17 July 2017

IMAGINE + Re/THINK > Urban Planning In Urban Cities

To start off with, your MesaZona blogger tries to be mellow most of the time; he's not a credentialized AICP and does not possess a Master's degree in urban planning.
With that being said forthright, he's a fortunate guy, having lived for years in urban cities' experiences [note the plural] before being transplanted here in Mesa: moving as a kid from The Midwest to rural ocean-side Rhode Island and country-side Connecticut to four years of undergraduate studies at Georgetown University in Washington DC, two years in post-graduate studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, then onto harbor-side Boston for six years in the North End and The Warehouse District along Fort Channel in South Boston, to twenty-two years in Manhattan/New York City both uptown and downtown - all around a wonderful town! - on the lower eastside/Westside "villages" and the Upper East Side and Upper West Side [1 block from Riverside Park and the East River and 3 blocks to Central Park[ in one of the most dynamic and diverse urban cities in the world and now here in the most conservative city in America. Go figure, right? It's been an eye-opener to say the least.
Call me a visionary on a mission in this city of Mesa - the third largest in the State of Arizona, the 5th biggest city in the United States and now the fastest growing with a spread-out sprawling population approaching 500,000 people. 
Fastest growth, however might not be the smartest as we have seen over years of so-called "urban planning" that's made a few wrong moves in the way off-the-mark directions, only to get looked at in hindsight when the consequences are evident looking back after the fact of misguided urban planning fiascos.  
Transplanted here into fertile ground for the imagination first in 2014, to your MesaZona blogger it seemed like an episode from The Twilight Zone with soon-to-be Mesa Mayor John Giles saying Mesa reminds him of the homey fictional much-mythologized TV series Mayberry RFD who apparently enjoys both figments of the imagination and idealized episodes in 1950's America - when in real-time Mesa was booming in the post-World War II era expanding horizontally in suburban sprawl, building "master-planned" communities.
Yours truly is a member of that so-called "Baby-Boom Generation" that's also called the brightest generation and on-the-way over years getting tagged as a "Yuppie" [for young urban professional] and here and now most personally being called to his face by the mayor "a rabble-rouser" and by some un-named others as "a trouble-maker". . . a very warm welcome indeed...Perhaps it was the resounding overnight loud lightning-in-the-skies that made some things in-mind go off like booms-in-the-night:
For example the most recent public relations blast from John Giles for ImagineMesa, asking for ideas to fill-in the blanks and holes in his short-sighted vision in the election campaign for Next Mesa. [see image to left of Imagine Mesa kick-off with a very young audience of what looks like school kids representing a small segment of Mesa's population]
Why bother to try to IMAGINEMESA some might ask when an earlier public relations stunt by ex-mayor Scott Smith called iMesa came up short with ideas and didn't deliver any desirable outcomes?
Likewise we got Pie-In-The-Sky plans just last year for a another downtown transformation [after the failed City Center plans] proposed by Mayor John Giles and unanimously approved by the entire Mesa City Council that was overwhelmingly rejected by taxpayers in spite of a $500,000+ private-financed Public relations fiasco that turned into an admitted 'screw-up' to rob-the-pockets Mesa taxpayers to pay for a plan that would handed profits to undisclosed private investors with "special interests"    ....not a good track record for transformative ideas from the bright minds inside City Hall or their "special interests".   
With a newly-appointed board of 15 members and an October deadline, whatever the 13 members and 2 Co-Chairs of IMAGINE MESA come up with is up for 'possible implementation'. Huh???
Ya gotta wonder how this can work when three Mesa City Council members, supporting John Giles's newest waste-of-time gimmick, pose for a goofy group-selfie at the public kick-off event for IMAGINEMesa like the one inserted at the left.
Any reasonable person might also ask if the qualifications for some of those appointed to serve on the board are inclusive of the local brains-and-ideas talent that can move this city forward:
A shutters and window fashion company owner?
The general manager of a golf resort?
A realtor?
A well-connected attorney?
An 'accounting/consulting firm' in Gilbert?
And, yes, Mesa Mayor John Giles does sometimes call his home-town weird in an attempt at humor - in the spirit of perhaps getting called another name by our charming mayor John Giles, it might be time to look ahead and take the next exit to the future.
Next Mesa - the name-of-the-game for your first term in-office is flat-lined growth followed by a downward slope where you can 'grease the skids' all you want.
Getting in the slow jam of the Giles Groove, even the Visitors Bureau for the City of Mesa had a good-go at WEIRD in this 3-minute video upload in 2014 [Complete copy of upload description inserted below after this post]

As you can see the 'weirdness' of the City of Mesa is limited to just a few points-of-view that do not engage the perspectives of everyone in the diverse population here.
We had a "Downtown Vision Committee" appointed by the mayor before 2014 - with no one who actually lived downtown on the committee!  
Now we have an ImagineMesa 15-member board tasked with what's outlined on these presentation boards shown to the right . . . a respected Co-Chair who will probably have to concede pre-determined results from a cohort of contacts nominated by the mayor, approved last week by the Mesa City Council. No questions asked.
We do have a wealth of human resources here to tap into to expand our shared imagination for this city in different forums, whether older ideas from the hometown base or newer ideas from those now living here from different backgrounds and different places in the world.
Perhaps we need to 'get out of-the-box' that's been back-pedaling on the future of Mesa, wondering what's next all the time . . . it's an inter-generational thing for sure, crossing the boundaries of an expansive imagination into real-life where experience counts.
Mesa is a Mecca for those who are 'retired'??? Retired from what? - from a job? from active life? from getting involved in everyday politics?  and things that go boom-in-the-night?

With all the talk for years here about "Transformation" here in The New Urban Downtown Mesa - we even have a person with the title of Director of Downtown Transformation - one of whose recent projects is a façade removal program from what was back in 1967 called "Beautification & Renewal" . . . but why deal with 'facades' when there just false fronts put up over mercantile storefronts with little or no outstanding architectural interest for a by-gone era when cars ruled Main Street?  
What is perhaps missing is a vision for A GREEN FUTURE that includes a more expansive vision to deal with what urban spaces can be including: loveable, live-able and walk-able open spaces, a mixed-residential/commercial integration of housing with more density, neighborhoods that are unique, renewable energy sources, transportation alternatives and reducing air pollution that's man-made using combustion and consumption of fossil-fuels.  
JUL 5: In an attempt to tackle air pollution, China is planning on building what it says is the first forest city. China Guangxi LiuzhouForestCity Pollution Forest Trees Video Environment City UrbanCity Climate BBCShorts BBCNews @BBCNews
Go here >> https://me.me/i/chinas-forest-city-jul-5-in-an-attempt-to-tackle-16217446

Reporter Trevor Nace on 30 June 2017contributed this article link on Forbes, writing: 
China's New 'Forest City' Will Make You Re/THINK
Urban Cities
"When China decides to do something, the country can be incredibly agile and quick in implementation.
One example is the construction of a "Forest City" that pushes the boundaries of sustainable urban planning and development, a concept the EPA [and the City of Mesa] should certainly take a look at.
The Chinese government has broken ground on this Forest City with the ambitious plan to have it fully completed by 2020, an urban development that will be covered in plants and solar panels. . . This concept may not work exactly as built here for every city but there are certainly ideas and best practices that can be implemented around the world. This is especially true in highly populated polluted areas that are badly in need of more green space.
Trevor Nace is a geologist, Forbes contributor, and adventurer. 
Follow him on Twitter @trevornace


Here's the copy that goes with the video upload:
Published on May 30, 2014
Welcome to Mesa, Arizona. A gateway to one of the most dynamic regions in the
country. A gateway to discovery and adventure — A to Z.
Throughout our history and now a city on the move, Mesa is about limitless possibilities and opportunities for all visitors. A city that knows no bounds: from urban to rural, mountain peak to desert floor, arts and culture to sports and immeasurable outdoor recreation.
Mesa sits at the heart of a geographic wonderland. Close to the Tonto National Forest and the iconic Superstition Mountains, but far enough to experience the wide-open and true Arizona vacation. Each and every guest is given unparalleled access to one of the richest arrays of visitor offerings in the country. From Farm to Fork dining options, Western shopping, and local Native Artist shows to headlining live performances, Mesa may be off-Broadway but we're firmly on the country's arts and culture map.
Baseball fans may know Mesa as the home of the Chicago Cubs. Each February and March we welcome our beloved Cubbies to play another Spring Training in Mesa. They are such a great asset to our destination that in 2014, Mesa opened a brand new spring training facility; Cubs Park! Now more fans can come enjoy the sunshine and baseball.
From here, all things are possible. Timeless. Boundless. Fearless. Mesa is sure to show you why we are City Limitless.
The Chicago Cubs have called Mesa their winter home for over 50 years. This year was extra special because the team moved into a brand new Spring Training facility; Cubs Park. With seating for 15,000 fans, 60% of seats in the shade, an over-sized berm, fantastic food, tailgating - fans love Cubs Park! The stadium provides visitors a feel for Wrigley Field, but a unique experience only found at the Cubs Park in Mesa, Arizona.
Produced and directed by Los Angeles-based Face Head Media and edited by brand manager Mindset Inc., the three minute video connects Mesa's authentic travel experiences with the consumer seeking respite this winter in the Sonoran Desert. Visit Mesa called upon Weird is the New Cool, a popular band with a rapidly growing fan base, and commissioned lead singer and Mesa native Kyle Collins to pen an original anthem about 'a city so limitless.' The video and song lyrics reflect Collins' memories and favorite experiences such as water-skiing at Saguaro Lake, hiking the Superstition Mountains, and soaking up Mesa's regional restaurants and nightlife.


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