Between the ParkFlag system and the new municipal courthouse now under construction, downtown Flagstaff has experienced a number of changes over the last two years.
Now, local advocacy groups and governments are looking at how the area might change in the future.;
The City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, Downtown Business Alliance and Mountain Line are beginning work on a new plan focused on the next seven years of development downtown.
With a budget of $130,000, the project is the first of its kind, said Terry Madeksza, executive director of the Downtown Business Alliance. The project was first discussed last year as the city prepared to tear down a city office building to make way for a new courthouse and discussions were beginning about a new downtown connection center for Mountain Line buses, she said.
The city’s municipal courthouse project in particular may provide the opportunity to redevelop an entire downtown city block on that location.
On top of those projects, Madeksza said the county has also been looking at changes in the way it uses the property it owns in the downtown area, including potential public private partnerships.
So instead of the downtown community, and the greater Flagstaff community, having to react and respond to those developments as they happen, Madeksza said the goal of the project is to allow the public and local stakeholders to get involved earlier and get officials to look at how development may affect the downtown as a whole.
“What if we brought all parties together where we came up with a collective vision and we help shape downtown versus having this piecemeal approach?” Madeksza said.
Next month, Madeksza said they plan to start the hiring process for a consultant who can help draft the plan and organize public outreach.
Madeksza said they want to keep local residents at the forefront of the process because while the downtown area is frequented by tourists, locals are the backbone of those who visit and enjoy downtown.
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“We’re going to cast a really wide net to hear what everybody thinks this downtown should be,” Madeksza said, adding that the process will include public meetings. And she said what staff hears at those meetings will shape what the plan looks like when it subsequently goes back to City Council, the County Board of Supervisors and the Mountain Line board.
“The areas of interest right now that we are focusing on include the zoning impacts on land use and development opportunities within the downtown, the potential for redevelopment and what the desired built environment would look like,” city planning director Tiffany Antol told City Council last month.
Madeksza said the plan will also look at parking solutions, historic preservation and improving public transit in the downtown area, and will include specific policy changes to help address such issues.
On top of that, Madeksza said they also plan to commission a market analysis for the downtown area that may help determine what is lacking or missing and what opportunities they have to expand.
At the moment, the area of focus spans both sides of the railway tracks from Butler Avenue to the south to Dale Avenue to the north. Milton Road and Sitgreaves Street are the endpoints to the west while Elden Street marks the cutoff point to the east, although Madeksza said the focus area could expand or contract depending on public input.
That public process is expected to occur over the next 12 months and Madeksza said that is essentially all the time they have to get it done.
“We have to. There are things that are happening; the city is holding off on making plans because they’re waiting for this, they’re committed to this process,” Madeksza said. “Otherwise, projects are going to begin happening to us and not with us, and that’s the risk.”
When it comes to funding, about 61% of the money is coming from the city, with the county, Mountain Line and Downtown Business Alliance also contributing funds. The Business Alliance is providing the main source of staff members working to organize and coordinate the creation of the plan.
“I’m in awe that this is coming to fruition and I am looking forward to reading the results,” Councilmember Regina Salas said of the project in July when the council discussed the plan.