Business community pleased with 4th Ave.-16th St. plan
Members of the business community were all smiles after the Yuma City Council voted 6-0 to approve a redevelopment plan for the 4th Avenue-16th Street intersection and surrounding area, with Councilwoman Bobbi Lewis declaring a conflict of interest.
The measure paves the way to design and implement a traffic plan for 4th Avenue and 16th Street to move traffic safely and efficiently while facilitating private investment and redevelopment of all four corners of the intersection. It also creates a foundation for more flexibility in regulations for businesses and property owners who want to make improvements.
In addition, the plan creates an economic development “tool kit” that the city can employ to encourage and assist private reinvestment within the redevelopment area. The tool kit might include such incentives as use of state and federal grants for rehabilitation efforts, property tax abatements for new development and major rehabilitation, and public-private partnerships, development agreements and land exchanges.
The city's only financial investment would be about $4.1 million for improvements to the intersection.
Noah Cullis, senior planner for the city, noted that the plan was crafted with considerable input from business and property owners in the area. That included formation of a planning area advisory committee of several volunteer property owners.
“I think this is a real positive thing,” said Tom Pancrazi, whose family owns the former Citizens Title building on the northeast part of the intersection. He has sought improvements to the area for some time to revitalize it and boost economic development.
“It's refreshing to see the plan put together,” he said. “This is definitely a right step.”
John Ziebarth suggested some minor modifications he thought would improve traffic flow and pedestrian access.
Mayor Al Krieger responded that the plan is just a concept and that traffic issues can be refined as the actual design work moves forward.
Businessman Pat Conner originally had expressed reservations about the proposal but said he now stands in favor of the plan after serving on the PAC and working with city staff.
“There are some obsolete buildings and misuse of buildings,” he said. “Health and safety will come first, but other things can be worked out through the plan.”
When it came down to voting on the plan, Councilman Paul Johnson expressed some reservations, in particular designation of the area as blighted.
“I don't think that's right. At the same time, we've had a severe problem for years. This may be the most congested intersection between San Diego and Phoenix, or at least in the city. It desperately needs something done to it.”
After the meeting, Mark Peterson, franchise owner of Taco Bell in Yuma, said he was pleased with the outcome.
He noted that his plans to rebuild the aging Taco Bell at 1676 S. 4th Ave. hinged on the redevelopment plan. It gives the city the flexibility to exchange some land with him that will enable him to build a new restaurant in a slightly different location that will meet Taco Bell's new design.
“That's a perfect example of how to use the tools,” said Charles Flynn, head of the Yuma North End Redevelopment District that has been extended to include the 4th Avenue/16th Street intersection.
He said the city will get the right of way it needs from Taco Bell at no cost, and Peterson will get the parcel he needs to improve his business.
“It was gratifying to see the way the city and private sector have worked together,” Flynn concluded. But more work lies ahead as the city moves forward with the plan.