Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Glendale’s future looks very bright but there is one storm cloud on its short-term horizon and that is the near-term threat of another national recession. I would hope that the city is not forced to repeat what it did the last time and that was to defer maintenance of the city’s infrastructure.

However, my vision is not one of doom and gloom but rather building upon successes already achieved. I will “crystal ball” various components within the city from my lens as a sitting councilmember in Glendale for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve participated in the good, the bad and the ugly. I would remind you that this is my vision and just because I am visioning, it does not mean that any of my vision will become reality. I welcome readers’ comments including your vision for a Glendale of the future.

Economic Development. It should be acknowledged that most of, perhaps more than 85% of all the recent economic development successes have occurred in the Yucca district. I anticipate that trend to continue. While there are very few meaningful vacant parcels in Glendale’s other districts, there remains plenty of vacant land left for job development, especially in the western portion of the Yucca district.

All cities must continually seek the Holy Grail of economic development, or they will stagnate and eventually die. Since Arizona is a low property tax state, cities rely upon other forms of taxation and most critically, sales tax. That is why economic development is so important to any city.

There are 6 major economic nodes in Glendale – 1. Arrowhead Mall and Bell Road Corridor, 2. Downtown Glendale and 3. Westgate/Zanjero area; and I would argue 4. the Airport area, 5. the Loop 303 area, commonly referred to as the “New Frontier,” and 6. the Ballpark area.  Let’s look at my expectations for each area.

Arrowhead. I expect the Arrowhead Mall and the Bell Road corridor to continue to thrive. Despite rapidly growing use of the Internet for consumer purchasing, people still like to touch, see, and feel the products they buy. The owners of Arrowhead Mall have done an excellent job of keeping the Mall up-to-date and to refreshing its look and product offering continually. My vision is Arrowhead and the surrounding area will thrive for years to come.

Downtown. My vision is to see the Downtown area adopt some major changes or die. The city can only do so much to prop up this area and has made a major commitment with its intent to refresh the City Hall Complex which includes its Amphitheater. This area needs two components to survive and flourish. One is an entertainment destination. The current buzzword is ‘experiential retail’. People expect not just to shop but expect an opportunity to be entertained in some form or fashion. An entertainment destination for the Downtown should be a movie theater, performing arts theater, museum, or art gallery—a facility that draws people downtown, every day, 365 days a year. Look at Phoenix. It was not by whim that it located a science museum and a history museum in its downtown.

Our Downtown also needs a mass of new residents. This will happen. All it takes is one apartment complex developer to locate Downtown and others will follow. A vibrant downtown needs people to live, work and play within it.

The other missing component essential to a vibrant downtown is the creation of a Downtown Merchants Association that becomes the only legitimate voice and a catalyst for Downtown Glendale. Downtown Glendale is split between two opposing groups – those who will not embrace any change to Downtown and those who embrace the need for change. Until those two factions unite into one, viable Downtown Merchants Association that requires ‘skin in the game’ in the form of annual dues as well as a commitment by its members to be open on a regular basis, stagnation will continue. How long can stagnation exist before the common body dies? I suspect for a few more years. Time is running out for Downtown Glendale. While the city adds Café Lighting and refreshes its Amphitheater, it does not and cannot solve its deep-seated problems and only prolongs the agony.

Westgate/Zanjero area. This area continues to exceed all expectations. As I say repeatedly, the Crystal Lagoon Island Resort, once opened, will change the character of the area forever. It is a powerhouse development project that will draw visitors from all over the world. My vision for the area is to see development continued on all parking lot space and parking to be contained to several large parking garages. The space is simply too valuable to continue to be used for parking and that includes the city owned ‘Black Parking Lot’. My vision also includes the city’s sale of the Gila River Arena to an experienced entity committed to creating profitability by booking events nearly every day of the year. If, someday, the arena is sold, my vision would be to use the proceeds to finance construction of Heroes Park Recreation and Aquatic Center and to finance the construction of a museum in Downtown Glendale. My vision would be to create a partnership with the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian has rotating exhibits that are placed throughout the country. One of my fondest experiences while attending college in Baltimore was to go to D.C. and spend a day at the Smithsonian. It has so many wonderful exhibits and it would take someone a month or better to visit everyone on a daily basis.

Loop 303 area. Development of this area as a job corridor is booming. I expect its growth to continue for a few more years until nearly all developable land is consumed. To meet the employment demand that this area generates it is my vision that the city focus on retraining and reeducation of our work force by partnering with our educational institutions to create nodes of work force training in key locations throughout the city. My vision also includes partnerships with education to create more STEM centers throughout the city.

Airport area. This area to-date has been underutilized and underappreciated. My vision is to see the land on the east side of the airport developed as a major airpark in the next few years. The runways should be elongated to their maximum extent possible to attract more corporate jet traffic. My vision also includes developing a connection over the Agua Fria River so that there is connectivity between the Westgate area and the Airport.

Ballpark area. This area is on the cusp of an explosion of new development. Since Ballpark Boulevard was constructed the connection between the Westgate/Zanjero area and this area has been enhanced. There are several hundred acres of prime, vacant land to be developed. My vision is to see a limited amount of residential apartment development to create some mass in the area but also to see more retail/commercial development in the area. And yes, another hotel would be a welcome addition to the area. My vision is to see strong interconnectivity between the Westgate/Zanjero area, the Airport area and the Ballpark area. When that occurs Glendale will ensure its economic prosperity and vitality for years to come.

There are some parts of my vision that don’t fit neatly into the above cited economic boxes but should be part of not just my vision but that of the city vision. One of these is to address low socio-economic, minority neighborhoods. A city is only as great as its marginalized neighborhoods. If we continue to ignore them, they will spread and destabilize other parts of our great city. Right now, there is a continual circle in these neighborhoods. Because they are already marginalized, we continue to allow non-profit organizations, in the name of doing good and serving their client populations, to plant more services in these neighborhoods. As more non-profits locate in an area, the more likely even more poor and minority populations locate there. It’s time to break this vicious cycle. Non-profits and low-income housing must be dispersed throughout the city. There are all kinds of good, sound reasons to do so that I will not elaborate upon at this time.

Another vision that doesn’t fit neatly into a box is that of art and culture within our city. These elements reflect who we are and what we value at any given point in time. Glendale has historically lacked the commitment to value art. My vision is to emphasize visual art throughout the city. It isn’t just a mural on the side of a building in Downtown or an historically themed statue placed in front of a city building. It’s a commitment by the city to encourage the use of art not just at a newly constructed building but the encouragement, even if it means financially, of older buildings to adopt art as an element of their public face. My vision is to see the use of art liberally throughout the city on both public and private property.

My vision also includes greater appreciation of the various ethnicities and cultures that historically birthed Glendale – Russians, Asians, Hispanic and yes, Caucasians. I would like to see an annual festival that celebrates the history, the food, the music of all these groups who came together to envision our community.

I am sure I left something out and I expect you, the reader, will tell me. The bottom line is that we all want the same things – a clean Glendale everywhere within it, a safe Glendale everywhere within it, a Glendale with employment opportunities within it for you, a Glendale that offers superior services to all its residents, a Glendale that offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities, a beautiful Glendale and a Glendale that values and recognizes its past. We may have differing visions on how to get there.

We’re not there yet but maybe that’s a good thing. It offers us an opportunity to dream, to act and to strive to make Glendale even better.

© Joyce Clark, 2022      


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