This article first appeared in the SanTan Sun News, Dec. 16, 2017, edition.
From a blockbuster Intel announcement to totally autonomous vehicles on Chandler streets, 2017 has been an exceptional year. Let's step back and celebrate what the past year has meant to us and our community by reviewing some of the highlights:
With the New Year came the re-election of Councilmember Nora Ellen and the addition of two new faces on City Council; Sam Huang and Mark Stewart. Councilmember Ellen began her tenure on the Council in January 2013 and is a real estate broker and investor. Councilmember Stewart is a business owner and 15-year resident of Chandler, while Councilmember Huang, a Taiwan native with a Ph.D. in Comparative Education, moved to Chandler in 2007 and is the first Asian-American to sit on the Chandler Council. One of the Council's first big decisions of the year was the naming of a new Vice Mayor, Councilmember Kevin Hartke, who has served on City Council since January 2011.
Mayor Jay Tibshraeny presented his annual State of the City Address, highlighting important milestones from the past year organized around the theme of Our People, Our Place, Our Portfolio and Our Progress. His comments were accompanied by an entertaining video showing the Mayor riding in a driverless car while touting Chandler as the home to many companies developing automotive technology, including Waymo, Intel, NXP Semiconductors, Microchip, Garmin, Local Motors and the General Motors Innovation Center.
The Mayor also unveiled a new branding initiative, Uptown Chandler, to promote business and lifestyle opportunities on the City's north side. In addition, he encouraged the public to learn more about the many successes and important achievements from the past year by viewing Chandler's first-ever online Annual Report found at chandleraz.gov.
Celebration Plaza at Tumbleweed Park saw the induction of former Chandler Mayor Kenny Thomas, the Chandler Chamber of Commerce and Police Officer James Snedigar who was killed in the line of duty in 1999. The annual ceremony recognizes organizations or individuals for their civic leadership, public outreach and outstanding personal service and commitment to the community.
Hundreds of residents and shoppers attended Chandler's 22nd annual Multicultural Festival held at the Chandler Fashion Center and hosted by the City's Diversity Office. The event featured a day of dance, music, art, crafts and ethnic foods, plus a variety of cultural performances on two stages.
A new history kiosk in honor of Japanese Americans held in an internment camp located on the Gila River Indian Community near Chandler was dedicated in Nozomi Park in west Chandler. January also saw the Chandler Police Cadet Program host their annual law enforcement tactical competition, welcoming 55 Police Explorer posts from around the United States.
Intel announced plans to invest $7 billion to complete the FAB 42 semiconductor factory that stood dormant since its construction in 2010, but now will manufacture 7-nanometer microprocessors and add 3,000 new high-tech, high-wage jobs. An estimated 10,000 additional long-term jobs are expected from suppliers and other businesses that will support the factory's operations.
The Council inked an agreement with LGE Design Build to redevelop City-owned property on the southwest corner of Chandler Boulevard and Arizona Avenue into a 77,000 square-foot project that will include a Flix Brewhouse cinema, plus space for restaurants, retail, offices and 350-stall parking structure. At the following month's groundbreaking of the Overstreet development, Mayor Jay Tibshraeny said the $25 million multi-use project will take downtown Chandler "to a new level of energy."
Turbo Resources, a major distributor of aircraft parts supporting airlines around the world, saw their rezoning request and building design approved by Council in February. The rezoning of an 18-acre parcel near the northeast corner of Arizona Avenue and Palomino Drive from Commercial to Light Industrial will facilitate the development of an office building and large warehouse. A second phase will add an additional warehouse.
The former ICAN building (Improving Chandler Area Neighborhoods) located near City Hall at 201 S. Washington St. will become a microbrewery/craft beer restaurant following February's approval by Council of a development agreement with 201 South, LLC. The site plan includes performing space for art exhibits, live music and talent showcases.
Mayor Tibshraeny moderated Budget Connect, a public forum focused on the City's 2017-18 fiscal year budget and Capital Improvement Program. The online forum was broadcast live and streamed in real time on the City website while staff monitored City email and social media accounts for questions and comments from the public.
Conceptual designs for a new Chandler Museum were unveiled to the public in March (artist rendering at right). It will be located next to the historic McCullough-Price House near the Chandler Fashion Center and open to visitors by the end of 2018. Architects from Weddle Gilmore are designing the building, which will contain at least 4,000 square feet of gallery, programming and education space, collection storage and a research and archives library for the city's photographs and document collection.
Marsha Reed's one year anniversary as Chandler City Manager occurred April 14. Reed had been serving as Acting City Manager since June 2015 and Assistant City Manager since joining Chandler in April 2013.
A new electronic plan review program was implemented in March that for the first time enables the City to receive, review and return building and engineering design plans electronically. This new service greatly reduces the consumption of paper and saves customers time and costs associated with printing and manually delivering paper plans.
A Social Media Hub was added to the City's website, chandleraz.gov, and features posts, photos and videos from more than 40 of the most popular City accounts. The City can cross promote and share content from local news outlets, businesses and residents in the social hub and the public can view and use social media posts even if they don't use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.
Chandler was voted the City with the most spirit and won a free outdoor concert featuring singer James Arthur of "X Factor" fame after receiving 4.5 million votes in a Battle of the Burbs competition sponsored by radio station Mix 96.9. Members of the Living Chandler and Ocotillo Friends Facebook groups joined with other residents, schools, businesses and organizations to vote Chandler into the top spot.
Over an 11-week period ending in mid-April, 1,689 individuals and families claimed $2 million in refunds thanks to assistance from 60 volunteers participating in Chandler's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. More than $110,000 in Child Tax Credits were refunded and nearly $90,000 in Education Tax Credits.
Employees of Chandler's Fire, Health & Medical Department led community volunteers in a neighborhood walk to promote water safety and drowning prevention. This was the eighth year of the walk, which targets a different section of the City each year and distributes thousands of fliers containing information about pool safety and water awareness.
A new Community Sensory Garden opened to the public at Chandler's Veterans Oasis Park where visitors are invited to make take-home planters, participate in garden crafts and more. The ribbon cutting ceremony took place April 22 during Chandler's 9th Annual Earth and Arbor Day Celebration at the Environmental Education Center.
A new Assistant City Manager, Joshua H. Wright, reported for duty May 1. "I couldn't be more excited to join the City of Chandler team and become part of this incredible community," said Wright, who came to Chandler after serving five years as Wickenburg's Town Manager.
The winning artwork of 19 students was unveiled May 2 before a crowd of parents and teachers attending the City's 14th annual Environmental Art Contest developed to promote water conservation, stormwater pollution prevention and recycling. Students from 32 public, private and charter schools in Chandler submitted nearly 700 entries.
Two major construction projects involving Chandler's wastewater and reclaimed water systems were recognized as Projects of the Year by the Arizona Water Association. The $4.6 million expansion of a well field near Queen Creek and Old Price roads that stores reclaimed water (effluent) in the ground and retrieves it from the same location during times of high demand was the 2017 Water Reuse Project of the Year. The $1.7 million rehabilitation of an underground sewer lift station in north Chandler was AZ Water's 2017 Wastewater System Project of the Year.
The City Council amended the Sign Code to allow signs previously not allowed, including A-frame and T-frame signs for businesses, and permitted the placement of some sign types in public right of way. In addition, the maximum number of temporary signs allowed for events occurring on private property, such as garage sales and open houses, was increased from four signs to10 signs.
National non-profit KaBOOM! honored Chandler with a Playful City USA designation for the 11th consecutive time. Playful City USA recognizes cities and towns across the country for their efforts to ensure kids have great places to play - with the ultimate goal of making play the easy choice for all kids, no matter where they live.
The City Council passed a resolution opposing the extension of Salt River Project (SRP) 230Kv overhead transmission lines in the Price Road Corridor along Ellis or Price roads. The City requested that no line siting process be concluded until the City and SRP can reach a reasonable resolution that allows for undergrounding of transmission lines. (See June highlights for outcome)
June began with news that SRP and the City had reached an agreement regarding the location of new overhead power lines to serve south Chandler. The lines will be located along Price Road south of the Loop 202 Santan Freeway and away from neighborhoods. A section will be buried to preserve the aesthetics of the area. "We were very diligent in protecting our residential neighborhoods from the impacts of these types of projects," Mayor Tibshraeny said.
Aviation parts supplier Turbo Resources broke ground June 2 on a new 250,000 square-foot global headquarters and warehouse on 18 acres at the northeast corner of Arizona Avenue and Palomino Drive. The company supplies aircraft parts across the globe, ranging from screws to engines.
The City Council adopted the FY 2017-18 Annual Budget in the amount of $934,545,997 and approved a 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Program in the amount of $1,004,064,228. The budget did not require any tax rate increases, continues to maintain existing infrastructure and added several new projects to meet citizen amenity and infrastructure needs.
Various City emergency vehicles participated in a unique road test organized by Waymo, an autonomous car development company. Waymo tested the ability of their autonomous vehicles to recognize and correctly respond to the flashing lights and sirens of approaching emergency vehicles. The autonomous cars passed the test!
The City's Communications & Public Affairs Department introduced a new social media marketing campaign, #LoveChandler, to inspire residents, visitors and others to tell the world why they love Chandler. People are encouraged to take photos or create videos or graphics about why they love Chandler, upload them on their personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts and include the hashtag in their posts.
Chandler's July 4th Fireworks Spectacular lit up the night sky this Independence Day and featured live music, a kid's interactive amusement area, food, beverages and an enhanced fireworks show. Chandler's Parks and Recreation also celebrated National Park and Recreation Month with a series of free activities centered around the theme, Get Your Play On.
Long-time City Clerk Marla Paddock passed the torch to her replacement in July, Dana DeLong, who previously worked as the City Clerk in Prescott. Paddock retired from the City after 31 years, the past 15 as City Clerk. DeLong has over 20 years of municipal clerk office experience and holds a certified municipal clerk designation and is a certified election official.
Mayor, Council and members of the community gathered for the groundbreaking of a $10 million Public Safety Training Center to be constructed on south Dobson Road adjacent to the City's Fire Training Facility. The new 29,000 square-foot facility will be shared with Fire personnel and consolidate police department training that currently is divided among different locations.
The City's largest school supply donation drive, Operation Back to School Chandler, took place at Chandler High School where nearly 4,000 backpacks filled with school supplies were distributed to children in need.
Walgreens announced it is moving close to 500 jobs-including 191 new positions-to Chandler's Price Road Corridor. A new 60,000-square-foot facility will house pharmacists, call center agents and pharmacy technicians.
Chandler's Traffic Management Center (TMC) celebrated its 15th year in operation in July, helping traffic engineers do a better job of moving motorists throughout the City. Six intersections were linked to the TMC when it began operation; today the center receives video feeds from more than 800 cameras located at 200-plus intersections.
Chandler Aquatics threw a fabulous pool party attended by 362 community members on Saturday, Aug. 5, at Arrowhead Pool. Called Verano Sano (Safe Summer), the free family friendly event included swimming lesson demonstrations, a water related emergency rescue, hands on CPR demonstrations, plus a bunch of giveaways, all while educating the public on how to stay safe around water. (pictured at right)
A specialized graffiti removal vehicle began appearing on City streets equipped with all the necessary supplies and equipment to eliminate graffiti from Chandler neighborhoods. The vehicle is easily identifiable and includes a new lovable mascot named Eli.
Mayor Tibshraeny used his Listening Tour to announce a series of nine free classes for residents as part of a Neighborhood College Program. The program kicked off August 24 and participants learned about association leadership, code enforcement, conflict resolution, pets, state statutes (as applied to HOAs) and much more. Information is available at chandleraz.gov/neighborhoods.
Chandler's Leaders In Training program administered by the City's Recreation Division won the Outstanding Education Program Award from the Arizona Parks & Recreation Association. The award recognized the program's success in providing teens with real-world work experience and leadership training.
Residents joined Mayor Tibshraeny at Galveston Elementary School for his Listening Tour and discussed neighborhood code and pet issues, public safety and crime, trash and recycling and what they loved about Chandler.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) presented Chandler's Community Services Department with one of the most prestigious awards in the public relations field, the Copper Anvil Award, for their development and promotion of panel discussions, exhibits, movies, lectures and performances that explored the stories and perspectives that emerged in our community during conflicts in American history, including World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The City broke ground on a new Fire Station (#11) located at 4200 S. Gilbert Road (near Gilbert and Ocotillo roads). The 11,000-sqare-foot facility will address growing call volume and reduce response times in this part of south Chandler.
The Chandler Fashion Center area also saw construction commence on a 250,000-square-foot office building at the Chandler Viridian development. The office building will join a new hotel, luxury apartments and retail center and house the southwest regional offices and 250 employees of the Stantec engineering services company.
Ground was broken on a new Chandler Museum. The 10,000 square-foot building is being built on property just north of the current museum in the McCullough-Price House near the Chandler Fashion Center. It will have nearly 13,000 square feet of outdoor spaces, including a 10,000 square foot courtyard tying the old and new buildings together and providing a shaded gathering place for visitors and outdoor programming.
Twenty-five resourceful, inventive and style-savvy fashion designers participated in Chandler's 3rd Annual Trashion Fashion Show at Chandler Fashion Center on Oct. 14. Participants used their design skills to create and exhibit a garment created from discarded materials.
Families celebrated fitness, health and wellness at Tumbleweed Park during the Mayor's Day of Play. Free activities kept the kids active while parents explored the many booths on health, wellness and fitness.
Autonomous vehicle testing hit a big milestone in Chandler when Waymo operated their cars on City streets without a safety driver behind the wheel. The first fully self-driving cars were restricted to the Chandler area and had a Waymo employee in the back seat. Chandler has the distinction of being the first global testing ground for the truly driverless car.
An army of volunteers helped with various cleanup projects during For Our City Day Chandler. Activities included painting home exteriors, landscaping, alley cleanup, painting house numbers on street curbs, serving food and more.
Reconstruction of the Alma School Road/Chandler Boulevard intersection was completed in November. An analysis of accident numbers at previously improved intersections shows an average reduction in accidents of 43 percent and savings of approximately $8.3 million annually in costs related to auto repair, lost wages and medical expenses.
More than 200 volunteers joined forces to build a new playground at Gazelle Meadows Park (pictured at right). With grant funds from KaBOOM! and Foresters Financial, the new play equipment rose from the park site in a single day. The playground's design was based on drawings created by children who participated in a Design Day event earlier in the year.
The second annual Mayor's Safety and Veterans Expo (S.A.V.E.) was held at Veterans Oasis Park where attendees learned about personal and property safety, fire and crime prevention and how to sign up for City services and programs. Veterans received claims assistance and information from veterans' service organizations and an Operation Welcome Home Chandler event occurred in appreciation of military men and women returning from active duty or leaving for service.
The City's program of improving the capacity of older arterial streets took another step forward in November as work began on the widening of a three-quarter-mile stretch of Ocotillo Road between Cooper Road and Norman Way. The work is to be completed in March 2018.
The installation of decorative metal cacti in the median of Arizona Avenue south of Chandler Heights Road was one of two Chandler projects recognized by the Arizona Landscape Contractors Association at their 41st Annual Arizona Excellence in Landscaping Awards ceremony. The other project to receive recognition was a decorative wall and landscaping project along the north side of Knox Road west of Nebraska Street.
Adorable dogs, live music and family friendly fun were in abundance at Chandler's 10th Annual Woofstock event held at Tumbleweed Park. The free event included an assortment of pet-related vendors and activities, with donations collected to help Florida's four legged friends displaced or lost during Hurricane Irma.
The Chandler Police Department achieved reaccreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Chandler PD has been accredited by CALEA since 1996 and was the first agency in the state to be awarded the Gold Standard Assessment with Excellence in 2014 and once again achieved reaccreditation with the Gold Standard Assessment in 2017.
The 61st anniversary of the Tumbleweed Tree Lighting ceremony kicked off the holiday season, followed by the annual Parade of Lights through downtown Chandler, complete with holiday music, entertainment, food, beverages, arts and craft booths and pictures with Santa.
Star Wars music by the Chandler Symphony Orchestra (CSO) filled the air during CSO's Fanfest 2017, held outside the Downtown Library and featuring space-themed crafts and games, hands-on STEAM activities and story times for young adventurers.
Chandler was among the top cities on many "Best Of" lists this past year.
WalletHub ranked Chandler in numerous lists, including:
#4 Best City to Raise a Family
#4 Best Places to Rent in America
#7 Best City in America To Find A Job
#8 Best City for People with Disabilities
#11 Least Stressed City in America
#11 Safest City in America
#11 Best City to Flip Homes
#11 Best Cities in Which to Drive
#14 Best Places for Valentine's Day
GoodCall.com: #5 Safest City to Raise a Family
Niche.com: #1 Best Places to Live in Phoenix Area, #1 Best Suburb to Live in Arizona
Economic Innovation Group: #4 Most Prosperous City in U.S.
Street Scout: #8 Most Affordable Homes, #9 Best K-12 Schools
#1 Best City to Buy a Family Home
#3 Best City for Golfers to Live In
#5 Most Popular Place to Retire
#6 Most Livable City in U.S.
#9 Best City to be a Homeowner
Realtor.com: #10 most affordable housing market with top elementary schools
Expedia.com: #41 Top Vacation Destinations in North America
Arizona Department of Health Services: Healthy Arizona Worksite Gold Award
Center for Digital Government: 6th Place, Digital Cities Competition
KaBoom!: Playful City USA designation for 11th consecutive year