Light Rail Walkable Communities

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Phoenix city officials are conducting community workshops to get ideas and input regarding development along the city’s light rail line. The goal: to develop walkable communities that work in conjunction with mass transit. Alan Stephenson is the acting planning and development director for Phoenix and will discuss the effort.

Ted Simons: Phoenix city officials are conducting community workshops to get ideas and input regarding development along the city's light rail line. The goal, to develop walkable communities that work in conjunction with mass transit. Alan Stephenson is the acting planning and development director for the city of Phoenix. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Alan Stephenson: Thank you.

Ted Simons: This is not necessarily -- This reinvent Phoenix thing has been going on a couple years.

Alan Stephenson: It is. We're in our second year of a multiyear grant effort from the department of housing and urban development, it's about a $. million grant to work in collaboration with other community partners to develop a walkable transit and development around our light rail stops.

Ted Simons: I think ASU and saint loops also involved in the process?

Alan Stephenson: Correct.

Ted Simons: When we talk about shaping development along light rail, what shapes are we looking at and how close to light rail?

Alan Stephenson: Well, we're looking about a quarter mile around each of the light rail stops. And we're looking at a more urban style of development that you would see typical of downtown, and other large cities where they have more urban and walkable development as opposed to our more typical suburban development standards, Phoenix has really been a picture perfect city related to suburban development, and this is a look at creating a new option and more of an urban style of development.

Ted Simons: When people hear about transit oriented development, what does that mean?

Alan Stephenson: It's really about creating development style that has a little bit more building height associated with a typically mix of uses, and it's a much more walkable pedestrian friendly environment that is easily accessible Via bicycles as well, more shade, it's a little bit easier to provide infrastructure and services from a city standpoint as well.

Ted Simons: And the focus would be what, from downtown Phoenix to Christown and out again to Sky Harbor?

Alan Stephenson: Yeah. There's two segments. From downtown to the city's eastern limits, which encompasses east lake Garfield and gateway areas, and then north of downtown which is three different areas to Bethany home south.

Ted Simons: That one that goes east along Washington, it seems to me there are stretches where there's note a stop for a long way. How do you get development and especially the walkable communities, bike riding, the whole nine yards when the stops are so few and far between?

Alan Stephenson: Well, you have to put in infrastructure to make it so people want to walk more. One of the key focus of this effort is to increase walkability. So that's done natural shade, like landscaping, but man made shade from overhangs and things from buildings, to make it more walkable and create a more inviting pedestrian environment so you have small buildings that break things up, a mix of uses that create some vitality along the street and what seems to be a very inhospitable walk isn't so.

Ted Simons: So if you're walking in shade the whole time, there's a coffee shop here and a restaurant there you don't ream eyes how far you've walked.

Alan Stephenson: Correct.

Ted Simons: Investment strategies, I know that's a big factor as well. Talk about the commercial involvement and what you're looking -- You're basically looking for ideas from everyone.

Alan Stephenson: Correct. Right now we're in a two-week planning process. We have our consultant in from out of state, and so we have a number of meetings over this two-week period. Our kickoff meeting was Monday night and we had about people attend. So we're getting a broad spectrum of the community to participate. One of our key partners is the urban land institute as well as local first Arizona. Both of those groups are focused on business and development, so they're helping us with that aspect as well.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing regarding concerns from business and development with what can be done and the challenges of getting things done along light rail?

Alan Stephenson: A couple of the things we're hearing are some infrastructure challenges related to existing infrastructure that's there, like water and sewer. Electric, some of those things that will have to work through with them. Some of the other challenges are really getting development -- Developers to understand the different style of development here and trying to get them to focus on building something that's a little bit different. It's done a lot of other cities, but it's different here for Phoenix. So we're working through a lot of those issues.

Ted Simons: You mentioned other cities, are there models in other cities that you're looking at or that you want folks to look at?

Alan Stephenson: Yeah, there are a number of other cities that have light rail lines that have been successful. There's one in San Diego, Denver, Portland, there are a lot of cities that have added those elements to their downtown areas, and then as you extend out, you have some more of that same kind of urban development.

Ted Simons: I asked about the input you've heard from the business community and -- For investment purposes, what are you hearing from just plain Joes and Janes, the citizens who really want to be a part, Burt they're there are stretches of light rail where there's not much going on right now.

Alan Stephenson: Some of the big things we're hearing, protect our historic neighborhoods, and kind of come up with some compatible design guidelines so you have interface from some of the taller buildings to existing neighborhoods. We're hearing a lot about making those areas walkable, pedestrian friendly, shade, bicycle friendly in terms of complete streets, that the city is undertaking as well. We are hearing a lot about local first and trying to get local businesses involved and make it successful for them, not just some of the larger chains and suburban shopping mall style.

Ted Simons: And when you talk about residential along the line, how close to the line could that be and what kind of residential are you hearing about? Are you talking about?

Alan Stephenson: For the most part it could be rental, apartment or condominiums woulds be ownership type of product. There's also some single-family attached style development that could be built. A little bit off the light rail line, that's kind of like a row house you might see in other cities, a little more urban, more dense than we see here, but it still allows for an ownership style development.

Ted Simons: Someone has an idea or they want to get involved in this, how do they get involved?

Alan Stephenson: We have a website, They can go there and find out all kinds of information about this. We also have upcoming workshops, including one tonight. If you're a resident or property owner tonight at 6 p.m. at the Phoenix financial center, which is the northeast corner of central and Osborne, we have a workshop at 6 p.m., if you're close by you can race over there. We also have workshops coming up on this Friday, again, the same place,6 to 8 p.m. is the mid term report where the consultants will give us what they came up with for the first week. And a couple other meetings next week on Tuesday, April 1st there's a local first meeting that's being put on for local businesses, that's 6 to 8 p.m. and the following Friday on April 4 th, to p.m. the consultant will unveil their designs for the final two-week process.

Ted Simons: And all that is information on the website?

Alan Stephenson: Correct.

Ted Simons: Last question, when dot workshops end and the action begins?

Alan Stephenson: So the workshops will end on April 4 th, and then the consultant will take that final about it of input they did, go away to finalize the design and development our walkable urban code and come up with parking strategies to help us, and those things will be brought back to get additional public input, and then adoption by council in the fall end of the year.

Ted Simons: All right. Great information. Good to have you here.

Alan Stephenson: Thank you.

Ted Simons: That is it for now I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Alan Stephenson:Director, Acting Planning and Development for City of Phoenix;

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