Tempe Balances Community with Sustain. Growth

Credit: Chamber Business News

By Nick Serpa for Chamber Business News

As more and more companies continue to expand their operations in Tempe  – such as State Farm, which recently announced its intention to hire an additional 1,100 employees at its offices near Tempe Town Lake – City of Tempe officials have reason to believe that Tempe’s growth spurt isn’t about to end anytime soon.

According to Ambika Adhikari, a Principal Planner at the City of Tempe’s Community Development Department, the city’s annual population growth averages between 1.5 and 2 percent, or roughly 3,000 new residents per year. If that trend continues, with a compounded growth, Adhikari says the city could have over 70,000 new residents by 2040.

That sort of growth could lead to some 14,000 new dwelling units, millions of square feet of new office and retail development, and an estimated 16,000 new jobs.

To help prepare for the anticipated growth, Adhikari says it’s important that the city finds a way to balance the priorities and interests of its business and residential communities. That’s a key focus of what Tempe calls its Urban Core Master Plan.

Tempe’s Urban Core Master Plan consists of three separate but connected components – the Urban Core Master Plan itself, an Updated Transportation Overlay District (TOD) and an Affordable Housing Strategy.

The first component — the Urban Core Master Plan itself — if adopted, will set forth locations and design guidelines for developers building in Tempe via a policy-level document.

“The Urban Core Master Plan could also help guide land developers to where they should propose constructing new buildings of varying heights and densities,” Adhikari said. For example, the guidelines might steer developers away from constructing high-rise properties in established neighborhoods of single-family homes.

The second major component of the Urban Core Master Plan is an updated and expanded Transportation Overlay District (TOD). The goal of the TOD is to establish development standards and guidelines for properties located within close proximity to transit stops and corridors.

Because Tempe is currently in the process of constructing a new streetcar line – which is mostly funded by federal grants, Adhikari said – Tempe is required to update the TOD to incorporate Tempe’s upcoming streetcar route and stop areas.

The third component of the Urban Core Master Plan is Tempe’s new Affordable Housing Strategy, which was adopted by Tempe City Council on July 31st. The goal of the Affordable Housing Strategy, Adhikari said, was to create a “policy-level document identifying and recommending certain plans of action to improve the availability of affordable housing in Tempe.”

The Affordable Housing Strategy includes recommendations designed to help the city and developers do things like maintain the affordability of existing units and create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. And while Adhikari said Tempe can’t legally require developers to build affordable housing, the city does plan on offering incentives such as development bonuses to encourage them to do so.

Read more at Chamber Business News.

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