The Tempe Maker District

The Tempe Maker District amendment proposes to re-zone the 600-acre area between Priest, Southern, Broadway, and the Kyrene train tracks.

The area of the proposed Tempe Maker District.

Despite the small area affected, the plan is a bold and necessary step for Tempe to meet its housing and industrial needs for the next 20 years. 

First, the specifics: The plan would rezone 70 acres of commercial and 488 acres of industrial land to a full 558 acres of mixed-use/industrial development. That means that apartments and condos could be built on top of, adjacent to, or in the same neighborhood as “light industrial” and commercial buildings. Think computer repair and vinyl record shops. 

Mixed-use is important and a no-brainer. The city is desperate to add 14 thousand dwelling units by 2040 in order to keep prices down (and fight climate change). The district has a vacancy rate of 11%, twice as high as the rest of Tempe, and could easily support the redevelopment necessary to increase the city’s stock of homes.

It gets better. The majority of the land (491 acres) would allow 15 dwelling units per acre (du/ac), with a small amount (67 acres) designated for 45 du/ac. And while the entire area will not uniformly meet these ceilings, creating the potential for 10,380 new homes without endangering one family with gentrification would be a masterstroke by the city council.

How many new homes can we expect to see in this area if the amendment is passed? It’s hard to say, but the district is overlapped by a federal “Opportunity Zone”, which incentivizes development and sustained investment in low income areas, and would likely to see great improvement early on.

The plan is not guaranteed to pass, however.

Just like the Urban Core Master Plan, this amendment needs a super majority on the city council, 5 out of 7 votes. So far, the mayor is opposed to the plan, and has been pressuring allies like the Chamber of Commerce to redact their support for the plan.

If Tempe wants to be an affordable, walkable, and green city, the Council should prove it by implementing the Maker District.

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