BUCKEYE — Before the Buckeye City Council held a 12-minute regular meeting Tuesday, a 1-hour, 40-minute workshop was devoted to a downtown long-range plan.
Tuesday afternoon, council attended and participated in a workshop that included a presentation by planner Taylor Plummer and others from the Olsson Studio.
The Buckeye Downtown Specific Area Plan incorporates elements and restrictions from Buckeye’s amended general plan. However, it also takes into account the age of downtown and the fact it is mostly built-out, with less vacant desert than most other development areas of the city will have.
After Plummer’s presentation, the first two elected officials to speak offered up a small surprise. While city planning mentions of other communities often focus on negative examples, hoping to keep a city’s look unique, council member Tony Youngker said he foresees Buckeye doing what the Town of Gilbert has done in the past couple of decades.
“City Hall has a shelf life built into it,” Youngker said. “I can’t see it being here and saving the same purpose in 20 years.
"We’re going to need both more office space and more space downtown. So, similar to what Gilbert has done in terms of moving city hall out of a historic district, I see our city hall eventually moving north and out of downtown.”
Youngker also said downtown’s current pedestrian lighting is one of the biggest impediments to downtown Buckeye having a stronger, more vibrant night life.
“It’s the public infrastructure in place that entices businesses to come down here to downtown,” he said.
Gilbert has created a civic center with town offices, parks and recreation and a courthouse about two miles south of its Heritage District, focused on food, drink and entertainment. The City of Cottonwood is slowly beginning a similar process.
Mayor Eric Orsborn echoed that sentiment, saying the city needs to look at the needs of downtown in order to make it a destination. Parking for both city events and everyday city office business are ongoing concerns as well.
“Eventually, hopefully, we can have an experience that’s like Gilbert’s,” Orsborn said.
Vice Mayor Craig Huestis saw a similar presentation from Olsson at a recent Buckeye Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. He said he’s concerned about how to pay for a major change to happen with City Hall, wondering aloud if a corporation could someday take over the building.
Council member Michelle Hess said she’s excited to see what sort of strategies Olsson and city staff present to getting downtown to be a destination.
Council member Jeannette Guy said as a longtime resident of the area, she pointed out that the initial plan for the city hall building was for an outdoor restaurant. She said when a viable, quality business opens, Buckeye residents from around the city tend to visit and give it a try.
Orsborn encouraged all council members to visit Gilbert’s Heritage District. He also pointed out the unique challenge of Buckeye’s downtown being somewhat isolated from other residential parts of the city, whereas many areas of the city are tied to other residential areas, shopping centers or schools or parks that serve as centers of each community.