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Historic Chandler becoming a modern-day boom town

By: Megan Thomas  

July 18, 2008   

Nine new businesses have moved into Historic Downtown Chandler in the past 10 months despite rough economic conditions, a positive sign that is being credited in part to the city of Chandler’s efforts to rejuvenate the area.

The city’s beautification program and its Downtown Improvement Fund have attracted new entrepreneurial ventures, including Asian restaurants, art galleries, a tea shop and a clothing boutique.

Historic Downtown Chandler extends from Chandler Boulevard on the north to Frye Road on the south, Delaware Street to the east and California Street to the west.

All businesses in the area are independently owned, due to city restrictions that prohibit large chains or retailers in order to preserve the district’s historic atmosphere.

The city sponsors events like art walks and festivals to attract people and publicity, collaborating with the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership to help ensure the success of the historic area.

The city has also spent the past five to seven years improving the quality and historical accuracy of buildings in the downtown area through grant funds, according to Teri Killgore, Chandler Downtown’s redevelopment manager.

The restorations have helped keep properties aesthetically pleasing and functional for businesses moving into the area, according to Killgore, who called the area an historic hub of the community that brings a diversity of people into Chandler.

“You have this great mix of shops that mean a lot to a lot of different people,” said Killgore.

“[New businesses] help create an interesting place to come to that’s not manufactured…Historic Downtown Chandler brings a heart to the community.”

Another way Chandler has been able to attract new businesses is through offering business owners matching grant funds up to $50,000 through the Downtown Improvement Fund. The fund has helped owners make large-scale renovations on historic properties.

The fund is designed to help create jobs, encourage private investment, attract independently owned businesses and make Historic Downtown Chandler more of a destination for residents and visitors.

Several business owners said the fund helped them to get their businesses started, and now Historic Downtown Chandler has 50 businesses and only one vacant retail space.

Jerry Bustamante, president/CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, said the downtown rejuvenation effort has been successful despite the economic downturn because of public and private investment.

Bustamante said he believes the new businesses will contribute to Chandler’s economic base, generating revenue for the city and encouraging more residents to spend money locally.

“Chandler is open for business,” said Bustamante.

“The downtown Chandler you’ll see next year will be different from the Chandler you know now. The downtown area is in the process of development and evolution, and there are more exciting things to come.”

Tony Domenico, owner of Russian Oasis, said he chose to open in Chandler because of its grants, diverse community, and the unity of the businesses in the area.

“We like the downtown area,” said Domenico. “We think there’s a lot of potential from this area. We like the unique businesses here, and we think we’re a good fit in the area...It’s kind of a little community here and we all know each other…I think downtown Chandler is going to be an increasingly happening place.”

Vivi’s Boutique manager Vivianna Kedzior said she also believes Historic Downtown Chandler is going to be a destination in the future.

“It’s going to be like, ‘wow!’ in a year or two.”



Photo by David Stone


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