treo board
January 2, 2014

Amanda Ventura

AzTAP lends a hand for success

When cities face complex land use and real estate issues amidst a multitude of opinions and interests, ULI Arizona helps make experts in the industry available to provide strategic advice. Amy Malloy, senior development manager at Macerich, joined ULI Arizona’s Technical Assistance Panel (AzTAP) committee eight years ago after receiving AzTAP assistance for downtown redevelopment while working in Apache Junction.

Now, she’s on the other side of the program as the ULI Arizona AzTAP committee vice-chair and, along with other AzTAP committee members, works closely with different sponsor communities to coordinate one- to two-day panel programs that provide objective, nonpartisan guidance to local jurisdictions on specific development challenges. Interdisciplinary panel teams are chosen for their specific knowledge and the holistic examination that they provide to help resolve local issues.

“This is a rewarding program to be involved in giving back to Arizona municipalities,” Malloy says, adding, “I think ULI is just such a valuable organization to look critically and intuitively at smart land use.”

For the past four years, the Union Pacific Building America Foundation has helped underwrite AzTAP costs enabling smaller communities to benefit for this resource. Interest for this program is souring statewide, ranging from rural counties dealing with open space preservation issues to small town central business districts and main street revitalization.

Malloy says it takes several months to prepare for an AzTAP, from developing briefing materials to picking the right panel of industry experts and working with local officials and stakeholders to define the scope of questions that will frame the panel discussion. The sponsor community prepares a briefing book of local economic and demographic information and often arranges a site tour to provide panelists on-the-ground perspective into local conditions.

“AzTAP panels are able to look critically at community problems,” she says. “Sometimes a panel offers back to basics strategies which can be a wake-up call, because we offer external perspectives that aren’t mired in local politics, the guidance can be particularly effective.”

This was evident in the Town of Carefree. The day after the panel, the town formed a steering committee to begin implementing suggested changes.

“People sitting separately at the beginning of the day were now sitting together,” says Malloy. “The town manager was the unsung hero in all of this. He was trying his hardest to get these divergent interests in one direction. Fortunately, the AzTAP was the tool that helped bring people in line. The light bulb had gone off.”

Carefree Mayor David Schwan agrees. “The AzTAP program created energy in both the town staff and the economic stakeholders in Carefree,” says Schwan. “Building owners, landlords, merchants and restaurant operators were all enthusiastic about the process of the AzTAP. The recommendations of the meeting are being used in a full-scale economic study of Carefree possibilities. In my view, the AzTAP was a critical first step to move forward with a sound plan for economic development in Carefree.”