As the monsoon season hits in earnest, the streets of Downtown Tempe are about to heat up. Downtown Streetcar construction on Mill Avenue between University Drive and Rio Salado Parkway comes to a wrap this week, and Tempe’s famed Mill Avenue re‐opens to traffic in both directions. Just in time for the annual matriculation at ASU’s main campus, Valley Metro is right on track with wrapping up Tempe Streetcar infrastructure work along Mill Avenue between University Drive and Rio Salado Parkway on Aug. 15, and local merchants and visitors breathe a sigh of relief.
The Downtown Tempe Authority (DTA), a non‐profit organized in 1993 to support the local business community, organized a summer‐long series of events and special celebrations at area businesses to help counter the construction disruption. Since May 2019, the DTA has been promoting its #RandomKindnessDT campaign with free gift card giveaways on the streets, and “Hard Hat Thursdays”, which include weekly promotions for downtown businesses. The last Hard Hat Thursday of the summer takes place on Aug. 15, and the DTA is planning a final blow‐out promotion to celebrate the re‐ opening of the northbound lane of Mill Avenue and restored traffic flow in both directions along the downtown’s main artery.
Instagram fans and followers of the Downtown Tempe Authority are eligible to enter a random drawing for a giveaway valued at over $375.00 in gift cards and swag to local businesses, including the likes of Americana Burgers & Beer, Caffé Boa, Illegal Pete’s, Nekter Juice Bar, Soul & Beauty salon, Spinelli’s Pizzeria and others. The promotion will launch on Thursday, Aug. 15 and winners will be announced on Monday, Aug. 19 on DTA’s Instagram page. Instagram users can find and follow DTA at @DowntownTempe or https://www.instagram.com/downtowntempe/
Lori Foster, Director of Business Relations for the Downtown Tempe Authority noted that summers are typically slower due to the weather and decrease in student population, and she’s received mixed reporting from businesses on the impact of this summer’s Streetcar construction.
“I’ve been whistling Bananrama’s classic ‘Cruel Summer’ quite a bit this year, but it’s not all doom and gloom to be honest,” noted Foster. She explains that, “Our partners at Valley Metro and the City of Tempe did an outstanding job of consistently communicating with the business community about street
closures and alternate routes for merchants, residents and workers. The contractor, Stacy Witbeck, Inc. have really gone the extra mile to get the summer work done with as few impacts as possible. I survey our businesses monthly on the impact to sales and foot traffic. We were well prepared for this with merchant workshops presented by DTA, Valley Metro and Local First Arizona, the availability of business and financing resources through the City of Tempe and the Tempe Chamber of Commerce and have been planning in anticipation for years. While most businesses experienced lower year‐over‐year sales, which is common every summer anyway, I’ve had some merchants report they’ve seen some of the best sales volume ever ‐‐ and that’s a positive fact that cannot be ignored.”
Valley Metro, the organization overseeing the transportation project, notes that while northbound Mill Avenue will re‐open in August, the Streetcar construction is a multi‐year project and there will still be lane closures in other parts of the city as construction continues. Next summer will see additional temporary lane closures in the downtown footprint. The entire Tempe Streetcar project is on schedule for completion in 2021 with three miles of track, 14 stops and two connections to Valley Metro Rail, creating public transportation access from downtown, ASU and area neighborhoods to the rest of the Valley‐wide rail system.
For more information about Streetcar promotions and details for getting a free hard hat, visit: https://www.downtowntempe.com/events/hard‐hat‐thursdays
For more information about Valley Metro’s Tempe Streetcar project, visit: https://www.valleymetro.org/project/tempe‐streetcar