LOCAL BUSINESS OWNERS SHARE THEIR VIEWS ON THE POSSIBLE REDEVELOPMENT PLANS OF DANELLE PLAZA
By Isabelle Marceles, ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism
Yucca Tap Room’s owner Rodney Hu has invested years into the redevelopment of Danelle Plaza and said he is ready to see it thrive as a destination full of retail stores, eateries and affordable housing for Tempe residents. Yucca Tap Room has been a live music venue since 1974 at Danelle Plaza in Tempe, located on the southwest corner of Mill Avenue and Southern Road.
The plaza opened in 1963 as Tempe progressed into a suburban community and has since remained a “leftover from a past time,” according to The Ghost of Eastside Records’ owner Michael Pawlicki. Pawlicki said it might be time to move on to another location after operating his business at Danelle Plaza for 12 years.
As talks between the Tempe City Council and development companies continued about the future of Danelle Plaza, business owners who operate within the plaza shared different concerns about what redevelopment would mean for them.
Tempe City Council voted to adopt a resolution to allow for a development agreement between the city and two developers for 14 acres of land at Danelle Plaza. The decision came at their City Council meeting on Sept. 7 and involved Guina Affiliated Developers and Desert Viking-Danelle Plaza.
“Ideally, it would be like its own little mini-ecosystem where people can live and play,” Hu said. He added that he would like to see more ethnic food options and an outdoor area that would increase foot traffic throughout the plaza. The goal for Hu is to create a relaxing environment that has something for everyone to enjoy and that also supports local businesses and the community.
Others were more wary about what the final product would look like for small businesses and local artists.
Evan Liggins, the founder of Tempe Art A Gogh-Gogh, said that it’s important to identify who exactly the plaza would attract and cater to. He said that if the plan is to build a creative hub, then artists are the people who need affordable housing in the plaza.
Liggins said he didn’t want Danelle Plaza to become a repeat of the redevelopment of the Farmer’s Arts District that is west of downtown, along Farmer Avenue and First Street. “We were the only artists over there,” he said. “And now there’s nothing going on. It’s more expensive for retail and housing.”
While he thought incorporating local art into the plans would be nice, Liggins said that the decisions should be made with a consultant who can make a sound decision about what is best for the plaza. “I’m tired of artists being used as a tool for gentrification in the name of art and community,” he said.
Pawlicki admitted that he didn’t know much about the plans for redevelopment since nobody had talked to him other than Yucca employees and customers. “All of a sudden they had me send my check to Desert Viking Development and Properties,” he said. “But I couldn’t tell you beyond that.”
Pawlicki said that he’d rather find a new spot than try to stay once construction starts. He said that if he let business slow down, he’d just be losing money.
One thing Hu, Pawlicki and Liggins all agreed on was the need to progress toward something new.
“If you go stale and stay stagnant, then you lose,” Hu said. “That’s just a part of the business.”
Liggins said that he sees Danelle Plaza as a “blank canvas” and the vacant plots allow for more freedom to do whatever will “improve the vibe.” Liggins called Hu a “visionary” for his business plans and said that no matter what, Liggins would always be doing shows at Yucca Tap Room and around Danelle Plaza.