Mesa’s abandoned Escobedo area on brink of being razed, rebuilt - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa’s abandoned Escobedo area on brink of being razed, rebuilt

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Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012 7:27 am

The crumbling Escobedo Neighborhood in Mesa generated 780 police calls last year — a number that’s even more stunning when one considers the area hasn’t been home to a single resident since 2007.

Vandals and graffiti have become even more common in the central Mesa neighborhood in just the past few months, but a revitalization effort is within weeks of finally paving the way to bring new life to the area.

Mesa is working on a $23 million plan to bulldoze most of the city-owned neighborhood of 101 apartments and revive the area with housing for low-income and moderate-income families. The plan includes space for social service organizations and having a private developer manage the property.

Mesa’s City Council will likely approve a deal July 9 to redevelop the property in stages. The city would remain involved for at least 30 years with restrictions that Escobedo is reserved for low-income families.

Wisconsin-based Gorman & Company Inc. would lead the effort, starting with a 70-unit phase that would begin in November. Gorman would raze part of the Escobedo area, which is on the north side of University Road, taking several blocks between Center Street and Mesa Drive. The developer would also build a social services center on a sliver of land south of University.

Gorman will save a portion of the barracks-style Escobedo, which was built in World War II as housing for British pilots training at Falcon Field. The buildings later became a largely Hispanic neighborhood until their age forced Mesa to close the area because of excessive maintenance costs. Four units will remain and serve as a gathering place or base for social services.

The adjacent Washington Park Neighborhood helped with the Escobedo redevelopment plans, said Cynthia Dunham, director of the West Mesa Community Development Corporation. Dozens of residents have been active for at least two years to strengthen the area and save its history.

The Gorman development will bring more social services to the community, both for new and existing residents, Dunham said.

“I don’t know many neighborhoods where the human infrastructure will be built along with the physical infrastructure,” she said.

The Escobedo redevelopment will be partially subsidized because the market isn’t ready in this area for market-rate housing, city officials said. Gorman will receive about $15 million in tax credits over 10 years from the Arizona Department of Housing. But Mesa estimated 99.9 percent of the funding will come from private investors, who will recoup their money through future rent collected there.

Gorman plans to develop the remainder of the Escobedo land in 2013 and 2014. Gorman will only tear down part of the property this fall. An agreement with Mesa requires it to fence the remaining area and maintaining the property until it starts the next phase.

Gorman is working with Save the Family, which will provide social services at Escobedo and will have the first option to buy the new housing in 15 years. If Save the Family declines, Gorman will eventually have to buy the land within 30 years to relieve Mesa of the property.

Gorman will lease the land for up to 30 years at $6,000 a year, with a 3 percent annual increase. When Mesa sells the land, it will charge either Save the Family or Gorman for the value of the land and not for the housing.

Mesa Councilwoman Dina Higgins raised questions about whether Mesa should adjust rent if Gorman makes a high profit on the transaction. But Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said the city has been working on plans for a fixed-rate lease as part of the effort to attract redevelopment.

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