Gilbert is joining Mesa and Chandler in planning free events to attract more pedestrians downtown. The first event, scheduled for Saturday, is a car show that will spotlight more than 50 classic cars, motorcycles, Jeeps and off-road monster trucks.
And the town plans to host an art walk as its second free event in the fall.
Gilbert’s Redevelopment Commission has been planning for free downtown events for about a year, but its first event falls just after new ideas were launched in downtown Chandler and Mesa.
Chandler recently began the monthly “1st Wednesday Art-Walk” in its historic downtown district, where residents can walk and enjoy artwork and crafts created by local artists.
And on Friday, 16 downtown Mesa merchants launched the first “A Night Out in Mesa,” by keeping their doors open past 5 p.m. The event drew about 100 people downtown.
“Eventually, over time, we would hope people would become aware of the district,” said Gilbert redevelopment commissioner Gene Valentine. “That there are places to eat, there’s theater, things to do.”
The town’s historic water tower, featuring a new coat of white paint, will be among other nearby attractions Gilbert wants to show off to its residents during the car show — to entice people to return for lunch, dinner or a stroll.
The idea is to introduce residents to what the downtown has, and will, have to offer: recently opened restaurants including Oregano’s Pizza Bistro and the GrainBelt GrillHouse, and planned parks that will include water fountains kids can play in.
Also planned in coming years is a major mixed-use facility on property adjacent to the parking lot, which will include offices, restaurants and a tentatively proposed adult and child game center.
Spokesman Greg Svelund said Saturday’s event is free for the town, too, since the vehicles are all donated.
The town will help the commission plan future events, Svelund said. In past meetings, town officials and business owners have suggested a variety of events including car shows, art walks, farmer’s market and live music at coming parks.
Eventually, if the idea catches on among downtown business owners, other events, including the art walk and the farmer’s market, could become more regularly scheduled, Svelund said.
“I would like to see something organically happen itself out of downtown, without any town involvement,” Svelund said. “There’s a lot of interested businesses down there. When the two park projects are done, that’s pretty much going to be the culmination of quite a bit of change downtown.”
Check it out
WHAT: Gilbert’s free downtown car show
WHEN: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday
WHERE: Lot west of Gilbert Road and Vaughn Avenue in Gilbert’s downtown Heritage District, between Guadalupe and Elliot roads.