clogs our streets, degrades our neighborhoods, and sucks up precious community resources. On the premise that more is better, the 2050 General Plan proposes sweeping density increases to our already land-locked city, but residents who live here want to maintain a quality of life that isn’t defined by unchecked development or aggressive density increases. Community values and common sense should drive our decisions, not the greed and shortsightedness that is undermining the integrity, livability and sustainability of our city.
We cannot afford to stand by and let these oft-repeated development tactics that destroyed downtown Tempe consume Danelle Plaza and then continue to move further south. The current 2040 General Plan limits density at Danelle Plaza to 25 dwelling units per acre. The 2050 Plan that the City is proposing would increase that density to 45 units per acre. That increase is unacceptable.
Please voice your support in favor of community-driven solutions and neighborhood-scale development that supports local arts, music and small-business enterprises. Tell the Council that you’ve had enough of the heavy-handed development that has negatively impacted our neighborhoods for decades.