By Savanna Lee
Downtown Mesa has received a facelift thanks to redevelopment and investment by private investors in the Mesa Arizona Temple and surrounding areas.
Total capital investment in construction and real estate in Mesa has grown from $ 10 million in 2014 to nearly $ 138 million in 2020. It has more than doubled since 2019, according to the Economic Development dataset Project Success of the data portal of the city of Mesa.
The total projected area of construction and real estate projects in Mesa has grown from 2,000 square feet in 2012 to just over 1.4 million square feet in 2021, according to the dataset.
The downtown area of Mesa has been under construction as several new developments have been undertaken.
Angelica Guevara, Downtown Transformation Project Manager, worked to help developers and facilitate questions that arise as the project progresses.
Guevara believes this project will help facilitate economic development and redevelopment along Main Street.
This new plan “will bring a sense of belonging to downtown Mesa,” said Guevara. “It’s a transition from the old to the new.
Much of the land purchased and built was either unowned or underutilized and the city is taking this opportunity to redevelop and reallocate the area, Guevara said.
One of the projects in this redevelopment plan is the construction of an upscale luxury apartment complex called the Grove, Guevara said. This complex is being built to the west of the temple on land that previously belonged to a commercial enterprise or was vacant, Guevara said.
This apartment complex is “a high density project with an urban design,” said Guevara. “This is great because it will show a demand for this type of housing in the city center.”
The bottom of the complex contains commercial units and all 240 units in the building have been leased, Guevara said. She thinks this project will have a big return for Mesa.
Mesa temple project
Gary Porter, owner of Porter Brothers, is the general contractor hired by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to renovate the Mesa Arizona Temple. The project was completed earlier this year, Porter said.
“We emptied the interior for better circulation and better use of square footage,” Porter said.
The church has made several modifications to the building to update it and be in compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and “to improve the structure in the event of a seismic event,” Porter said.
Porter called the temple “an oasis in the desert”. He believes that the temple will be a beautiful and welcoming place for visitors, where a peaceful spirit can reside.
“A lot of time, money and effort went into making this project a success,” Porter said.
This project was not done by one man and Porter praised Dawson and Spencer Stewart, respectively Project Manager and Superintendent, for the “wonderful job they did to make this project happen.”
David Davis, lead designer at privately held Dale Gardon Design, helped create the overall vision for the historic temple district.
This district stretches from Mesa Drive to Main Street and Second Street two blocks east of the temple.
The overall vision for the Mesa Arizona Temple project was to improve the grounds and properties surrounding them to protect the integrity of the temple, Davis said.
Much of the surrounding area was in disrepair, “we repaired it surgically, lot by lot, plot by plot, and redeveloped the area,” said Davis.
Some of the historic buildings that were previously in the neighborhood have been razed and replaced. Many of these buildings were built in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and did not perform well in this environment, Davis said.
“These were not major architectural structures and the decay was so advanced that renovating them would take time and be expensive,” Davis said.
The most ordinary were removed because they had no historical architecture. They have been replaced with homes that provide new opportunities for people from different economic backgrounds, Davis said.
“Diversifying residential options also invites a more diverse population into the neighborhood that was not there before,” Davis said.
Davis also helped design the Grove, which occupies 3 acres on Main Street. He said he designed a higher density product because the transit line so close requires more housing development.
The lower level of the grove was designed with higher concrete ceilings to accommodate commercial use. The buildings’ commercial space has been leased to a bookstore, snack and cafe and information center for use by the church, Davis said.
“The biggest change and the biggest impact of this project will be the change in perception of Main Street,” said Davis. “Right now, people see Main Street as a quiet street short of residents and businesses, this project will create more live action. “
The essence of this project will add value to the property and the high level of interest will carry over to the rest of the street, Davis said. Davis believes the Grove is just the beginning and the impact of it will be visible for years to come, as others soon follow suit in the redevelopment.
“The owner of The Grove played a courageous role in impacting downtown Mesa when few believed in Main Street and the historic Temple District,” Davis said. “They created value where there was none before. The cooperation between the city and various partners as they worked together is what made this project a success, said Davis.
The Mesa Arizona Temple has been closed for renovation and will reopen at the end of the year. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday that it will hold an open house from October 16 to November 20. According to church policy, the temple is normally only open to church members holding a recommend, but all are welcome to see any updates that have been made on this open house.
Editor’s Note: Savanna Lee is a journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.