Rapid growth, new development, online public input, transforming downtown and struggling education were the highlights of Mayor John Giles’ State of the City Breakfast on Jan. 31.
Hosted by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, 650 attended yesterday’s breakfast at the Mesa Convention Center to hear what the mayor had to say. And after a nice entrance leading the award-winning Mesa High School marching band, Giles laughed that “it’s all about the entrance.”
Since it was a chamber event, Giles started by saying that he’s been a chamber member since 1995. He was born and raised in Mesa and has practiced law here for the past 25 years.
“As a community, Mesa is doing very well but it’s my job to take us to the NextMesa,” he said, emphasizing that he can’t do that by himself, thanking city staff and members of the Mesa City Council.
“Mesa is a frugal, lean operation and is performing on a very high level,” Giles continued. “The state of Mesa is very strong. We’ve seen a year of explosive growth and Mesa is leading in housing permits and attracting a lot of businesses. Hotel bookings are up by more than half.”
Giles warned that with tremendous growth comes challenges and opportunities that he would like the city to continue to seek while keeping public safety the most important thing to residents.
He highlighted changes in leadership for both the Mesa Police Department and Mesa Fire and Medical Department. Explaining that the fire department added medical to its name after more than 60,000 calls in 2016 most of those were medical calls “so we decided to put that in the name.”
Of course, the presence of Apple was mentioned several times but Giles said the city is “creating an environment for attracting the world’s top companies” in all the various districts of the city. He added that the Falcon Tech Center will be coming this year to Falcon Field while Boeing and Apple continue to attract attention with their Mesa presence.
Giles said the Merz company is constructing the new building right along the U.S. 60 corridor at Stapley Drive while Riverview is prepping for Union Brick Yard, a collection of various new restaurants. “This is going to be a real point of pride for Mesa,” he said.
As many keep wondering about the fate of Fiesta Mall, the mayor said work is underway to turn the mall into an employment center. He highlighted new housing in the area and a new high-tech medical manufacturer, Dexcom, bringing 580 jobs to the northwest corner of Alma School Road and Southern Avenue.
Giles said downtown has “a lot of really great things coming to every square inch of Mesa.” Highlights include new housing developments at Country Club Drive and Main Street, as well as on the 25 acres at University and Mesa drives. He said there will be a transformation of the abandoned Auto Nation site that is scheduled for demolition this summer.
He highlighted the historic Alhambra Hotel is now dorms for Benedictine University students. He said downtown living is expanding and Mesa is growing as a college town with 41,000 students at Benedictine University, Mesa Community College and ASU Polytechnic.
“We’re lagging behind in higher education and I’m more committed than ever to bring ASU to downtown,” Giles said. “I feel like it will happen shortly. We’ve been in conversations since the election.”
But with that comes the realization that Mesa students entering kindergarten are showing up less prepared each year so Giles announced a grant from First Things First to develop a program that provides greater access to early childhood education through coordinating city services, home preschool kits and online training for kids.
Giles introduced a new community engagement initiative coming soon to his NextMesa, an online platform that will use images, video, maps and discussion to design what’s next for Mesa. It’s at pollev.com/nextmesa and asks residents three questions: 1. Where would you like to work? 2. Where would you like to hang out? and 3. Where would you like to eat?
“This is a city campaign to solicit digital feedback from the community on what your NextMesa will look like,” Giles explained. “In the next couple of months, we hope to implement those ideas in the planning of our community.”
The diversity of Mesa was highlighted and Giles said he’s proud of the city’s history of diversity and wants to make sure councilmembers and staff are helping everyone.
“We are mindful of people in our community suffering,” Giles said. “We’re very proud to be implementing a strategic plan to help our homeless community.”
The one-hour community address ended with the excitement of the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs gearing up for spring training in Mesa at Sloan Park. See tomorrow’s story that highlights the details to kick-off the season.
– Kelly Mixer is managing editor of MyNewsMesa.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.