The South Central Extension of the Valley Metro light rail may help develop Phoenix's Warehouse District in the area just south of the railroad tracks.
Existing businesses in the Warehouse District are anticipating a positive change as the light rail may bring more people to their location. Other residents and business owners are worried that the extension won't make a positive change at all.
The six-mile, 11-station expansion will be one of seven projects that aims to increase workforce volume, build business connections and rejuvenate transportation in south Phoenix.
The South Central Extension map of its future location in Downtown Phoenix.Valley Metro
According to public records, about 4.5 million annual linked trips are expected of the South Central Light Rail Extension in 2035.
Officials in Phoenix are expecting to expand downtown Phoenix's artsy vibe by implementing plans of improving the formerly forgotten area south of west Jefferson Street.
Community workshops were held March 24 and April 4 to give citizens the ability to vote on design elements for the South-Central Extension. Artwork will be included at stations, substations and Park-and-Ride locations. The artists have been selected through a competitive process, and the designs they create will represent Phoenix's culture with bright colors and intricate designs inspired by the nature and culture of Arizona.
Artwork design idea for the Central & Lincoln stop. Valley Metro
As well as creative sights, the light rail will provide better access to south Phoenix while bringing consumers along with it.
"The South Central Extension Project will allow for people to have a convenient option to discover all that South Phoenix has to offer," says Corrine Holliday, the public information specialist for Valley Metro.
According to Valley Metro, the light rail extension will boost development by making transportation easier to future businesses, restaurants and venues.
However, many located in south Phoenix are opposed to the plans to extend the light rail into their neighborhood and others have just recently become aware of the idea.
About 3,000 south Phoenix residents, business owners and frequenters of the area have signed a petition that disapproves the decision to the South Central Light Rail Extension. The group uses the phrase 'Four Lanes or No Train' to voice their concerns about the development.
Celia Contreras explains that the biggest issue is the design of the future light rail.
When Valley Metro began construction of the 19th Avenue extension in 2013, similar complications surfaced then that are feared to reappear with the new plan.
Small business owner of Central Mart Shopping Center Siho Lee voiced his unease at a Phoenix City Council formal meeting on April 4, 2018.
Lee speaks of his business and explains the devastation of the light rail's 4-lane design.YouTube
"We would be devastated by a permanent reduction from four lanes to two lanes of traffic on Central Avenue," Lee said. "Small businesses like us absolutely rely on drive-by vehicle traffic for exposure to draw customers in. We can't afford to lose those customers."
Margot Bunten, owner of an Ace Hardware store on south Central Avenue, says she feels like the light rail will harm her business because the transit will not allow for the large delivery trucks to enter.
While Lee and Bunten do not want to extend the light rail for fear of a decline in their customers, not all business owners along Central Avenue feel this way.
John Levisee, one of the owners of Lane Award manufacturing, says he has been waiting 54 years for the light rail extension.
"The light rail is going to be awesome for our area and the city of Phoenix," Levisee said during the meeting. "Phoenix is experiencing growth, energy and a vibe like the city has never seen before."
Levisee thinks the light rail extension will help the city of Phoenix. YouTube
Many new tenants and businesses are expected to surface in the southern region of downtown Phoenix once construction is completed. Some of the first construction includes new offices and restaurants down South Central.
Director of Phoenix Communication and Economic Development Christine Mackay believes that the Warehouse District is in high demand today.
"The thing that makes this area so incredibly different is the historical warehouses," Mackay said. "They are some of the greatest cluster of buildings you'll find in the valley."
Renovations will be made to the original 36 warehouses that gave the location the title "Warehouse District."
The unique looking buildings were built in the late 1800s at a time when South Phoenix was predominantly a farming area. The warehouses still remain accessible, and they will be renovated for businesses to occupy while preserving the historical buildings.
The Warehouse District may look like a "gritty" and "eerie" place according to The New York Times, but the semi-dormant area will soon be a vibrant location full of new restaurants, tenants and offices in the next 10 years, says Mackay.
Mackay is confident that the region will be a hub for upcoming businesses because it is "incredibly different," and it is evident that change has already taken place.
Public Information Specialist for Valley Metro Corinne Holliday suggests that the South Central Light Rail Extension will allow for people to commute to work, school and places of entertainment in coming years.
"The Valley Metro connects people throughout the region and is growing with the Valley. The future is very exciting," says Holliday.
Updates can be found on https://www.valleymetro.org/project/south-central-...