Mill Avenue’s New Look
By Magge Wall, ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism
Downtown Tempe’s most popular street is having new plans made about a revamp of the sidewalk for the first time in roughly 40 years.
Mill Avenue is one of Tempe, Arizona’s most popular and busy streets, with bars, restaurants, and retail lining it, yet it hasn’t had much work done in the last four decades. Eric Iwersen, the sustainability and resilience director from the City of Tempe, is making plans to change that.
The overall goal of this project is to fix up the sidewalk from the stretch of University Drive to Rio Salado Parkway. With years of no work on the sidewalk, there are concerns about possible issues in the future. Not only involving the sidewalk itself but also everything underneath, including pipes or waterlines.
With the everchanging look of the city, it is important to everyone involved in this project that the original look of Mill Avenue stays.
“This is the core of the historic downtown area,” Kyle Woodson, a member of the Tempe Historic Preservation Commission, said. “I don’t really need to see a flow into what the new developments are doing,” Woodson added.
Iwersen and the team are looking for the exact brick that is currently being used on Mill Avenue to keep the same look as the original sidewalk. There are a few different mock-ups for how the sidewalk may look after this project, but they have yet to be officially decided on.
With the goal being to keep the original look of the street, some mock-ups look better to the team than others. Keeping everything the same may not work, so there must be backup plans.
“A lot of this will come down to how much brick you can actually salvage,” David Fackler, a member of the Tempe Historic Preservation Commission, said while discussing and reviewing the mock-ups.
The history of Mill Avenue is a key component of what makes it appealing to its visitors, and the Tempe Historic Preservation Commission does not want this project to take anything away from that. “It needs to fit with the historic core nature of Mill,” said Woodson.
This project will also be changing or trying to help the trees that currently line the sidewalk on Mill Avenue. Many of these trees are starting to have multiple issues and may need to be replaced.
Currently, there are many ficus trees lining this sidewalk, but the sustainability team of Tempe is considering switching to a new type of tree. The objective right now is to save as many trees as possible, but there are a few that will need to be removed and replaced. “We want them to cool the street and create shade, so we are looking at shade structures,” Iwersen said.
The trees on Mill Avenue do serve a strong purpose, so saving as many as they can is a high priority for this project.
As project meetings continue with different boards and commissions, plans will continue changing for Iwersen and his team, but they are hoping to get started on this project within the next few months.