Efforts by city officials in Mesa, Arizona to upgrade an aging and declining public park have been lauded by the prestigious Washington-based American Planning Association.
The 18-acre Pioneer Park, located at 526 E. Main Street in downtown Mesa, had fallen on hard times more than a decade ago, with certain facilities in the park neglected, graffiti decorating any number of fences and structures, and a once-popular train engine neglected and abandoned.
Using funding from a local bond, city officials were able to bring the park back to life, hiring in the process the Phoenix-based architectural firm of Dig Studio to survey area residents, asking how they envisioned a revived Pioneer Park.
The end result was a restored train and the construction of a series of interactive playgrounds and splash pads, as well as the creation of a plaza space designed for community events and a farmer’s market.
Funding for the park upgrade came from a $44 million bond Mesa voters passed in 2015.
In putting the Pioneer Park on its most recent Great Places in America list, the APA said it is “once again Mesa’s signature public space.”
The list this year includes neighborhoods, public spaces, and streets in nine states, all lauded for projects that the APA says, “makes communities stronger and brings people together through good planning.”
Since the Great Places in America list was first introduced in 2007, the APA has saluted more than 300 projects in all fifty states, as well as the District of Columbia.
Previous Great Places in America honorees include the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza in Prescott, Arizona; the Garden of the Gods Park in Denver; and the Santa Fe Railyard redevelopment in Santa Fe.
By Garry Boulard
Depending upon how voters respond, a school district in El Paso could soon be seeing the construction of three new schools.
Plans have long been in the works for the building of three new schools in the Ysleta Independent School District.
A proposed $425 million bond will fund the construction of new elementary schools in both the city’s Riverdale and Scotsdale neighborhoods.
A third project will see the construction of a new middle school in the Hanks neighborhood.
The proposed new schools were recommended by members of a Facilities Advisory Committee, a body made up of educators, parents, business leaders and others, trying to determine the district’s most important facility needs.
Also included in the big bond will be the renovation of the Dolphin Terrace Elementary School at 9790 Pickerel Drive and the modernization of the Bel Air High School at 731 N. Yarbrough Drive.
YISD officials say the bond will also be used to implement a series of refrigerated air conversions projects in schools throughout the district.
The third largest public school district in metro El Paso, YISD currently has sixty pre-K, elementary, middle, and high school facilities and an enrollment of more than 40,000 students.
The new construction projects, ironically, are the result of the district having a smaller enrollment than in years past. YISD has had to close down and consolidate some facilities as a result.
Those consolidation efforts have led to the need for new facilities to house students coming together from various other schools.
In explaining the need for the new facilities, YISD Superintendent Xavier De La Torre remarked last summer to the El Paso Times: “We are trying to really right-size the district.”
By Garry Boulard
The growing Buckeye Elementary School District, located roughly 36 miles to the southwest of Phoenix, wants to build a new elementary school and name it in honor of the late Arizona Senator John McCain.
The facility will be one of two new schools that the district hopes to build if voters in November approve a $54 million bond for school facility construction and facility upgrade projects.
The two new schools are expected to cost around $39 million to build.
As proposed, the bond will also fund up to $8.5 million for a series of renovations and upgrades to the district’s existing seven schools.
Those upgrades will include everything from enhancing building security and safety access points, to new science and technology labs, as well as fine arts performance spaces.
Additional work will see the creation of collaborative workspaces for students in pre-engineering and design classes, among other disciplines.
The bond projects are the result of an ongoing citizens committee review process that prioritized the facility and infrastructure needs of the district.
The Buckeye Elementary School District currently has an enrollment of more than 5,500 students, up from just over 1,100 in the 1990s.
By Garry Boulard
Current trade negotiations between the U.S. and China appear destined to fail, notes a new report jointly issued by the Cathay Bank and the University of California at Los Angeles.
The report, The Trade War Deepens, contends that both sides have taken on intractable positions in the ongoing dispute, with the U.S. upping the ante, owing to its contention that China has taken advantage of trade laws over the last several decades.
China, meanwhile, says the report, is “framing the trade war as an example of U.S. imperialism.”
“Economic analysis of past trade disputes and tariff barriers suggests that the U.S. will be purchasing more, higher-priced goods from other countries and that the U.S. supply chains will diversify, if not completely change,” the authors of the report, economists William Yu and Jerry Nickelsburg, contend.
They continue: “China will continue, indeed intensify, its pivot toward South and Southeast Asia for trade in goods and toward European companies for foreign investment.”
Although there has been some give-and-take in the talks, especially centered on negotiators settling for a partial deal, reports indicate that both sides have proven increasingly reluctant to address the thorny issues of state subsidies and forced technology transfers.
As it now stands, tariffs on $250 billion in China imports are scheduled to go from 25 percent to 30 percent on October 15. An additional 15 percent levy on Chinese imports will kick in on December 15.
Building materials exported from China to the U.S. include softwood lumber, fiberglass doors, acoustical ceilings, commercial and residential flooring, and both stainless steel kitchen sinks and plywood kitchen cabinets.
By Garry Boulard
Work could begin next year on a new apartment project in the growing city of Lone Tree, some 20 miles to the southeast of downtown Denver.
A booming bedroom community, Lone Tree has seen its population jump from around 4,800 people in the year 2000 to more than 14,600 today and is regarded as the fastest growing suburb in the Denver area.
The new project will belong to the New York-based Coventry Development Corporation, a land-use developer specializing in mixed-used urban communities.
Coventry is the developer of RidgeGate, a 3,500-acre mixed-use master planned community, also in Lone Tree, that has been slowly built out over the last two decades and includes single- family homes, townhomes and upscale apartments.
The company announced earlier this year that it wanted to develop the last parcel of land still available at RidgeGate, placing a particular emphasis on building smaller apartment units at an affordable price.
The new complex will house 240 apartments, as well as two levels of parking.
As envisioned, the complex, to go up at the intersection of Sky Ridge Avenue and Park Meadows Boulevard, will include LED lighting, energy efficient units with balconies, and tree-lined landscaping.
According to city documents, the new complex will also house retail space and a leasing office.
The project has won the approval of the Lone Tree City Council and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2021.
By Garry Boulard
A three-story structure on the central east side of the main Las Cruces campus of New Mexico State University is in line for a signification renovation.
The Thomas and Brown Hall, which was built in 1971, may soon house all of the College of Engineering’s degree programs.
The plan is part of an effort to better utilize space, as laid out earlier this summer in a document called the Space Consolidation Study NMSU College of Engineering.
That consolidation effort will also free space in other campus buildings currently housing different engineering programs.
Now, NMSU has issued a Request for Proposals for a qualified architectural engineering firm, as well as a planning service firm, for the renovation project.
The RFP is asking for, among other things, phased cost estimates for the renovation project, with the idea that a master plan can be developed by the spring of 2020.
The deadline for the RFP is November 4.
The Thomas and Brown Hall is named in honor of two NMSU engineering professors: Melvin Thomas and Harold Brown.
By Garry Boulard
Behind the headlines regarding border tensions between the U.S. and Mexico, quiet lobbying for a new trade pact between the two counties and Canada is continuing in Congress.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, otherwise known as USMCA, will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was originally approved by Congress in 1994.
In an effort to spur an early Congressional vote on the pact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to the U.S. House urging action.
“To keep our economy growing, it is imperative that our nation’s elected leaders take steps to restore certainty and boost business confidence,” said Suzanne Clark, the president of the U.C. Chamber.
Clark added, “One critical step is the prompt approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Mexico and Canada are our nation’s largest trading partners, with two-way trade supporting approximately 12 million American jobs.”
As negotiated, the trade pact will cover a wide variety of imports and exports from and to the three countries, including construction equipment and supplies.
According to statistics, current trade ties between Arizona, and both Canada and Mexico, were equal to $9.8 billion last year; for Colorado the figure was $2.7 billion, and in New Mexico it stood at more than $1.5 billion.
Exports from Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico to the two countries include computer and electronic products, as well as plastics and rubber products.
The proposed agreement has won the support of a wide variety of business and trade groups, while the powerful American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, which has complained about the agreement’s lack of labor laws, has come out in opposition.
The agreement must win the approval of both houses of Congress with a simple majority vote.
By Garry Boulard
A multifamily project developer based in Scottsdale has purchased 20 acres in north Phoenix for the development of new apartment space.
Treger Financial purchased the land for $14.2 million from Arizona State University. The site, which once belonged to Arizona Christian University, currently has fourteen existing structures.
The transaction was reported by the website Vizzda.com, which tracks commercial sales.
Acquired late last year by Arizona State University from American Christian University, the site is located at the intersection of Cactus Road and N. 25th Place in a neighborhood of mostly one- and two-story houses and apartment complexes.
Besides the existing structures on the site, there is also a baseball field and parking lot.
Arizona State University officials have said that the $14.2 million realized from the sale of the site on Cactus Road will be used for the continued development of its Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Although new apartment units are being built throughout the Phoenix metro area, a new report published by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, which has offices in Phoenix, indicates that the city currently has a lack of apartment space, with rental prices expected increase between now and 2022.
By Garry Boulard
In the last five years, the historic New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe has seen an improved lobby layout, repair of the building’s foundation, and the installation of energy efficient components.
Now museum officials, in an exhaustive effort to maintain and protect all aspects of a structure that was opened in the fall of 1917, want to conduct a professional survey of all of the building’s exterior woodwork, with a long-term goal of preserving it.
Housing a collection of more than 20,000 paintings, prints, photographs and other items, the building at 107 West Palace Avenue is regarded by some architectural historians as being equally important for its exterior as what it holds inside.
Designed by architect Isaac Rapp, the Pueblo Revival-style structure is the oldest art museum in the state, with design elements that are a combination of both Native American and Spanish Colonial styles.
The first phase of the woodwork survey is expected to include a work plan designed to ensure the long-term protection of the structure’s exterior.
If funding can be secured, the second phase will see the implementation of that work plan to be done in conjunction with the museum’s staff, as well as the state’s Historic Preservation Division.
By Garry Boulard
Construction companies may not see employees in their 60s and 70s working at high elevations, but the jobs of project engineers, superintendents, estimators, and inspectors may still be populated with Baby Boomers.
According to a new report issued by the Congressional Budget Office, there are more people in their senior years making up an active part of the nation’s workforce than ever before.
Roughly 40 percent of people born between 1939 and 1966 were holding down full-time jobs last year, a percentage that has remained roughly constant since the depth of the Great Recession in 2010.
The report, Employment of People Ages 55 to 79, also revealed that older people with more education tend to continue working longer than those with less education, and that more workers of both genders had college degrees in 2018 than in 1990.
At the same time, such workers, says the report, were not as numerous in blue collar positions, because those jobs “tend to have greater physical demands than other jobs and workers in those jobs tend to retire earlier.”
People are also working well into their 70s because they’re feeling better: “From the mid-1990s to 2018 the health of people ages 55 to 79 improved substantially, reflecting gains in self-reported measures and longevity,” says the report.
“Improvements in health affect employment because healthier people are physically able to work longer and because life expectancy might induce people to spend more years working in order to finance retirement.”
The good news behind the trend is that “more employment is associated with higher gross domestic product and higher tax revenues, including more payroll taxes that fund the Social Security trust funds.”
But, warns the Congressional Budget Office document, “the increase in employment may push up spending on Social Security benefits over the long term if more people delay claiming benefits past the age at which they are entitled to begin claiming them.”
By Garry Boulard
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