Stanton discusses sustainability, business during State of City address

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Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton gives his State of the City address at the Phoenix Convention Center, emphasizing the need to make use of vacant lots and sustainable development. (Mauro Whiteman/DD)

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton focused on sustainable development, local businesses and education in his inaugural State of the City address at the Phoenix Convention Center, marking his 100th day in office.

Stanton began the speech by saying the city is making the right choices but must do more by taking a broader, regional approach to its economy.

“No matter what we do as an individual city there will always be a glass ceiling on our success unless our regional partners and Arizona make the right choices, too,” he said.

To combat that glass ceiling, Stanton said he will focus on attracting more high-wage jobs to Arizona. He is focusing on specific industries such as bioscience, health and renewable energy.

Stanton mentioned ASU’s law school coming to its Downtown campus, and the addition of the ASU and Mayo Clinic biomedical campus in north Phoenix.

Stanton said “downtown is where any great law school belongs,” because it houses the center of government, the court system and private law firms in the area.

Stanton also praised several local downtown Phoenix businesses, including FilmBar and Crescent Ballroom.

“The most exciting things happening in our downtown right now are led by committed local talent,” he said.

Stanton called for the creation of a completely new downtown organization to attract new ideas and leadership to the downtown area. He said he doesn’t intend for this new group to “blow up” the existing ones, but he encouraged the Downtown Phoenix Partnership and Phoenix Community Alliance to join.

Stanton has made sustainability a major facet of his administration. He announced a goal of doubling the number of solar cells on city buildings by the end of 2012. This is in tandem with another solar-power project, Solar Phoenix Two, which aims to help more than 1,400 homeowners place solar panels on their home.

In January, Stanton also appointed a sustainability team. Colin Tetreault, the senior policy adviser for sustainability, is leading several projects to revitalize downtown.

Vacant lots are one of the city’s primary concerns. Stanton said the city is leasing a lot located on Central Avenue and Indian School Road and will temporarily activate the 15-acre lot through partnerships with private and nonprofit groups.

The agreement was finalized on Tuesday with Barron Collier Companies, the developer that owns the land, Stanton said. Sarah Muench, communications director for the mayor’s office, said the city is working to find out what the community wants there.

“In six months that lot that currently stands vacant will be a blooming example of what we can achieve through new approaches and public-private partnerships,” Stanton said.

In a press conference held after the address, Stanton explained the lot will feature urban gardens, farming and other community projects.

“Land owners that own vacant lots in the heart of the city have a responsibility not just to sit on their land. … If you don’t do something with it, it’s a morale killer,” he said.

Stanton is considering a nonprofit group to manage the lot and allow other groups to subdivide the land for other projects. Smith Group, an architecture, engineering and planning firm, is helping to design the subdivision concept.

The city will only have temporary use of the land, but Stanton stressed it will still create a positive partnership between Barron Collier and the community.

“Once we get this one done, it will provide a template for other vacant lots around the city,” he said.

Finishing on a determined note, Stanton called on everyone to make Phoenix a better city.

“We must always have the courage to take on big challenges,” he said. “Always press forward. Always strive. Because our future is right in front of us and it’s ours to define.”

Contact the reporter at josselyn.berry@asu.edu