December 9, 2008

Republic article by e-hood staff writer Michelle Steinberg
My Turn article GG George/Wayne Murray/opposition to PUD ad

The proposed transformation of the 8.7-acre Country Club Apartments’ site
 into a mixed use Planned Unit Development consisting of owner-occupied, residential rental and small business opportunity, modeled after the successful downtown urban form guidelines, has been put on hold by the developer.

I share the feelings of the developer’s agent that this was “progressive, cutting-edge, urban proposal, the likes of which we, as a community have been hoping would come to the Central Corridor for a number of years…..a view shared by many, including the Encanto Village Planning Committee, City Planning Commission, and Planning Department staff, each of whom had formally recommended approval of the project.”

Again and again the question is raised:  How can the acknowledgement of our common historic heritage be integrated into a revitalized and vibrant downtown area to live work and play?  How can our existing communities and neighborhoods work in cooperation with those who possess the ability, know-how, expertise, and, most importantly, the resources to make this happen?  How can the limited available low-impact locations, like the Country Club site, that exist in our downtown communities which consist of this significant amount of contiguous land be developed without destroying character and fabric and avail themselves of the opportunity to be revitalized?

We have found that many who live or want to live in the downtown area are supportive of and searching for an answer to the question:  How can we successfully bring the needed density, permanence and sustainability to our communities?  How can we, they ask, create a rational dialogue of communication and friendly cooperative exchange of ideas without the feeling of the pervasive “under attack and in need of protection” attitude entering into and destroying the conversations. Certainly all stakeholders recognize and desire the potential for the resulting fulfillment of the common goals of building community and acknowledgement of historic heritage.  In the future, even more than now, the cities with the best standard of living will win economically.  The status quo just isn’t enough anymore.  We agree with the downtown leadership that a lot of transformation and managed change is going to be required to rebuild and extend ourselves to meet the demands of the many more residents expected in a few short years to the valley.

Truly, the City government’s role must come from a position of trust, attention and expertise to manage change, not to prevent or obstruct progressive change.  It is not a role just to just maintain the status quo but to move and to facilitate transformation of the City into a prosperous place to live, work and play, sharing in our right to the pursuit of happiness.  We who have lived in the downtown area for a number of years have recently clearly seen the results, in too many projects to mention, of this cooperation under the current leadership of the City in the transformation of downtown Phoenix.

If we are going to realize the full potential of our City and our citizens, we need to move forward together with a spirit of cooperation.   We who supported this project had hoped to build on this.  We who were supporters want to let our leadership know that we want to build with them on this concept.

We cannot let this happen again.  We agree with what the representative of the developer of 7th Street and Earll put so well:  “Consequently, all of the energy, hard work and resources devoted to this application by the neighbors, Applicant, Planning Department staff, and Encanto Village Planning Committee members resulted in an opportunity that, unfortunately slipped from our collective grasps as time wore on.”

 We need to let our leadership know that we are behind them and stand behind aforementioned City governmental review processes which work. Those functions that require that interested individuals and parties participate in the established City vetting processes that are designed to function in a rational and representative way and discourage special individual interest dictating and subverting policy decisions that have moved slowly and carefully though the proper channels of our representative government.

It is easy to focus on today instead of tomorrow.  However, to achieve the great quality of life and substantial economic opportunity that the valley is capable of, and the residents say they want, we need to address both at once.