Developer Ed Lewis begs to differ with mayor’s scenario

‘In the absence of any real leadership at town hall, maybe we should take the lead and see if we can get ASU on board’
Bookmark and Share

ed lewisCAREFREE – Developer Ed Lewis (l) chimed in over the weekend via e-mail regarding the “Carefree cultural draw debate,” which appears to be on a collision course with business and commercial property owners at odds with the mayor and vice mayor’s vision and public statements for the revitalization of Carefree’s town center.

Lewis opened by stating, “I believe that democracy works best with transparency … so allow me to correct several misstatements and misunderstanding on the town debate on developing a cultural attraction.”

Lewis attached a copy of his July 11, 2014 e-mail to Councilman Mike Farrar requesting that he and ASU bring a presentation on the ASU Arts College satellite to the Sept. 3 council meeting.

He said he always meant for the memo to be public information, in light of the fact he sent it to all the council members.

Lewis stated the proposal for two galleries, multipurpose classrooms, a retail shop and a meeting room for use by the six ASU art schools within the arts college is still available to the town, but only if the town reaches out to ASU and himself with a warm and sincere welcome, as he stated in his July memo.

According to Lewis, the meetings he had with the town when he brought in ASU were “antagonistic.”

He said the town rejected the ASU proposal and then blamed it on ASU.

“Not true facts,” said Lewis.

However, he said, “Neither ASU nor I want to get in the middle of town politics.

“We made an offer to the town and the town rejected it.”

Lewis said they chose to go away quietly but said to ask any council member why the Sept. 3 presentation never happened.

He said, “So far they just blame ASU.”

Lewis said they had no desire to “push” themselves on the community while pointing out ASU is actually being courted by most cities in the valley for new campuses or satellite facilities.

Lewis stated, “They have recently added facilities in Glendale, Downtown Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and they are now considering a medical college near the Mayo in North Scottsdale and a cultural center in North Scottsdale.”

Meanwhile, Carefree rejected an ASU satellite in favor of new council chambers and facilities for local nonprofits, which Lewis indicated, while that’s the prerogative of the elected representatives, they should be transparent about.

Lewis, referring to the petition drafted and circulated by Councilwoman Melissa Price, said the business owners and commercial property owners in Carefree “overwhelmingly” do not support the town’s current plan to revitalize the town center.”

He said, “There’s something wrong here.”

Lewis went on to say, “Some say I am looking for financial support from the Town for my project. Not true. As stated in the attached e-mail, all I ever offered was to build a cultural center and deliver it at my costs, not to exceed a guaranteed max cost. This cultural center is a town attraction.”

Lewis only asked that the town adopt a shared parking code when the mixed uses on his property would share parking, since each use would not need to provide parking for a customer who walks around Easy Street or for someone who lives in one of his proposed condos and goes to dinner at a restaurant on Easy Street.

“This type of parking code is common in the mixed use projects around the Valley…it is not a town concession to me. Just modern city code,” said Lewis, adding, “The town center is not sustainable as it is today.”

He said the town needs a government that is working with people to develop attractive additions to Carefree.

Lewis said he could revive the ASU program but stated it will only happen with a warm and sincere invitation from the town, not the antagonism and rejection ASU received during the first two meetings when Lewis brought them to the town.

Lewis stated, “I can revive it, but I don’t think the mayor can.”

Referring to the town center revitalization meetings, Lewis said the panel of commercial real estate experts endorsed the concept of Carefree as a village.

Lewis said the panel defined “village” as “a collection of people working together for common goals.”

He stated, “Carefree obviously has not yet achieved that status. We all need to push for that.”

Lewis also stated he hopes to be a positive and cooperative partner in revitalizing the town.

However, he cautioned current markets and the current status of the town do not allow him to develop without more foot traffic and more things to do in the town center.

Lewis also stated they could not afford to build more parking than his uses require and his project, as currently configured, would include 175 parking spaces immediately adjacent to and on his property.

In conclusion, Lewis said, “I hope the steering committee can make the town decision-making more transparent for the good of all stakeholders in the town center. Let’s figure out how to become a village.”

Responding to Lewis’ e-mail, Rod de Szendeffy, one of the commercial property owners who signed Price’s petition, wrote, “There are a whole lot of business and property owners represented on the petition. In the absence of any real leadership at town hall, maybe we should take the lead and see if we can get ASU on board. You’ve got the contacts, we’ve got the foundation of the town. The leaders change, we don’t.”

readers love sonoran news