An entirely new district combining residential, industrial and commercial uses and the potential of a park under the city’s planned Lone Tree overpass are just two suggestions outlined in the city’s draft Southside Plan that are garnering attention.
The plan, which may shape the future of development and infrastructure projects in the Southside neighborhood for years, is in the midst of its 60-day public review period, said Sara Dechter, Comprehensive Planning Manager for the City of Flagstaff.
“If we’ve missed something or if we’ve mischaracterized something significant, the time for people to let us know is now,” Dechter said.
The plan touches on everything from issues of development and property rights in the neighborhood to the creation of new parks, completion of gutters and sidewalks, public safety and transportation throughout the Southside neighborhood.
But Dechter said so far, the public comments staff have received have mostly focused on the new proposed district within the neighborhood and on the creation of new public spaces.
Called the “live/work center,” Dechter said the suggestion of a new district is based on what staff heard from residents and business owners in the Southside neighborhood.
“What the Southside residents really told us is that there should be an opportunity to have a real live/work area where people can have a business where they’re selling their goods and manufacturing and able to have employees live on site,” Dechter said.
“You see this in other cities as creative districts or innovation districts or warehouse districts,” Dechter added at a meeting with the Planning and Zoning Commission.
To an extent, much of the Southside neighborhood has this kind of mix of residential, commercial and light industrial buildings, Dechter said. Mother Road Brewery’s Southside location is an example of this: one building that contains both a light industrial operation and an area where customers can buy and consume beer just next to residential buildings.
The area of the Southside proposed for the new live/work designation stretches from Milton along the railway tracks to the area north of Aspen Place. But the majority of the area it would make up is the section of neighborhood east of South O’Leary Street.
Currently in that area, there is already a mix of residential homes with more industrial style workshops such as Mayorga's Welding.
The plan outlines that live/work area east of O’Leary Street can also accommodate much more growth than the rest of the Southside and as such, the designation would allow for larger scale, 60-foot-high, residential and industrial structures.
Should the plan pass, the new live/work area designation would also need to be changed within the city’s regional plan. City staff could then look to the plan when updating the area's zoning code and reviewing development proposals, Dechter said.
The plan also makes suggestions for new public areas and parks, something the Southside as a neighborhood is severely lacking in.
According to the National Recreation and Parks Association, ideally a neighborhood should have a park within about a 10-minuite walk from every resident.
But the Southside neighborhood has no such park.
The plan suggests a number of ways to rectify this, including suggesting areas where parks could be built on property the city already owns.
The plan outlines how a pocket park could be built at the Mike’s Pike triangle and how the city could use sections of the current channel of the Rio de Flag as green spaces and multi-use trails, after the completion of the Rio de Flag flood control project.
But as they have looked to provide more parks and public spaces within the neighborhood, Southside residents have also raised questions as to if such spaces would feel safe, Dechter said.
Residents have told them the neighborhood has many nooks and crannies and out-of-the-way areas that residents feel are unsafe. Many of these areas are along the existing channel of the Rio de Flag.
Residents feel many of these areas are frequented by people looking to drink or partake in other illicit activities, Dechter said, and the city may have to tackle that issue before residents feel comfortable using new parks and public spaces.
During the Jan. 14 council meeting, Mayor Coral Evans, who lives in Southside, agreed with residents' worries regarding safety around new public areas.
Evens said there are a lot of issues regarding the enforcement of certain laws within the Southside. Residents have long asked for assistance in improving the neighborhood’s public safety and have not gotten the help they ask for, Evens said.
But perhaps the most ambitious plan for a new park outlined in the plan is to integrate a park into the design of the city’s Lone Tree overpass project that voters approved in 2018.
Other cities have created similar parks or integrated into large bridges and infrastructure projects, Dechter said. One idea is that the city could build a basketball court in the area under the bridge.
“There’s actually a lot of excitement and buzz around the idea of having an under-the-bridge park and having it be a place that highlights culture and has recreational opportunities,” Dechter said, adding no one wants that project to be nothing but concrete and chain-link fences.
“Right now were going from 30 to 60% plans for that construction project and having our engineering staff sort of flip the plan upside down in their mind and say, ‘Well, what does the bottom of that bridge need to look like so that we could achieve that outcome?’” Dechter said. “So the timing of that I think has been really excellent.”
Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at email@example.com, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on Twitter @AdrianSkabelund.