Courtesy of Art Thomason – Mar. 9, 2012
The Republic |

Mesa officials treated 50 developers to breakfast, inventive videos, a bus tour and Cactus League game as part of a six-hour sales pitch about investment opportunities in downtown Mesa.

The extensively planned promotion was launched Tuesday as the light-rail extension, viewed as a $200 million stimulant for downtown’s metamorphosis, is about to get under way.

The city is aggressively marketing 10 downtown sites available for a range of uses that would be planned, designed and built under a new zoning concept that offers broader flexibility to be creative.

“Every great city has a great downtown,” City Manager Chris Brady told the 80-plus people in attendance at the Mesa Arts Center. “Mesa has a good downtown and we’re at the pivotal point of having a great downtown.”

Brady shared the podium with Economic Development Director Bill Jabjiniak and other key members of his staff, but it was Mayor Scott Smith who delivered most of the marketing and perspective about downtown’s evolution.

“We’re here to talk about one thing, opportunity,” he said to the commercial-building representatives. “It’s a unique time in downtown when all these events are coming together.”

The city is also well poised to leverage deals, he said, because it owns more than 40 acres of available land as well as water and gas utilities in the downtown square-mile area. But markets will dictate what will be built and when, Smith said.

“The government can’t force the market,” he said. “But right now the market is primed to recognize opportunities to develop downtown.”

Attempting to seize the moment, Mesa placed almost all members of its planning-and-development team among developers for a morning and afternoon of activities, including the Chicago Cubs spring-training home opener at Hohokam Park.

City officials and developers called it a rare opportunity that further distances the city from its onetime staid image.

“The sense of purpose here is inspiring,” Kurt Creager, CQa developer of housing for transit-oriented markets, said after the session.