Monday, March 14, 2011

Mesa's Downtown, What Is Missing

What Is Missing In Mesa's Downtown

A little over a year ago when I opened a new business in downtown Mesa, I made the choice to get involved, find out what was going and how I could help. I was invited to attend a merchants meeting and participate, which I did.

At that time a few of the merchants sat on the Downtown Mesa Association board (DMA). About that same time I also got a questioner from the DMA, shoved under the door of my office. The questioner asked how, I thought the association was doing with the downtown area. My first thought was for who? It certainly wasn't an organization for the merchants and it certainly wasn't an organization interested in bring new business to the downtown, but was more resolved and interested in keeping the status quote.

My interpretation, right or wrong, was that the DMA was created by the City of Mesa to put forth the ideas of city staff and property owners but not the merchants. The $1 million operations budget of the organization is funded by the city of Mesa with about $300,000 of it coming from a property tax paid by the merchants who rent in the downtown area and the one or two property owners who do business from their buildings

The Complaints DMA & City of Mesa

As I began to be involved with the merchants, some of following complaints about the DMA and the City of Mesa began to surface. (The DMA is a child of the City of Mesa)

  1. The DMA was stacked with property owners, who agreed with the executive director who at the time was Tom Verploegen; who had run the organization since it's inception.
  2. The few merchants on the board, where blacklisted and kept out of important discussions and meetings because they disagreed with Mr. Verploegen and the City of Mesa.
  3. A majority of the board members seldom if every attended the board meetings and when they did it was to rubber stamp the decision of the executive director.
  4. The DMA only supported events associated with city organization and departments, like Mesa Art Center and the MacFest but not Motorcycles on Main, or 2nd Friday Nights Out.
  5. DMA staff was lazy, didn't want to get out of the office, wouldn't do anything if it wasn't during the normal business hours.
  6. DMA wasn't marketing the downtown.
  7. and on and on and on, you get the picture.
It Comes To A Boil

The issues facing downtown Mesa all came to head in September of 2010 as reported by Thoughts On Mesa: Downtown Events Died Yesterday Night.

In which the City of Mesa's Board of Adjustments attached conditions to anymore events going on in the downtown area. The conditions put on events would virtually kill what was already going on and prevent anybody from attempting to add additional events in the downtown. That was the case for a classy car event in the works for the 3rd Fridays of each month.

In my opinion the City of Mesa screwed things up by only listening to the complaint of a few small people who really had no interest in the immediate area of the events. For example, an attorney who doesn't have any property on Main Street complained about glass beer bottles in her parking lot, when in actuality the event didn't serve beer in glass containers. Tre Bella, a merchant on Main Street, complained that Motorcycles On Main was disrupting their business and they never knew when the events were happening; to which I say hog wash because the event has always been on the first Friday of the month. Other merchants complained because their customers couldn't get into their businesses during events, even though most if not all of them had parking and entrances in the backs of their buildings.

All valid complaints, but maybe, just maybe miss directed at event planners, when they should have been directing their complaints to the City of Mesa and the DMA about their rules and regulations. Is it possible that people let their views and interpretations of events get in their way of judgement, you bet. Is it possible that the City of Mesa could have done a better job, by all means.

The Solutions

Even with this, there are possibilities and solutions for Mesa's downtown. The possibilities for downtown Mesa will require extraordinary effort on the part businesses, residents and property owners and leaders. Downtown Mesa can be transformed into what every we want it to be but first we as a community, business owners, residents, leaders have to stop looking at the past and comparing it to our future. If we look at the past for the future, we will get the past and not the future we want.

One of the hardest things for those who want to participate and some won't, and that is OK, will be for them to forget the downtown of the past and how it was. In order for Mesa's downtown to go forward we will need to forget the number of times it has been torn up, we will need to forget about the naysayers, we will need to forget about the past actions of the DMA, we will need to forget how much the Mesa Art Center Cost, we will need to forget about the cost of light rail and many more things. We can't move forward with TRANSFORMING the downtown until we declare what we want and leave the past in the past.

For Mesa's downtown to go forward we need to declare what we want the downtown to be. Once we've declared what we want the downtown to be, the TRANSFORMATION can begin and the POSSIBILITIES can begin to come forward uninhibited by the past. Not an easy task given that we are taught that the past dictates our future and that if we don't learn from the past we are bound to repeat it.

I ask this question, HOW HAS THAT WORKED FOR US?

What I See As the Future of Downtown Mesa.

I declare that the future of Mesa's downtown will be vibrant, full of energy, filled with shopping and housing, as a place other cities will be envious of, a place where people will come to relax, drink a cup of coffee, have a beer, see a show, visit a musium and enjoy life.

I invite you to join me in this future for downtown Mesa, a future with unlimited possibilities. We can start with a blank canvas because we are no longer tied to the past, we can make the downtown what ever we want it to be.

There is only one condition to you joining me, you can't look back you must forget the past and move forward with the possibilities. I know that will be hard, but we can do it and we can do it together.

Remember when the our founding father signed the Declaration of Independence, it was a declaration to the world of what this nation was going to be. They gave up on the past and didn't look back, they moved forward with new and unlimited possibilities. As a result we have a nation unlike any other in the world.

It took strong men, men who would not look back but only look forward to the possibility of what could be. In order to make it happen look at what they signed, "... we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

Let's go forward and make the downtown Mesa what it can be; vibrant, full of energy, filled with shopping and housing, as a place other cities will be envious of, a place where people will come to relax, drink a cup of coffee, have a beer, see a show, visit a musium and enjoy life.

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