Ottawa university students join Surprise City Center development discussion; public outreach ongoing

Carefree Partners Vice President Scott Phillips works with Ottawa University students, from left, Viri Serrano, Sara Harding and Vanessa Rodarte at an Oct. 31 public outreach meeting to discuss ideas for developing the City Center. [Matt Roy/Independent Newsmedia]

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By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia

City officials and a local business leader last week continued a public process to advance plans for the city’s developing downtown.

Scott Phillips, vice president at Carefree Partners and board president at the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce, joined Surprise planners Bart Wingard and Josh Mike for an Oct. 31 design charrette with Ottawa University students hosted at Café @ Surprise, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza.

The public outreach meeting was a continuation of efforts started late last month, with the aim of drawing the public and key stakeholders into a creative process to focus a vision for more than 500 acres of undeveloped land near City Hall (“Chamber launches City Center public outreach; Developers, business leaders seek input on development plans,” Surprise Today, Oct. 3, 2018).

Mr. Phillips encouraged the group of more than two-dozen college students to bring their unique perspectives into the discussion.

“Today I want to get real-time feedback from you all about design and uses and open spaces, parks – the things you want to see in a downtown,” Mr. Phillips said “There’s a questionnaire that asks about values, because a lot of downtown place-making is about values. What do you value in life? What do you value in your places? What do you value in residential, commercial and open spaces?”

The students, working in groups of four to six, unfurled over-sized prints of site plans for the nearly square mile of land, scribbling notes and sketching concepts with colored markers before sharing their ideas around the room.

The participants suggested a varied array of land uses, including: retail strip malls; night clubs and live music venues; a recreation center; a grocery store; a “university drive” of shops, eateries and bars like Mill Avenue in Tempe; arts and cultural amenities; picturesque landscaping, such as palm tree-lined streets; water features, such as reflecting pools and fountains; monumental place-making signs at key entrance points; multi-story, high density apartments and residential developments; parks, greenbelts and splash pads for families; and a Six Flags-style amusement park.

The college students participated in the outreach event as part of their Personal Growth Day Workshops and other activities scheduled on Wednesdays at the campus and in the community.

Wednesdays are aside for students to pursue opportunities for community engagement and personal development, according to David M. Barnes, Ed.D, executive director of advancement and church relations for Ottawa University Arizona.

“The Community Development Personal Growth Day Workshop is designed to provide OUAZ students with information and skills enabling them to experience and ultimately lead planning processes critical for organizational growth and development, while honing effectiveness in group projects,” Mr. Barnes stated. “The Oct. 31 workshop coincided with the city of Surprise downtown planning process, so students were learning and participating in a current process that will influence future development.”

Mr. Barnes said the Personal Growth Day concept is unique to Ottawa University Arizona and helps students in Surprise develop life and workforce skills to help them succeed at schools and in the real world after graduation.

“The workshops challenge and energize students with material from presenters who have lived what they are teaching. The format ensures students gain knowledge and skills to be put to use immediately, while preparing for lives of significance post-graduation,” Mr. Barnes stated.

Mr. Phillips praised the students for their engagement at the event said he’d like to conduct as many as a dozen more public outreach meetings. He said in the meantime, he encourages area residents to share their ideas for the downtown with him directly at

Surprise spokeswoman Diane Arthur said city officials are working to arrange future meetings, which they will announce once dates are set.

“The city is coordinating on a public outreach calendar for a series of City Center master plan meetings in various parts of Surprise. The calendar and venue locations are still being confirmed,” Ms. Arthur stated. “When the public engagement dates are set, our office will release the information via a news release, and post to the city website and social platforms.”

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