Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Oro Valley Main Streets Project: Get Involved ~ Walk the Block and Take the Survey

The Town of Oro Valley is hosting a “WALK THE BLOCK” event on Saturday, February 7 from 4 to 7 pm at the intersection of Lambert Lane and La Canada Drive. The event provides Oro Valley residents the opportunity to understand the Main Streets concept, ask questions and share their thoughts about the project.

What is Oro Valley Main Streets?
The Main Streets project is not a typical “downtown Main Street.” It is focused on creating and connecting existing town center areas to enhance Oro Valley's lifestyle and economy. Two Main Street areas are proposed: One at Lambert Lane/La Canada and one at Oracle Road/First Avenue.

(Additional details on the origin of the project).

Planning and Zoning Commission Discussion
The Oro Valley Draft Concepts Plan was presented at the November 15, 2016, Planning and Zoning Commission Study Session. Commissioners and Oro Valley residents asked questions and made various suggestions including:
  • Using Oro Valley Marketplace as the “community gathering area.” 
  • Public/Private partnerships.
  • Bonds.
  • Roadblocks from AZDOT on Oracle Road
  • Oro Valley's lack of a “tourist draw.

Additionally, Nancy McClure, 1st Vice President of CBRE with 30 years of experience in commercial real estate, shared her insights on retail in the Tucson metro area.

  •  “Retail follows rooftops.” OV needs greater density and should allow more apartments.
  • Oro Valley currently has more retail than they can support.
  • “Build it and they will come” is not happening now. 
  • Oro Valley needs to streamline the process for commercial development.
  • Shopping center owners have leases with major tenants that include “no build zones.” In other words, there is no chance of keeping big box stores (Home Depot, Target) if their visibility is blocked.
  • Leave the multi-use paths as they are. Retail will not work there. 
 (You can listen to that meeting here)

Main Streets Concept Plan 60% Draft, November 2016
The Draft Concept Plan states that the Town will need to seek out private partners for Main Streets to be successful. As of November 15th, none have stepped forward.
In public/private partnerships, the Town, businesses and developers share their skills and assets. They work together to deliver something of use for the general public. Through joint effort success becomes more attainable. 
For instance, the Town of Oro Valley could incentivize development improvements and public amenities by creating opportunities in the zoning code. The Town could allow more intense development on a site than previously permitted, increasing its value. A private developer could then build new buildings, while also putting in place desirable improvements. The Town could also provide revenue subsidies.” 
Other financing methods could include regional bonds and Town capital improvement programs.

It’s Time for YOU to get Involved
Oro Valley Planning Staff needs residents to share their views in order for them to refine the concept plan and “get the formula right.” Input obtained from the roughly 100 adults residents at the Main Streets seminars last year may not reflect the overall desires of the community. Invite your friends to take the walk with you on Saturday to learn more and share your ideas.

Why is this so important? Because several of the financing options under consideration could impact your taxes. 

Make YOUR preferences known
Do you want wider sidewalks lined with trees and benches along Lambert Lane so you can walk to the Main Street shops?

Do you want street parking on La Canada Drive near the Lambert Lane intersection? How would this impact the bike lane? Or traffic flow during peak travel times?

Do you want a shuttle from First and Oracle to Lambert and La Canada? If you drive to one of those shopping areas, would you want to take a shuttle to the second location instead of driving to it?

Do you want more apartments?

Do you want a splash pad or playground equipment located in these Main Street areas or would you prefer that they be incorporated within the park system?

Are “Main Street areas” important to you? If yes, how much should the Town (i.e. you the taxpayer) spend to create and provide for ongoing maintenance of these gathering, dining and shopping areas? 
Apart from the Public/Private Partnerships, how should the Town fund the Main Streets project? Property tax? Increased sales tax? Bonds?

Do you want an overpass or underpass so you can cross La Canada safely? For comparison, the Oracle Road Wildlife Crossing cost $11 million and was paid for with the 2005 voter-approved RTA sales tax. [Source: Arizona Daily Star] Although it wouldn’t cost that much due to the smaller scale, it would still be a sizeable expense and may result in increased taxes in Oro Valley. 

Let YOUR VOICE be heard!
You can help shape this project. Put on your walking shoes and Walk the Block. E-mail the Mayor and Councilmembers or share your thoughts with them at a Town Council meeting. Take the online survey here.
The author of this article prefers to remain anonymous.