Avondale votes to revitalize its historic downtown

More townhouses, restaurants, wading pools, parks and murals. It’s part of the plan to make South Avondale a must-visit destination within five years.

The $6.3 million plan aims to revamp three historic parts of the city with high-density housing options, neighborhood “beautification” efforts, recreational spaces and a walkable downtown that offers shops, restaurants and entertainment options.

The goal is to make Avondale a center of entertainment for all Valley residents.

Mayor Kenn Weise and all six members of city council unanimously approved the plan, which suggests changes to the Old Town, Cashion and Las Ligas/Rio Vista neighborhoods.

The Historic Places are south of Van Buren Street, bounded by 107th Avenue to the east and Litchfield Road to the west.

The area is primarily residential, but vacant city-owned land combined with the area’s historic roots, nostalgic landmarks, and proximity to transportation corridors make the area ripe for a redeveloped downtown embellished with historic insignia, custom light garlands and lampposts, according to the plan.

The vote is a signal of what council members would like to see for the future of the region, but does not immediately change anything for Avondale.

The board would first have to vote on a range of actions, from funding marketing campaigns to offering tax incentives to potential developers.

“It’s a plan that can be changed and renewed,” said board member Curtis Nielson. “It’s a starting point to get people excited about what’s going on in these different areas.”

What changes could come

Growth in the area would start with attracting more residents, said consultants at Elliot D. Pollack, a real estate and economic consultancy, in a report compiled for Avondale.

South Avondale’s population is smaller than towns like Gilbert or Chandler, which have downtown areas similar to what Avondale is looking for.

But more than 20,000 residents are expected to move into South Avondale by 2030, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.

“By 2040, Historic Avondale is expected to reflect the population density of Downtown Chandler and Downtown Gilbert,” the report states.

To accommodate growth, the city plan proposes to provide more diverse housing options.

Dense housing

The historic area plan calls for more high-density housing options, such as townhouses and condominiums, in South Avondale. The hope is that more tightly packed residents in an area will attract more business.

The plan suggests three places where townhouses could be built in the Old Town neighborhood, potentially including the southeast corner of East Hill Drive and North Third Street.

Parks, leisure area

Vacant land owned by the City could be converted into open-air parks and wading pools. Dennis DeConcini Park at Western Avenue and Fourth Street “could be improved with a wading pool, additional seating and shaded areas,” the plan says. The city could also add public art installations and landscaping.

The same goes for the vacant lots at 111th Avenue and Pima Street in Cashion. “The vision for this neighborhood pocket park is to provide a small-scale play space for toddlers,” the plan reads.

The undeveloped land with abandoned industrial facilities on Buckeye Road between Avondale Boulevard and 107th Avenue could be converted into a park similar to Dessie Lorenz Park, according to the plan.

Thank you for subscribing. This premium content is made possible through your continued support of local journalism.

Restaurants, entertainment venues

Carolina’s and Laura’s Burgers in Old Town are two destination restaurants that are expected to be amped up with surrounding stores, according to the plan. These restaurants could serve as anchors that fuel the area’s popularity, city officials said, such as Old Joe’s BBQ in Gilbert.

The plan also suggests renovating the Sernas Park Plaza at Western Avenue and Fifth Street to make it a more vibrant gathering space for arts and culture. The existing police department building, which is expected to be moved, could be turned into a mercado that could help bring jobs to the area, the report said.

Other parts of the Old City could also see a change. The plan suggests including additional neighborhoods near Western Avenue as part of the “Old Town Avondale Business District” or “OTAB”.

The designation means the homes can “coexist” with businesses as “shops, cafes or professional offices”, the plan says. The designation could also provide flexibility for resident entrepreneurs who want to start a business from home.

historical badge

Entrance signage that promotes a sense of space is key to making the Old Town a destination for Valley residents, the plan says.

The city could place signs at four intersections delineating the Old Town district: Western and Central Avenues, Western Avenue and Dysart Road, Buckeye and Dysart Roads, and Central Avenue and Main Street.

Signs would be placed at four locations along Buckeye Road between 107th and 113th Avenues in Cashion and on Lower Buckeye and El Mirage Roads in Las Ligas and Rio Vista.

Neighborhoods in the area could be given insignia denoting historic status.

According to the plan, old monuments that highlight the city’s history and its agricultural roots should be reused to “reinvigorate” the areas. He points to the abandoned grain silo along Buckeye Road between Avondale Boulevard and 107th Avenue as an example. The structure, which has “historical and nostalgic value,” could serve as a brasserie, event space or fitness center to enliven the area.

business case

According to Elliot D. Pollack’s report, light industrial and warehouse-type businesses could take advantage of vacant space in historic areas.

How to make the vision a reality

The plan calls on city council to spend $6.3 million to bring the downtown vision to fruition.

The city has already funded $400,000 on some of the suggestions, such as $200,000 on more police patrols and another $200,000 to designate parts of Old Town as a “central business district and redevelopment zone.”

This designation allows the City to grant certain tax incentives to businesses in the region.

Unfunded initiatives include:

  • $2 million to develop a mercado near the Sam Garcia Library.
  • $1.9 million for “placemaking,” which includes funding for fairy lights in Old Town, marketing for special events like food truck rallies, and public art installations.
  • $1.3 million for public infrastructure such as parking improvements.
  • $500,000 in incentives for incoming restaurants, small businesses and entertainment venues.
  • $345,000 in branding and marketing.
  • parks and the addition of restrooms to existing parks.
  • $30,000 for rezoning

Business incentives could take the form of the city rezoning certain areas into different types of tax districts.

Avondale could also offer companies tax breaks in the form of excise taxes on government property leases. GPLETs replace business property taxes with less costly excise taxes.

This brings less revenue to the town and the neighbors end up bearing the cost. But proponents say it’s sometimes the only way to bring in a desired business.

Avondale town officials say private investment and resident buy-in will be needed to make the area a success.

Avondale spent $69 million in the Old Town, Cashion and Las Ligas/Rio Vista neighborhoods between 2000 and 2020, according to city documents.

Mayor Weise said the city has no problem spending more if the changes are driven by engaged residents, not “one-sided” decision-making by the city.

Contact reporter Taylor Seely at [email protected] or 480-476-6116. Follow her on Twitter @taylorseely95 or Instagram @taylor.azc.