Tempe has big plans for the future and it’s developing guidelines to ensure the city’s character and goals are top-of-mind when it comes to growth.
At the Aug. 30 Tempe City Council Work Study session, the council saw a presentation on the Character Area-1 Plan for the Papago/ North Tempe area. It’s the sixth character area plan the council has reviewed, after adopting plans for five out of the eight character areas that comprise Tempe. While the draft for Character Area 1 — 3.35 square miles of the city bounded by the Loop 202 on the south, McClintock Drive on the east, the city boundary lines on the north, and Priest Drive on the west — is subject to change, the council voted to move forward with the plan.
These Character Area Plans are documents that will provide guidance for any future designs and developments in a specific area. Each plan includes a description of the character of the area and provides principles and strategies with input from city staffers, local businesses and residents so that new development is consistent with the existing character and sustainable. They are also in line with Tempe’s goals, including its pedestrian safety-focused
Vision Zero pledge and the city’s Climate Action Plan to cut down on its carbon footprint.
Work on the plan began in March 2021 and has undergone several public meetings and surveys to gather input from the community that lives in North Tempe, which includes Papago Park, historical landmarks like the Sandra Day O’Connor House and Big Surf Waterpark. Other features are the Rolling Hills golf course, the Grand Canal, Indian Bend Wash and several other open desert spaces that residents value. The neighborhood also offers Light Rail Transit access and is close to Tempe Town Lake and all that downtown Tempe has to offer.
“The plan evolved from the numerous consultations with the residents, property owners and businesses in the locality, and stakeholders having interest in the area,” said Ambika Adhikari, the principal planner for the city’s community development and the project manager for the character area plan. “Staff worked with all these groups for more than nine months to gather stakeholder input and develop the vision, purpose, elements, and the contents of the plan. A major component of the plan includes planning goals and design principles for the planning area which reflect the desire, aspiration and input from the area residents and stakeholders.”
As companies flock to Tempe and new developments go up seemingly every day, the city hopes to use these plans to stay true to its character and set itself up well for the future. As of 2020, approximately 9,920 residents call Character Area-1 home, as well as 486 businesses.
Survey responses indicated that residents wanted more walkable paths along the historic canal in the area, shaded areas in community parks, support for historic preservation, public art and improved streetscapes. Additionally, residents said they preferred single-family home developments as opposed to multi-family apartment housing. Shade and heat management were two of the community’s biggest concerns, as were high-quality, sustainable developments in both the industrial and residential parts of the neighborhood. Many of the homes in the area were built in the 1960s and 1970s, which is a point of pride.
“This plan is intended to be used as a guiding document by staff while reviewing site plans and designs of proposed new development and redevelopment applications in the plan area,” said Adhikari. “It is also envisioned as a guiding document for developers, architects and property owners in the area who wish to propose new development or redevelopment applications to the city. The plan will also provide guidance in planning and design-related matters for the city’s planning and investment decisions related to sustainability, infrastructure, landscaping, transportation and housing in the area.”
The draft plan is in the midst of a public comment period. It will then undergo final revisions, reviews and a city council vote by the end of 2021 or early 2022.
But, according to Adhikari, stakeholders will have a say until the very end.
“Staff will continue to address the comments received on the draft plan and revise as appropriate,” he said. “Staff will welcome public input all the way through the adoption process.”