New Maricopa library

As part of the city’s Future Planning Conference, Mayor Christian Price and the Maricopa City Council got a tour on Jan. 14 of the new library at Civic Center.

MARICOPA — At the city of Maricopa’s Future Planning Conference last Thursday, City Manager Rick Horst dared the council and attendees to dream big. He shared a vision for the city that was one of walkability, beauty and plenty of amenities for residents to enjoy.

While some of these ideas could be decades in the future, it was clear that the city is looking to capitalize on existing space and create new, innovative projects to move the city forward.

One of the ways the city hopes to capitalize on existing space is with a pedestrian bridge. After the State Route 347 overpass was built and the railway was blocked off to pedestrians, walking community members and students coming to and from school need a better way to cross the tracks.

The city plans to create a pedestrian walking bridge on the existing Maricopa Road, right where the old John Wayne Parkway crossed the railroad tracks. This means the city will not have to purchase any new land to build the bridge.

Working with the same developers who designed the State Route 347 overpass, the city envisions an outdoor walking bridge with shade and design elements reminiscent of the crops grown by farmers. Steps and an open-air elevator will provide different ways for community members to access the walking bridge.

A second walking bridge is also projected in the coming years, this time to help facilitate foot traffic for the next new development at South Bridge. This development is just over the SR 347 overpass on the southeast side, and will eventually connect with the neighboring Heritage District area across the tracks to the north.

According to Horst, the mixed-use triangular plot of land could house a number of businesses including big box retail such as a Target or Kohl’s, restaurants and shops. The area will also have an open-air market space for community events like farmers markets or swap meets.

While the city is far away from signing contracts — Horst stressed not to get attached to the idea of a Target or something similar just yet — the development has already stirred up interest from companies in the area looking to capitalize on the city’s boom.

“I think it’s great,” Mayor Christian Price said during the presentation of the South Bridge development. “Especially in the past, there was very much a north and south side Maricopa. The premise of the overpass was to link those two and stop that philosophy. … It used to be (that) everything was north, and now we’re starting to spread that out, which is really needed by our population.”

With growth comes the need for expansion, and the Maricopa Police Department has been experiencing growing pains over the last decade as it has exceeded its building’s capacity.

“We’re growing. This is 8,000 square feet over here,” Horst said, pointing in the direction of the current MPD headquarters next to City Hall. “It was never really exactly what the city needed.”

The city saw fit to fund a new police station for MPD, and the new 20,000-square-foot, two-story headquarters will be built on a property adjacent to the new Pinal County Courthouse near Wilson and Garvey avenues. The project will take a total of $10 million, with around $8 million going into the new building and the rest into a remodeling of the existing building.

The remodeling of the previous building will see it turned into a spacious art department with different areas dedicated to performance, music, and arts and crafts. During a walking tour of the building, city officials pointed to where a kiln or a new art gallery might go, envisioning a vibrant art department.

These city buildings currently sit in the area of the Santa Cruz Wash, which occupies a diagonal, 11-square-mile area in the center of Maricopa and wreaks havoc on the city when flooded. Once the current studies of the land are complete, the city will begin a $60 million project to fix these flooding issues. Washes will be widened to accommodate higher volumes of water, holes will be filled and, as a result, these areas will be removed from the flood plain.

Also folded into this project by the city is a multi-use trail system along the wash with views to help continue to beautify the area.

On the side of road infrastructure, the city announced major changes in the area of Green Road and the future McDavid Estates. The city plans to continue Green Road north past the Cobblestone Farms community and then to the east to merge with SR 347 just before entering the city, creating a new traffic flow for the area and, better yet, a new way to access SR 347 for western communities.

Green Road also crosses over State Route 238 and is likely the next site for an overpass within the city.

“Where it crosses the railroad tracks, that needs to be our second overpass,” said Horst. “There’s a certain amount of homes that they could build before the overpass is required, but frankly there has to be an overpass before you can build homes.”

There were some concerns voiced by council members about the proximity of the new portion of Green Road to the Cobblestone Farms community, and Horst said that, while there are no definite answers yet, the road “will be far enough away to protect them.”

Also on the list of future road infrastructure is the East-West Corridor, a thoroughfare between State Route 347 and Porter Road. The city is proposing a $24- to $26-million project that would widen the road to four lanes and create several improved intersections along the roadway. The funds would also provide for an elevated roadway over the Santa Rosa Wash.

In the future, Horst said the roadway may even become six lanes, but this is not part of the current budget.

Finally, and truly in the spirit of forward thinking, Horst proposed a light rail line that would run from Maricopa to the northern communities in Phoenix. While he acknowledged this was a dream far in the future, he proposed it in order to get a conversation going with surrounding communities and garner support for a project like this.

Councilman Henry Wade agreed it was by far the simplest way to create more access between the cities.

“This is truly dreaming big. This is truly thinking for the future,” Price said. “Don’t think it’s happening tomorrow, but … it’s certainly something we shouldn’t exclude.”

Though some of these ideas are years in the making, it is clear the city is determined to continue moving forward into this new decade with innovation in mind, starting in 2021.

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Katie Sawyer covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at ksawyer@pinalcentral.com.