Michelle Mitchell, The Republic | azcentral.com8:03 a.m. MST April 9, 2014
(Photo: Charlie Leight/The Republic)
- Chandler plans new street in old neighborhood
- Historic South Chandler Neighborhood among city's oldest
- Chandler now owns about 30 lots in the neighborhood
Chandler's vision for its future is directly impacting one of its oldest neighborhoods.To prepare for development along Arizona Avenue, Chandler plans to extend Washington Street through the Historic South Chandler Neighborhood, also known as Southside Neighborhood."We're trying to set it up so the area can be opened up and be allowed to redevelop as the market dictates," Economic Development Director Christine Mackay said."For quite a number of years to come, I think you'll see an eclectic use of new and old and reuse."The city is holding 18 lots in the neighborhood for this project and neighbors are waiting for the next move."I think they jumped the gun, really," said Connie Jimenez, a resident of the neighborhood for about 47 years. "Now, it's just deserted and there's nothing here."Nine of the 10 lots to the east of her are owned by the city.Jimenez sold her house on Morelos Street to the city and moved next door to rent her son's home until she and her husband can find a new place. Chandler paid for her move and offered a down payment on a new home, Jimenez said.She believes that the new street and park will be good for the neighborhood, but said she felt pressured to sell.Chandler has invested about $2.3 million to purchase land, demolish houses and relocate residents in order to extend Washington Street and build a park. It has about two-thirds of the 28 properties it needs.The city began buying property in the area in the early 1990s. If all of the lots for the park and street are purchased, Chandler will own nearly one-fifth of the non-commercial lots in the neighborhood.The city has no plans to purchase more lots that are not part of the Washington Street extension and park, Mackay said.Chandler officials have promised that the city would buy land only when it is on the market, as opposed to seizing property through eminent domain.That would save the city money and not force people from their homes. That is part of the reason why the city does not expect to move forward with this project for many years.Having specific plans for the street and park could encourage developers, Mackay said, so the city is tentatively budgeting for design work to be completed next year.For example, the CMC Steel site near the southeastern corner of Washington Street and Frye Road is for sale. Having a plan in place could make the area more attractive, Mackay said. The city has designated that site for apartments or condos.
The City of Chandler plans to redevelopment of one of its oldest neighborhoods, the Historic South Chandler Neighborhood.
Though there is a park on Morelos Street, the proposed larger park is necessary for the anticipated population increase, Mackay said.The roadway would provide traffic relief, allow a corridor for upgraded utility lines for the neighborhood and provide a buffer between the anticipated commercial development along Arizona Avenue and the homes, said R.J. Zeder, Chandler's transportation and development director.The city's plan calls for single-family residential east of Washington Street and a mix of high-density residential and commercial to the west."We're trying to balance the hope to see redevelopment in the area versus the impacts," he said. "We're not trying to drive people out. We actually think this could be good for the neighborhood."Chandler's plans would change the community but are necessary for the city's growth, said Pastor José González of the Light and Life Free Methodist Church at Arizona Avenue and Fairview Street."I think we'll need to retain some of the characteristics of the neighborhood because this is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city," such as his 85-year-old church, the pastor said in Spanish.The neighborhood is as old as Chandler, the area where Black and Hispanic residents settled, just outside the 1912 town limits, said Jean Reynolds, Chandler's public-history coordinator.Its more-affluent contemporary on what was the other side of town, the Silk Stocking neighborhood, recently was designated a historic neighborhood.Many Chandler residents drive by without knowing it is there, but Reynolds said it is an area that is critical to Chandler's history. Many stories of the area were preserved in a book released in 2012 for the city's centennial.The neighborhood built up without formal building codes or neighborhood design and many older homes no longer meet code.In the 1980s and 1990s, there were efforts to renovate and upgrade some of the housing stock as the neighborhood fell into disrepair.Many of the homes in the Southside Neighborhood now are rental properties and the neighborhood is a mix of empty lots, well-kept homes and blighted houses.Even before this plan for the street and park was approved in November 2009, Chandler had started buying property.Chandler purchased nine lots in 1993 and 1994 that are now operated as public housing and will be for at least another 20 years, said Kurt Knutson, Chandler's housing and redevelopment manager.Another seven were purchased in 2007 and 2008, according to county property records.Staff asked the City Council in 2008 to approve the purchase of two properties — one vacant and one with a 1,000-square-foot home on it — because they were "available for sale and because of its proximity to future developments in the downtown area," according to council records.There is no specific plan for the city-owned properties that are outside of the Washington Street area, Zeder said."It's not our desire to acquire property just to hold it," Zeder said.Longtime resident LaVon Woods said she expects a developer to buy the land in the neighborhood."It appears to me that they're kind of trying to phase out this little neighborhood," said Woods, 69, who has lived in the area since she was 4.Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny said that the anticipated new development and the current homes should coexist.If downtown moves farther south, it could complement the housing and improve property values, said Jennifer Lindley, executive director of the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership. The organization plans to work with businesses along Arizona Avenue to determine if there is any interest in creating a special-assessment district for businesses as far south as Loop 202.Residents in the neighborhood have varied opinions of the city's plans. Maria Ulate said she has no problem with the plans, but is concerned about the potential for increased traffic with the children in the neighborhood.Saul Calleros, who was born and raised on Morelos Street, doesn't like the idea of the city demolishing so many homes.Former Chandler Mayor Coy Payne sees the city's plans as a catalyst to reduce blight in the neighborhood where he grew up and still owns rental property."I see that area becoming an asset to the city of Chandler," rather than being a place that people ignore as they drive down Arizona Avenue, Payne said."I would just like to see it take its rightful place in the rest of the development of the East Valley," he said.Washington Street project• Property acquisition: $1.9 million.• Relocation costs (including contract for relocation services): $201,000.• Remediation (including asbestos): $146,000.• Demolitions (14 buildings): $70,000.• Environmental surveys, appraisals, survey costs: $45,000.• Annual maintenance: about $2,500.Historic South Chandler Neighborhood is bounded by Pecos Road, Arizona Avenue, Frye Road and Delaware Street. It has been known as Southside Neighborhood, South Chandler, Winn's Addition, N.J. Harris/Kesler and Southtown.Information on neighborhood history: http://www.chandleraz.gov.
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