By Srianthi Perera
While the vibrancy and success of the Heritage District in downtown Gilbert has been well documented, town officials say its development still is an ongoing process.
Accordingly, Gilbert is working to update the Heritage District Redevelopment Plan by 2018. The district was established in 1991 and has been updated a few times.
The Heritage District, approximately 250 acres comprising the original town site, envelopes the expanse north of Gilbert Historical Museum to Juniper Road and includes some surrounding neighborhoods. The district contains about 1.3 million square feet of buildings, of which more than 400,000 square feet is commercial space.
“This year, we have been gathering information in eight areas,” said Amanda Elliott, Heritage District liaison in Gilbert.
Six of those areas have stakeholder groups that are brainstorming ideas that could be worked into the plan, she added.
Each stakeholder group of 10 consists of one town resident, one property or business owner in the Heritage District, a member from a Gilbert board or commission, a business leader in the industry, an executive leader from the town and staff members.
The input from the stakeholder groups are to be presented by staff to Town Council.
“All of that information then gets filtered into that redevelopment update,” Elliott said.
The areas under consideration are:
Arts and culture — How will public art influence and enhance the already vibrant atmosphere?
Events — Are there opportunities for promoter events? If so, what are they and where would they be held?
Waste management — “You don’t think of trash until it becomes an issue,” Elliott said.
The discussion will include how Gilbert can improve solid-waste management to support aesthetics, reduce odor and enhance the level of service available for businesses, including a central compost space.
Connectivity — How might the pedestrian experience be enhanced? How might it be makde more bicycle friendly to ensure flow throughout the expanse?
Wayfinding — What types of signage will help visitors get around more efficiently and effectively?
Parking — A second parking garage, for 400 vehicles, is in the works, and BWS Walker has been selected as master planner and architect. Two sites are under consideration: the lot behind Bergies Coffee Roast House and the northeastern corner of Vaughn Avenue and Gilbert Road. A public meeting was held int October, and the garage is slated to be completed by fall of 2018.
Land-acquisition disposition — This does not have a task force and works directly with Town Council to compile an inventory of the property the town currently owns and determine what it needs to purchase.
Operations and maintenance — No stakeholder group for this as it will be operated by town staff.
The arts and the waste-management groups have had most of their allotted four meetings already.
“The arts stakeholders group strongly recommended that the town invest more in the arts,” said Kayla Kolar, executive director of the Gilbert Historical Museum, who participated in the group.
“The end result of this stakeholder group was that we are recommending to the town that it hire a consultant to do a five-year plan for arts,” she said. “However, consultants are very expensive, and that money could be spent on art for the district. The council needs a plan, but it would then need to fund that plan.”