It’s been off-limits to the public and locked behind a fence since 1998, but now the historic Hayden Flour Mill in Tempe is getting new life as a venue for public and private events. Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman talks about the mill’s history and its latest transformation.
TED SIMONS: And here now with more on the reopening of the Hayden flour mill is Tempe mayor Hugh Hallman. Thanks for joining us.
HUGH HALLMAN: always great to be here.
TED SIMONS: Sounds like things are happening with that mill finally.
HUGH HALLMAN: They are indeed. The site has been closed since 1999. It became quite an eyesore. We restored the grounds so people can see the mill building, look inside and see what the mill operations looked like inside. It's true as Mr. Mitchell pointed out it's a shame we can't open the building itself but that's about an $8 million problem to solve. It outstrips Tempe's resources and the foundation of which I'm president doesn't have those resources yet but we're looking for a private sector partner as the city has in the past to partner with the city and perhaps the foundation to rehabilitate the mill building itself, perhaps into restaurants, art gallery and then perhaps offices. Build on the site itself.
TED SIMONS: it seemed like in the past there was an idea for a hotel or retail. All sorts of plans. Are those plans still on any table right now?
HUGH HALLMAN: Yes and no. There are several iterations of development concepts put forward. That's develop who are last had an interest in project was the same develop they're built the two towers in downtown Tempe. We all remember with the lender mortgages limited, when it went into bankruptcy it caused the collapse of that whole project, our mill project with the tower project. That developer is still quite well heeled, does great work and my hope is that developer with the developer who holds the property at the Lakeside, John Graham, brilliant guy, has great talent, will create the opportunity for the private sector and the city to partner for a great project.
TED SIMONS: It strikes me from a distance you hear of pop-up art galleries where there's a vacant space and no one wants it, you put an art gallery in there until someone wants to use it. Is this public until someone wants to use it?
HUGH HALLMAN: In fact exactly. The downtown Tempe community is creating the event space. They will be running it. You see the grand lawn, which is lighted at night. The lighting matches the bridge lighting. The stage is set to provide performance venues. Then the history museum is outside the building. You see the history of Tempe and downtown Tempe, the mill and can look through the windows and see what that looks like. There is on the corner a very talented landscape architect bill Thomasson designed the grounds and the psych Lora ma. It's set up for the high school students in Tempe to create art worst to hang from that. It's exactly what you thought, to create an active outdoor art space and performance venue that will activate the space.
TED SIMONS: I'm familiar with bill's work. You can tell the minute you see that, that looks like his imprint.
HUGH HALLMAN: It does indeed. The big problem we face for several years for decades really is that nobody wants to walk from downtown Tempe to the beautiful rio salado project at the lake. It was a no man's land out there. If it's longer that two blocks you have to get in the car. We have created something interesting to look at between the lake and mill avenue. We're already seeing it, folks will move from the Lakeside to Mill Avenue and Vice versa.
TED SIMONS: As far as the city is concerned is this now technically a city park in.
HUGH HALLMAN: It won't be titled a public park. It will be under the control of the downtown Tempe community, but yes, people are invited to come to the space. There's a grove of trees on the mill avenue side for picnicking and enjoying that. The lawn is available. It's not technically a public space because the DTC will control it. It will be managing it for us.
TED SIMONS: Atlantis a closing time? Are there hours of operation?
HUGH HALLMAN: Exactly. Like our parks there be will be a closing time. We estimate at 10:00 at night, opening at sunrise. The surrounding area as well will have that kind of timeline where one can't actually legally be there at midnight.
TED SIMONS: Say I want to hold a wedding or event there. Do you reserve space? Will areas be cordoned off?
HUGH HALLMAN: Exactly. They are putting together the program to allow people to reserve the space, that grassy lawn. They will set up a schedule of specific events for concerts and other activities. The art gallery space that you saw in the video, that is actually 20 feet tall and 16 feet wide on each side. That space is going to be programmed through the Tempe union high school district and other high schools in Tempe and we'll have art shows about every three months. It brings the art back to mill avenue.
TED SIMONS: Isn't that on the corner really when you're coming across the bridge, one of the first things you see on the ground?
HUGH HALLMAN: It's breathtaking. It will provide the top portion of it, which is made of steel will provide the kind of artwork one would appreciate from an automobile. The lower portion is for people are pedestrians. It's at a pedestrian scale. Then when you get to that space you'll then be able to walk the labyrinth marked out as we speak and will be constructed in the next two weeks.
TED SIMONS: You mentioned next two weeks for that particular timeline. When will we see a full renovation? Is it going to be in September, the grand opening?
HUGH HALLMAN: If you mean renovation of the mill, that will take years. If somebody started just today on a project that would include an office and restaurant and other structures it would probably take four, five years. That's where the city has to move quickly. Every time we start forward the window on development closes before it moves forward because it's so complicated. My advice as I'm leaving office would be, get a deal with somebody who already knows everything there is to know about doing this project. We have seen three developers come in and out. I would select somebody who knows what needs to be done and can take advantage of the opening window.
TED SIMONS: For now if someone goes down there they will see the grounds, the public space, the grass. That's pretty much a done deal.
HUGH HALLMAN: It's all done. The interesting part about this, for example, the tree grove, there are ten now, there will be 14 by the end of the month, those are all still in boxes. Folks wonder, why are you doing it that way? Our intention was to dress the site so it would be publicly available and appreciated, but also make it temporary so that we can relocate those trees to parks where we might need them. So as the city needs trees, the foundation donates those to the city, we'll bring in new trees, and continue that process. We have kind of a living tree grove that is a nursery for the city of Tempe. All that was taken into consideration as we completed this project.
TED SIMONS: Interesting. Last question. I want to go down there. I want to hang out, enjoy myself. Where do I park?
HUGH HALLMAN: Across the street at the Rio Salado drive parking lot at Hayden ferry Lakeside there are two commercial buildings, lots of extra space. You can park immediately across the street at the vulcan building bought by Paul Allen. It now has tri-sports in it, it will be open in about a month. That building is eight stories tall and has another 2,000 parking spaces available, all easily available. You can always park on the street. Credit cards now useful in our parking meters on Mill Avenue. For a buck and a half or two bucks you can spend pretty good time in downtown Tempe.
TED SIMONS: things are happening down there. Good to hear about it.
HUGH HALLMAN: Good to be here, and being mayor of Tempe has been a delight.
TED SIMONS: thank you so much, mayor.
Hugh Hallman:Tempe Mayor;