The City of Tolleson is hoping to attract new businesses and tourists by revitalizing its downtown area. “Paseo de Luces” or “Path of Lights” is Tolleson’s downtown project. It includes improvements to Van Buren Street from 91st to 96th Avenue. Paul Magallanez, director of economic development for the City of Tolleson talks about the project.
José Cárdenas: Good evening. I'm José Cárdenas. Tonight a look at the downtown revitalization of one west valley city hoping to attract visitors and businesses. We'll talk about an exhibit featuring historic maps from the U.S./Mexico border. Plus a foundation offering students support services and educational opportunities. All this coming up next on "Horizonte."
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José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. One west valley is hoping to attract new businesses and tourists by revitalizing its downtown area. Paseo De Luces, or path of lights, is Tolleson's downtown project. The project includes improvements to Van Buren street from 91st to 96th avenue. Joining me to talk about this is Paul Magallanez, director of economic development for the city of Tolleson. Paul, welcome to "Horizonte."
Paul Magallanez: Thank you for having me.
José Cárdenas: This is a fascinating project. I told you off camera, I used to go to church in Tolleson when we first moved to the valley. Back then, a sleepy, agricultural town, and not much bigger now but a new look. Tell us about it.
Paul Magallanez: Frankly, that was my first introduction to Tolleson as well. My mother used to love going to church in the same church that I'm sure you went to. Back then, primarily agriculture community. But it's small by design. We like to say we're small but in the middle of it all. A small community southwest valley, bordered on three sides by Phoenix and to the west by Avondale. We are a community of 7,000 residents.
José Cárdenas: And this particular project kicked off what, about four, five years ago?
Paul Magallanez: It has been about a four-year adventure for us. Yes, about a 30-year aspiration but construction, conceptual design type project.
José Cárdenas: Let's show pictures of how it came out. I want to ask you how you got to this stage. We have some pictures that we want to run. I understand this is like the central greeting area.
Paul Magallanez: That's our central plaza. Critical to any downtown redevelopment project when you're trying to have place making, it is very important to have people to have a place where they can congregate. And that's how we accomplished it here. Partnership with the elementary school.
José Cárdenas: Public seating here.
Paul Magallanez: All of the seating in the downtown, social-style seating. You won't find a bench in the downtown. It is designed for people to be able to sit, converse, and have an active engagement.
José Cárdenas: We have a few more pictures. As I understand it, a principle component of the project, public arts, this is one example.
Paul Magallanez: Public arts component. I can go on forever on that piece because it is the part I am the most part of. Gallery 37 project -- a youth arts program, and our mayor and council were adamant that they wanted to have a component of this project that they put in the hands of youth. And a major component was our arts program. We have seven arts pieces in our downtown. Each piece is reflective of a tradition, some aspect of our heritage and our community. And these students did a great job of translating that into sculptures in our downtown.
José Cárdenas: We have a couple more pictures we will put up on the screen as we talk. But you started this project -- this is another view of the central gathering area, right?
Paul Magallanez: Yes, it is.
José Cárdenas: You started this project kind of in the throws of one of the worst economic periods that the valley had ever seen. How could you afford to do it?
Paul Magallanez: We're fortunate. Fortunate to have had an economic development plan that focused on a stable force of revenue. During the heavy growth areas in the valley, people were focusing on developing residential and the retail that comes along with it, our community wanted to stay small. We know who we are in Tolleson. A small community. We want to stay small. During that growth era, we went after projects that other communities weren't necessarily interested in at that time. Industrial projects. We brought in a lot of warehousing and distribution facilities, light manufacturing operations. These developments all created a huge base of investment upon which we derived property taxes. Property taxes are pretty stable, especially when you compare them to the fickle sources of revenue of sales, tax, and housing. So, we've been able to enjoy a very stable source of revenue. During the downturn when most communities were suffering from the downturn, we were not impacted very much.
José Cárdenas: So, you're small, you want to stay small. You have stable source of income. Why the felt need to do something like this?
Paul Magallanez: Well, that's the sole purpose of doing economic development is to reinvest in the community. The council is confident that this will increase the quality of life for our community. It will bring new people into our downtown. It will help people experience Tolleson for who we really are. The mantra for downtown is come see Tolleson in a whole new light. So, we want people to come in and experience what Tolleson is really about.
José Cárdenas: I imagine, though, given the history in the city and the development, this was not without controversy.
Paul Magallanez: There is always some folks in the community that will oppose progress. But doing nothing was not an option for our council. We have a council of action. And in the seven years that I have been working for this community, we have seen great progress. So, yes, there were some concerns about putting our Van Buren street on a diet, put the road on a diet and took lanes away from the vehicular traffic and exchanged it for a pedestrian pathway, and that created some concern about traffic congestion, but in the end, I think we've made believers of even the nay sayers.
José Cárdenas: Almost out of time. I know that the paseo itself is done buttThe plans to see it develop and grow, tell us about that.
Paul Magallanez: Right now, our primary purpose is to try and help residents in the valley and also businesses in the valley to help believe in our value proposition for our downtown. We want to attract them to our downtown. And encourage investment in our downtown. So, that is our next goal.
José Cárdenas: So maybe some additional retail and entertainment?
Paul Magallanez: That's exactly what we are looking for, creating an entertainment district, people can come and shop, walk, enjoy the artwork, and just have an experience. That's what consumers are looking for these days are experiences and we are trying to create that for them.
José Cárdenas: You have done a great job and we very much appreciate you joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this project, Paul Magallanez.
Paul Magallanez: Thank you so much.
José Cárdenas: Thank you so much.
Paul Magallanez:Director of Economic Development, City of Tolleson;