Tempeans are finally waking up to the true purpose of the city's $125 million (and counting) Rio Salado Project, which features the 225-acre Town Lake.
The lake was cleverly promoted by city officials for a decade as a "regional park," but residents are now outraged to discover that the real purpose of the lake that is now full is to attract massive real estate development.
Ka-ching! Can you say "commissions"?
About 100 folks attended a July 12 meeting at City Hall sponsored by MCW Holdings, which presented its plan for a 1.2 million-square-foot residential, commercial and office complex that would drape the north and western flanks of "A" Mountain. The butte, Tempe's signature geographic landmark, overlooks Town Lake's south shore.
Many expressed contempt for the design of the project, which would feature 12-story towers, parking garages, $150,000-plus condos in the historic flour mill silos and scores of restaurants and retail shops. Only the peak of the mountain would remain in view--from the north side of Town Lake.
"This is the last spike in the body of the people. This is too much. This is not Las Vegas," Tom Hornsby, president of a historic Tempe neighborhood association and longtime Tempe real estate agent, told the gathering.
Hornsby asked developers to reduce the height of the buildings, create more open space and remain sensitive to the needs of existing businesses on Mill Avenue--many of which are struggling to survive in the face of rising rents, parking problems and increased competition from national chains.
MCW already has received approval from the city to build a 300,000-square-foot development, but is now seeking to quadruple the size of the project. It will present its plans for the $200 million complex to the Tempe City Council at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 15.
Development opponents--as is often the case--have been caught napping. While Tempe has promoted Town Lake's recreational possibilities and downplayed development, the city has held public hearings, zoning meetings and council discussions and votes on development proposals around the lake for years.
The high-density development plans for "A" Mountain have been reported in the daily press and in New Times since at least early 1993 ("Tempe's Shore Thing," April 14, 1993).
Besides MCW's proposal for its development, called Hayden Ferry South, the council already has approved a separate project sandwiched between "A" Mountain and the lake called Hayden Ferry North.
Construction on Hayden Ferry North would begin by the end of the year and will feature a 275-room Marriott hotel, a $30 million office tower along with 308 condominiums stacked in three- and four-story waterfront buildings ranging in cost from $180,000 to $280,000, says Tempe developer John Benton.
Town Lake is the magnet for development that will continue to transform Tempe from a college town with homegrown businesses into a corporate-dominated, dense and expensive urban core.
You'd have thought Hurricane Andrew had sneaked into Bank One Ballpark.
It was the evening of Wednesday, July 7, and the Flash had joined the tens of thousands of baseball illiterates otherwise known as Diamondbank fans for the evening tilt against the exceedingly salty Houston Astros.
A monsoon tempest roiled outside--and a weather pattern had developed inside the park as well. Water was drizzling down through an opening in the ballpark's vaunted, vaulted, retractable roof.
Tenderfoots through and through, the D-Bank faithful--who require misters when consuming tacos on patios--were mightily incensed at the prospect of enduring an unwanted mist from the rafters of BOB.
Fans actually put their cell phones away and scurried to drier seats. They stopped watching the game; many were so busy craning at the liquidity they failed to notice when Craig Biggio hit a leadoff homer. (The Flash agrees that the much-maligned Jay Bell is having a career year, a stupendous year. But there is still no way that Bell should have started over Biggio at the All-Star Game.)
Some BOBians actually stood and grimaced and yelled epithets at Jerry Colangelo, as though the sports mogul had his bejeweled hand on a magic spigot. For perhaps the first time ever, the Flash actually felt a twinge of sympathy for the public purse plunderer. His admirers, their polyester doused, were turning on him.
Like a politician touring a disaster zone, D-Banks prez Rich Dozer strode purposefully to and through the afflicted region, assuring everyone that there was absolutely nothing that could be done except hope the wind doesn't often blow so stoutly from the south, thereby exposing a gap in the roof that would otherwise not be breached.
A grunt with a mop showed up, and another D-Bank employee was nearly torn to pieces by wild dogs when he made the mistake of wandering into the wet zone with a stack of complimentary Diamondbank towels.
The Flash, frankly, was surprised that the Diamondbanks hadn't lined up a sponsor for the impromptu dousing--Culligan or Water Pik, say. (From the Flash's vantage point, roughly 70 different commercial logos, signs and come-ons were visible in the ballpark.)
One cynic mused: "Isn't it amazing the lengths to which these people will go to simulate a genuine Major League experience?"
"Yes, indeed," his friend replied. "This shower brought to you by the new Bank One Ballpark Precipi-Tron . . ."
This Pulsating Strobe marveled at the excessive wussyishness of the Phoenix fans.
These people would not last an inning at Candlestick.
Warning to scribes who will interview Suns top draft pick Shawn Marion next year: Make sure to have a Gibberish to English dictionary handy.
The Flash was surfing the radio waves last Friday and stopped to catch Marion on the Jim Rome Show (KGME-AM 550). Marion left UNLV after his junior year and is relatively unknown to Suns fans. This was his shot to intoduce himself to most of the nation.
It was an air ball.
The only thing Marion revealed was that his nose runs a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. His answers were peppered with a wet, gurgling sniffle.
Rome asked Marion if the year at UNLV helped his game. Marion had considered turning pro after two years in junior college.
Marion: "Uhhhh, it helped it, and uh, get me physically, more physically ready and, uh, more mentally ready for the game (sniff)."
Rome: "You know, you've got Jason Kidd feeding you. Dude, that probably won't suck very much."
R: "Having Jason Kidd feed you the ball is not a bad thing."
M: "Naw, no doubt. Naw, it's real good (sniff)."
R: ". . . What about your perimeter game? Where is it right now and are you spending a lot of time on that?"
M: "Aw, man, I'm doing good, I can shoot the ball better than most people think I can shoot, you know what I'm saying. So, uh, I ain't do it really so that's why uh, that's why they put, they knock on me on that."
R: "You think that's a bad rap?"
R: "You think that's an unfair rap?"
Pause. Rome waits for Marion to elaborate. Not even a sniff.
R: "Like, they didn't need you to shoot the ball at UNLV so you did not, so all of a sudden there's this rap that you can't shoot and that's not right."
M: "Uh, basically, yeah."
R: "What about at Phoenix?"
M: "What? Oh, I'm gonna shoot there?"
M: "Yeah, you know what I'm saying. I'm gonna do whatever you want me to do out there."
The Flash wants Marion to gain some interview skills so there's not 82 games of that nonsense next season. Or take the Albert Belle approach and boycott the media.
Rome mercifully ended the confusing exchange after less than two minutes.
"That frankly was not a very good interview," Rome admitted to his listeners afterward. "That was not very pleasant. I'm going to try and forget that happened." He did his best to stifle laughter.
Marion's inability to produce sound bites will be forgiven if he produces victories. All he needs to learn is how to catch an alley-oop and throw it down.
In Marion's defense, he did attend UNLV. Maybe Marion was never taught how to give an interview. Why would a communications major have to know something like that?
Feed the Flash: voice, 602-229-8486; fax, 602-340-8806; online, [email protected]