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Fiesta District Reinvented
Landscape Architecture by J2 Engineering & Environmental Design, Phoenix

The new Fiesta District in Mesa, Arizona, 20 miles east of downtown Phoenix, is a two-square-mile area defined by the Tempe Canal on the west, Extension Road on the east, U.S. 60 to the south and Southern Avenue (pictured) on the north. This view is looking west within 'Paseo Room 5,' one of the 5 Paseo pocket parks in the Fiesta District. Featured here is a PVC-coated polyester membrane shade structure; a 40' long water feature inspired by dams along the nearby Salt River, constructed of rough board-formed concrete, a texture that provides drag for the water, creating a draping effect; and 8' tall stainless steel accent columns (Johnson Screens) illuminated by a synchronized, programmable Lumascape LED wireless control system.

The design team worked with the city of Mesa and local utility provider Salt River Project on the 30-foot tall graphic wraps (3M 'Controltac') installed on the 69kV power poles. The Fiesta themed graphics and fonts have blue and green base colors. The graphic wraps have a UV inhibitor coating

The formerly narrow 5' wide sidewalk is now a 12' wide shared-use (pedestrians and bikes) path with room for benches, lighted seatwalls, low water-use landscape and uplit street trees. The custom pedestrian and streetlight poles have custom banners and LED fixtures. The benches and litter receptacles are from Patterson Williams.

The corner entry monuments reflect the District logo and branding. A combination of pan-channel and translucent fiberglass identity lettering achieved the desired lighting and branding effect at the 'Fiesta' corner monuments. The lettering and recycled glass mulch within the powdercoated steel columns are internally illuminated by LEDs.

The initial phases of the Fiesta District revitalization project focused on the Southern Avenue corridor, which is the main spine through the district. The project improvements set the stage for quality mixed-use, entertainment, and residential private infill redevelopment throughout a revitalized two square mile area and beyond.

The updated Fiesta District logo and branding scheme is of colorful confetti falling. The pavement design at key pedestrian nodes reflects that motif with decorative paving 'confetti' squares integrated throughout the linear plank pavers. The color treatment on the concrete is a decorative epoxy 'Colorflake' system produced by Decocoat Polymer Systems and installed by Creative Paving Solutions. The 'confetti' squares are varied shades of green, red, blue, yellow, purple, and orange.

The intersection crosswalks are coated with a decorative colored, stamped asphalt paving treatment that is IR reflective, reducing the asphalt surface temperatures as much as 22?F. This epoxy acrylate coating also gives longer life to the asphalt.

The 'inverted conic' shade structures' PVC-coated polyester membrane offers a dynamic presence day and night. The shade membrane, a Type II TX-30 fabric manufactured by Serge Ferrari is translucent enough to outline the structural framework, while keeping the desert's torrid sun off you; at night, LED floodlighting enlivens the fabric in stunning color displays.

LEDs illuminate the entry monuments, bus shelters, median monuments, shade structures, roadway and water feature. LEDs are incorporated into the framework of the bus shelters to highlight the red, blue and yellow recycled, tumbled glass. Custom street name signs on the traffic signals also reflect the district theme.

The landscape architects at J2 Engineering & Environmental Design collaborated with city of Mesa and the civil engineers at Kreuzer Consulting Group to help revitalize a 1.33-mile long corridor in the heart of Mesa, Arizona's Fiesta District. The intent was to develop a more balanced multi-modal/pedestrian-friendly environment, encourage private development for long-term economic sustainability, incorporate green infrastructure and aesthetically enhance the district.

Mesa, Arizona (pop. 439,000) is located approximately 20 miles east of downtown Phoenix. Mesa has experienced rapid growth from a rural community with a history in citrus and agriculture to a vibrant suburb that is now the third largest city in Arizona. One of the key commercial zones of development during this growth occurred along the Southern Avenue corridor, today the main spine of the Fiesta District. The catalysts for development in the late 1970s and early 1980s were the Fiesta Mall, Desert Samaritan Hospital (now Banner Desert Medical Center), the growth of Mesa Community College, and the restaurants and theaters. From 1979 through the early 1990s, the area was a hub of shopping, dining and entertainment. But in the 1990s and early 2000s, the once-thriving commercial center began to experience decline. As has occurred in many areas throughout the U.S., shopping malls and entertainment areas began developing elsewhere, taking revenue and activity away from the Southern Avenue corridor. Vacancies began to increase and many of the big-box stores, shops, and restaurants in the area - including the movie theater - began to close or move.

However, in the late 2000s, Mesa began an effort to revitalize the area. The Southern Avenue corridor was rebranded as the "Fiesta District," and in 2009, the Fiesta District Handbook was adopted by the Mesa City Council. The handbook set the vision to create a "uniquely identifiable area for Mesa that is an economically-vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, and active urban destination." In addition to the recommendations of creating a sense of place and enhancing transportation and pedestrian linkages, a vibrant branding theme and logo were revealed in the handbook. In 2010, the design team of Kreuzer Consulting Group and J2 Engineering & Environmental Design was selected to produce an implementation plan for the area and a final design for the first three public infrastructure improvements in the district.

Project Approach
In 2010, the design team began to develop a plan to achieve the vision set forth by the city. The plan proposed streetscape enhancements and improved landscaping on all public streets within the district; district identifiers or branding elements through the use of unifying streetscape furnishings and fixtures; enhanced intersection treatments and entry monuments to develop a sense that was district distinct and attractive; and transformation of Southern Avenue from its big box retail focus to a more neighborhood-oriented, mixed-use town center environment.

The city and design team defined three projects that would serve as the catalyst for the district's revitalization. The projects were the Southern Avenue Improvements Phases 1 & 2, and a series of five pocket parks known as the "Fiesta Paseo project." The two Southern Avenue projects were funded by city transportation bond and sales tax funds; the Fiesta Paseo project was funded primarily by a federal CMAQ (congestion mitigation and air quality improvement) grant.

Streetscape Design Solutions One of the primary assets of the Fiesta District was the 100-foot wide right-of-way along the Southern Avenue corridor. Although much of this land was being used for vehicular traffic (six travel lanes plus a middle turn lane), the traffic study completed by the team indicated the historic high volumes of traffic were no longer occurring along the Southern Avenue corridor as they were back in the 1980s. This was a clear opportunity to properly size the streetscape. A "road diet" was necessary for Southern Avenue to balance vehicular, pedestrian, bicycle and mass transit traffic, which would create a safer multi-modal, pedestrian-scale environment.

For Phases 1 and 2 of the Southern Avenue streetscape improvements, a 1.33 mile length, one vehicular travel lane was dropped in each direction; the overall roadway cross section was reduced from 7 lanes to 4 travel lanes, and a raised landscape median with turn pockets was added. The project included 12-foot wide pedestrian sidewalks that serve as a shared-use path; approximately 13,000 lineal feet of stormwater harvesting swales; pedestrian site furnishings; custom lighting; themed bus shelters; iconic entry monuments; utility improvements; graphic wraps on power poles; and a dense street tree system.

The hardscape improvements include themed seatwalls with lighting; "Fiesta Confetti" colored and textured concrete pavement coatings to reflect the brand imagery; and linear plank unit pavers to enhance pedestrian node areas. The project includes significant sustainable design elements: temperature-reducing crosswalk pavement coatings; LED pedestrian, roadway and monument lighting; solar-powered bus shelters; recycled colored glass mulch in the bus stops and monuments; amended soil treatments for enhanced street tree health; and water harvesting swales. The first phase of the revitalization program, Southern Avenue Phase 1, opened to the public in December, 2014. Phase 2 of Southern Avenue is currently under construction, and will be completed in late summer 2016.

Pocket Parks
The exciting 5-site pocket park element that opened in the fall of 2015, known as the "Fiesta Paseo project," was developed primarily through the use of a CMAQ federal grant. The pocket parks incorporate iconic architectural shade structures; custom programmable accent lighting features; a water feature; and additional pedestrian and bicycle amenities. The intent of the pocket parks is to provide pedestrian-scale amenities and shade along the Southern Avenue corridor to encourage walking, biking and use of mass transit. The custom LEDs in the shade structures, water feature and 8-foot tall stainless steel light columns are programmed to reflect the "Fiesta" colors that are part of the district's updated branding.

The water feature designed for the largest of the five park nodes was inspired by the local dams along the nearby Salt River, which provide much of the water to the metro area. Salt River Project (SRP), the power and water utility, was integral to the design because of the large 69kV overhead power lines adjacent to the water feature zone. The design team worked closely with the city and SRP on the water feature and shade structure design, as the large SRP trucks and equipment needed to go under the shade structure to access the overhead power lines. This spirit of cooperation was also reflected in the custom 30-foot tall Fiesta-themed "aesthetic wraps" installed on the SRP 69kV power poles along the 1.33 mile project corridor.

Recent District Success
The Fiesta District used to be a big-box-focused retail area. Since the improvements, it has emerged as a mix of office, residential and education development. A site adjacent to one of the new pocket parks, a vacant set of buildings that was a former Circuit City/Bed Bath & Beyond shopping center, has been successfully adapted to Class A office space.

An empty field at the east end of the district is now being developed into luxury apartments, the district's first new housing development in over 20 years. And Mesa Community College, a major presence in the district, is reinvesting into its campus with several significant projects. There are new businesses, restaurants and a coffee shop in the area since the opening of the initial streetscape redevelopment project.

The Fiesta District improvements have revitalized the corridor, created a more balanced multi-modal/pedestrian-friendly environment, and have encouraged new private investment in the core district. It is the city's vision that the area's resurgence, developed with environmentally sustainable principles for long-term economic success, will continue to grow and once again become a thriving destination. The city of Mesa believes that investing in new infrastructure and setting a high standard for aesthetics and multi-modal connectivity can jumpstart the successful revitalization of this key part of the city.

As seen in LASN magazine, August 2016.

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November 13, 2019, 7:21 pm PDT

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