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Valley Metro Host Forum: Investment Attracts National Mega Events

Panelists at the Host Forum June 20 talked about TOD along Valley Metro’s 26-mile light rail line and how it is spurring economic growth and attracting national mega events to the region.

Former Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ), who was instrumental in helping secure federal funding for the rail line, which opened in 2008, recalled how the system had little initial congressional support. “Today, the line means positive economic development not only for Phoenix, but for the entire metropolitan area,” he said.

Collaboration and vision among all stakeholders were key in the early stages of the line’s development, said Phoenix Vice Mayor Kate Gallego. Some things, however, can never be planned too carefully, she added, citing a lesson learned: “how not to shoot a promotional video the same day Lady Gaga is holding a concert in downtown Phoenix.”

Developer Lorenzo Perez, principal, the Newton/Venue Projects, described the “demolition culture” that once existed in the Phoenix area. In contrast, his firm currently has five projects around the rail line, which he said “are catalysts for stimulating investment.” He stressed the importance of reinvesting in older existing buildings and reclaiming historic properties instead of razing properties near the rail line.

Win Holden, publisher, Arizona Highways, said light rail is a key factor in attracting high-profile national events to the area, including the 2015 Super Bowl, 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game and 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four. Organizers of all three cited the convenience and availability of light rail as one of the “compelling reasons” Phoenix was awarded contracts to host these events.

Since its opening, Valley Metro Rail has seen its ridership grow by more than 30 percent. It has proven to be an economic boon to the area, accounting for more than $8.8 billion in private and public capital invested along its lines.

More growth is anticipated as voters last year approved a citywide plan called “Transportation 2050,” which calls for adding 42 miles of light rail in the region and extending bus services.

State Sen. Steve Farley moderated the session.

On hand to share the light rail success story in Phoenix were, from left, Phoenix Vice Mayor Kate Gallego; John Graham, president and CEO, Sunbelt Holdings; Lorenzo Perez, principal, Newton/Venue Projects;and Win Holden, publisher, Arizona Highways.

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