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April 17, 2012

Four-Corner Initiative addresses Chandler’s economic viability

By Mayor Jay Tibshraeny

I have said many times since taking office last year that creating a favorable economic climate is a complicated process in any community. While Chandler has enjoyed many successes through the years, we also face many challenges in the lingering wake of a sluggish global economy

Vacant storefronts, shifting traffic patterns, new trends in retail, and aging infrastructure and neighborhoods are just a few of the issues we have faced the last few years. And all of them affect the economic viability of our long-term success.

Last year, I asked City staff to take a comprehensive look at some of our major retail corridors. Examining vacancy rates and uses along Dobson Road, Alma School Road and Arizona Avenue, staff members from several City departments sifted through the data and discussed options. We then went out to the community to form a blue ribbon panel that took an in-depth look at these areas and tasked them with finding innovative solutions for redevelopment or re-use.

The group sought creative alternatives to the areas of heavy retail that can no longer support so many businesses. Let’s face it, by national standards, Chandler is over-retailed, meaning our retail square footage per capita far exceeds the average of other cities of similar size.

One of the great examples we looked to during the process is at Warner and Alma School roads where a private school with grass covered soccer fields has replaced a large concrete parking lot and an empty call center and former Smitty’s store. These are the types of strategies we must continue to identify as we move forward. However, this is neither a quick solution nor an easy one. It is a long-term process and one we are committed to see through.

The panel was comprised of residents that included a member of the City’s Neighborhood Advisory Committee, as well as members of the development community that do significant work here in Chandler. The group I pulled together was firmly committed to creating a successful economic environment for these struggling areas. I am happy to say there was some great interest on the part of the community to be involved. Those who personally reached out to me were added to the panel.

And they did a very good job with the complicated task at hand. You can read the report on the City’s website at www.chandleraz.gov/ed. Then click on “Reports, Publications and Maps.” The report takes a hard look at those challenges and offers a number of thoughtful solutions.

With that said, I want to sincerely thank those who made the commitment of their time and insights to create this report. Thanks also to the staff of our Economic Development Department who worked with the committee throughout this process. This work is important to the continuing economic health of our city. There aren’t any quick or easy solutions, but the committee made excellent recommendations for Chandler to begin the work that needs to be done.