Next month, the city of Goodyear will realize a dream almost four decades in the making: a dedicated city hall.
After years of setbacks and false starts, Goodyear will finally get its city hall in the form of Goodyear Civic Square at GSQ, the result of a unique public-private partnership forged between the city and a local investment company.
The $124 million project, first envisioned in 1984, may have been slow-going, but City Manager Julie Karins considers it a blessing in disguise because in the end, the project developed into something much greater than originally conceived.
“We're calling it the heart of Goodyear,” City Manager Julie Karins told the Independent.
It’s Goodyear’s hope that it will become the city’s downtown core–a hub of sorts–that has been missing from the young, sprawling city.
More than a city hall, the four-story Civic Square boasts state-of-the-art public amenities including a two-story library double the size of the old space, a two-acre park that can be used for festivals, concerts and parades; multiple community meeting spaces; rotating public art displays; 100,000 square feet of Class-A office space, and a shaded multi-story parking structure for ease of access.
“It's so much more than where city staff will be, and where you can go pay a water bill,” Karins said. “It's a project that generations of Goodyear residents are going to be able to enjoy.”
Goodyear public will get a first look at their new city center on Aug. 1, following the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8 a.m.
The project that has taken shape in the form of Civic Square, located on the northwest corner of McDowell Road and 150th Drive, has evolved significantly over the decades.
For starters, the city originally had its eye on a different location several miles south. And the location that would eventually house Civic Square was slated to become Goodyear’s first and only regional shopping mall in the years preceding the Great Recession.
Of course, neither of those plans came to pass, and were eventually scrapped–which may have been a blessing in disguise for the city and for Globe Corporation, the investment company that would later partner with Goodyear on the Civic Square project.
George Getz, president and co-CEO of Globe Corporation said his father purchased the land in the early 1970s when the area was primarily farmland.
When the younger Getz entered the family business, he worked with Westcor (now Macerich) to develop plans for the doomed shopping mall first proposed in 2005 and scrapped for good in 2016.
But as the expression goes, ‘when one door closes, another opens.’
When Karins became city manager in 2018, she started meeting with stakeholders to get a feel for the city’s needs and aspirations.
She consistently heard two pieces of feedback: That residents desperately wanted a Trader Joe’s (a dream yet to be realized) and that they were disappointed plans to open a dedicated city hall hadn’t come to fruition.
One day, Karins met with Globe Corp. CFO Mike Olsen over coffee.
“We started comparing notes,” Karins said, “and everything kind of fell together from there.”
The routine stakeholder meeting between Karins and Olsen was the impetus for the mixed-use, public-private development known today as Goodyear Civic Square–something Getz considers even better than a mall.
“What we're going to create now is going to be something so much more than just a regional shopping center,” he told the Independent. “We're going to create a downtown for Goodyear that is going to be…vibrant 24 hours a day, every day,” not just during business hours, he said.
“That we never got that regional shopping mall, I think, was a blessing because we were able now to start fresh with a new vision,” she said.
The project was approved by city council on Aug. 19, 2019 and ground was broken April 23, 2021, the birthday of then-Mayor Georgia Lord, who had long envisioned a proper city hall for her city.
Remarkably, cascading challenges posed by the pandemic, rising inflation and worker shortages during construction did not seriously impact the project’s timeline or budget, Getz said.
Despite the obstacles, Getz said he received the certificate of occupancy on June 30–the date Globe Corp. had given the city more than a year prior.
“For us to be able to deliver this building on time and on budget during probably one of the most challenged economic times for the country…we're awfully proud of that,” Getz said. “It’s a testament to the relationship that we have with the city, and with our contractors and all the people involved.”
It’s hard to overstate just how long Goodyear residents have been waiting for this moment.
Back in 1984, Goodyear bought 40 acres of land with the intention to build a dedicated city hall.
Plans started and stalled. Over the years, four separate citizens’ committees were formed to provide public input on a city hall.
In 2001, the city purchased the building off Litchfield Road and Van Buren Street which has since functioned as the primary point of contact between the city and its residents.
At the time, it was known as the ‘Interim City Hall’--a description that was later dropped as the years wore on, Karins said.
Fast-forward two decades, and the city is in the process of moving city hall to its permanent location.
It’s a good thing too–the old city hall simply wasn't feasible long-term for the rapidly expanding city.
The small building is home to much of Goodyear’s municipal services, as well as its record keeping department, digital communications, the city manager’s office and a single, shared office space for elected leadership.
There is a conference room where council occasionally meets, but it's small, and not fit for routine public meetings, which are currently held a mile down the road in the municipal courthouse.
“It really (would have) needed reinvestment and expansion if we were to have stayed here,” Karins explained.
While the old city hall and courthouse are by no means shabby, they are a far cry from the amenities offered at Civic Square.
The auditorium-style council chambers are equipped with a bullet-proof dais, four large TV screens, theater-style lighting and a rear control room where proceedings can be filmed and broadcast. The council will convene in the space for the first time on Aug. 15.
When council chambers–which seat 150–reach capacity, visitors have the option to view proceedings in one of two glass-paneled overflow rooms.
Councilmembers also have the option to meet in a smaller room for work sessions as well as an upstairs conference room that can be used for closed-door meetings.
And no more sharing office space–the mayor and councilmembers will each have their own office.
Perhaps the only people who might enjoy Civic Square more than Goodyear’s elected officials are the kids.
The new Georgia T. Lord Library–named in memory of the former Goodyear leader and longtime champion of Civic Square–features a whimsical, Winnie the Pooh-inspired children’s area designed by artists from Naumann Nature Scapes, a company that has partnered with the likes of Disney, SeaWorld and Universal Studios.
Up the ‘social stairs’ are the teen section, study rooms, computers and space for Goodyear’s InnovationHub which provides resources to residents starting their own businesses.
Nearly three years later and with more than 300,000 site hours poured into the project, Getz and Karins recognize that Goodyear’s so-called downtown is far from complete.
Planned future phases of construction include more spaces for restaurants, retail and even multifamily housing sometime down the line, for a truly mixed-use space.
From here, the future looks bright for Civic Square.
But whatever plans Goodyear and Globe Corp. might have for Civic Square will depend entirely on the engagement of residents, which remains to be seen.
Thus far, it seems likely Goodyear will embrace its shiny, new city center–a promise fulfilled at long last.
Soon after the construction fences had come down, Karins recalls scrolling through social media to find that a local had posted photos of his classic car with Civic Square’s giant Goodyear letters as a backdrop.
“And I’m like, ‘we’ve got our Instagrammable spot where people can come and be proud of what’s been created there!’” Karins said.
Madeline Ackley Salazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or found on Twitter @Mkayackley.