Work to restore the historic Hayden Flour Mill should start in as little as 10 days, bringing life to an iconic building that’s sat idle since 1997.
Mayor Hugh Hallman announced the project’s start date Thursday in the annual state of the city address, which will be the last Hallman will deliver as he wraps up two terms in office.
Hallman also revealed a major boost to fundraising efforts, with a $200,000 donation toward the $605,000 project. The money is from Wally Zaremba, president of the Zaremba Group, which is completing the West 6th apartment towers in downtown.
The Rio Salado Foundation has raised 2/3 of the project’s cost but will use loan money to start work as the final fundraising wraps up, Hallman said. The city is finalizing permits but is otherwise ready.
“The project should begin within days,” he said.
The effort involves only minor work to the concrete structure that was built in 1918. The mill will get a fresh coat of white paint and some of the more interesting items from inside will be pushed toward windows so the public can see what used to go on there.
Outside, a grassy area north of the mill will provide a gathering place or venue for small concerts or movie screenings. The work will take several months.
Tempe launched the mini-restoration on the fenced-off mill after more than a decade of private redevelopment plans floundered. Tempe plans to eventually sell the city-owned site with the idea a private developer will fully restore the mill while adding new buildings around it.
Hallman used his outgoing address to promote a streetcar on Mill Avenue, from Southern Avenue to Rio Salado Parkway. Though the city hasn’t secured federal funding to partially pay for the streetcar, Hallman urged the city to keep planning “with vigor” for a transit system that he argued will boost the downtown.
The initial segment is critical to creating a second streetcar line along Rio Salado that would run east to the new Chicago Cubs training complex in west Mesa, he said. That would boost development potential along an underused area of Tempe where Arizona State University has plans for more than 300 acres of private development.
“This district is the largest proposed residential/commercial/retail project in the world,” Hallman said. “That’s pretty ambitious.”
He cautioned the project has to be approached carefully so it doesn’t compete with downtown and destroy it, or that it would be built too quickly.
Hallman highlighted several other items:
• After a big turnover of shops on Mill Avenue, the downtown retail vacancy rate has fallen to 8 percent. That’s one of the lowest rates in the Valley, and Mill has the largest restaurant cluster of any place in the Valley.
• The city is planning a storefront improvement assistance effort this year to help struggling strip malls come back to life. About $100,000 will be available this year for a test project.
• The abandoned Centerpoint Condominiums came back to life as West 6th. It’s the most visible new apartment project in Tempe and represents an apartment boom of 2,500 units that is under construction or expected to be built soon.
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