In publication since 1991, Wrangler News is distributed free every other Saturday to more than 18,000 homes in the Kyrene Corridor area of South Tempe and West Chandler, and is supported by local and regional advertisers.

  Search past and present issues of the Wrangler
    Site search Web search                       
   powered by
Contact Us Links Media Kit Make a Payment Previous Issues

Back Home Forward

Area's diverse appeal yielding city-wide benefits

By: Pam Goronkin

August 18, 2007

Longtime south Tempe resident Pam Goronkin is president and executive director of Downtown Tempe Community Inc. and a former Tempe City Council member. In the following commentary, she discusses the state of Tempe’s downtown and the benefits that can come from its continuing growth.

As Tempe’s downtown has exploded as both a tourist destination and a major revenue generator for the entire city, critics have worried that the Mill Avenue District is, or ultimately will be, full of "cookie-cutter” buildings and "big-box” stores.

In fact, Mill Avenue and the development going on near Tempe Town Lake boast a breadth of dining, shopping and entertainment possibilities, as well as a diversity of architecture that ranges from historic to modern. Among the examples are such award-winning buildings as Hayden Ferry Lakeside and Studios 5C, as well as others.

I predict other potential award winners among those now under development — maybe Tempe Transit Center, which, in addition to its unique design, is a pace-setting “green” development, or the spectacular Tempe Center for the Arts. This type of recognition not only rewards innovation but reinforces our sense of community pride.

As for now, Mill Avenue District and Tempe Town Lake are enjoying unprecedented growth. People want to office here, visit here and live here.

So why should this matter to Tempe residents? On any given day or evening, there are 3,000 to 5,000 people on the streets of Mill Avenue District, spending money in shops, restaurants and service and technology businesses, more than 75 percent of which are locally owned.

Office space is scarce because downtown Tempe is where creative-class businesses want to locate; their people like it here — and they spend money here. Some of them, very soon, will even live here. They like to hike to the top of Hayden Butte, attend cultural events at Gammage Auditorium and enjoy ASU collegiate sports. They also appreciate the “realness” of our urban lifestyle, where there is always something interesting to do — all without having to get in a car.

Tourists also love the Mill Avenue District and Tempe Town Lake. In fact, Tempe's hotels in the Mill Avenue District have the highest occupancy rates in the region. People like to come to Tempe and Mill Avenue District because it is fun, unique, funky, diverse, interesting and walkable.

Several additional hotel projects, including the exclusive Le Meridien on Tempe Town Lake, are in development because of this demand.

Large numbers of people spending their money in downtown contributes to a sustainable economy and amenities for residents in Tempe.

How? Fifty percent of the city's general fund budget — money that pays for police and fire protection, street maintenance, parks, community centers and other resident services — comes from sales tax revenue.

This is one of the reasons that other regional cities envy Tempe its downtown. Lots of sales tax is generated by the businesses in Mill Avenue District, reducing the tax burden for residents throughout Tempe and continuing to make possible the quality of life Tempe residents have come to expect.

New residents moving into the condominiums in Mill Avenue District and along Tempe Town Lake will also spend their money here. Ka-ching! More money for the city to spend in our neighborhoods, yours and mine. 

If this emerging urban lifestyle doesn’t quite fit your needs or interests, that’s OK, too. Tempe remains a community with wide appeal and diversity, and the economic impact of its downtown growth will simply help to reinforce the quality of life we all expect and enjoy.

Finally, let me assure you that we have no intention of destroying the cozy human-scale historic core of Mill Avenue District. It is one of the distinctive and authentic parts of our city that draws people here, whether they work here, spend their vacation or conference time here, or live here.   

Contemporary development and historic features of a community can live in harmony, and the city and Downtown Tempe Community work in harmony to develop design standards for Mill Avenue District and Tempe Town lake that respect this goal. 

It doesn't have to be either/or; we can have both. And the residents of Tempe will benefit through enhanced sales tax revenue and community pride in our award-winning new growth juxtaposed against our historic charm and authenticity.



Photo by David Stone


web site hit counter