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Developers Float Rare Project South Of Downtown

Peter O'Dowd - KJZZ
The Grant Park neighborhood immediately south of Downtown Phoenix is the site of a proposed commercial development that would be rare for the area.

Plans are moving forward on a rare mixed-use development that would link downtown Phoenix with a traditionally poor, Latino neighborhood.

Urban Sol Development is in the process of buying mostly empty land just south of the railroad tracks that separate downtown from the Grant Park neighborhood, said Urban Sol's Feliciano Vera.

The Grant Park area has a rich history as the center of the Chicano community in Phoenix. But it's also very poor, and its residents rarely see anything in the way of new development. The 14-acre project would span the divide with downtown, Vera said.

"This is a condition that predates statehood," he added, referring to the economic and physical separation of the two areas. "So we have a really unique opportunity and unique responsibility to focus on how we connect these communities together."

Urban Sol began a series of meetings with Grant Park residents Wednesday night. Vera described his vision for mixed-income housing units, retail shops and office space. Residents were hopeful for things that most people take for granted. A grocery store in this part of town is hard to come by, for instance.

But they are worried, too. Over the years, development promises have come and gone without success. Extending downtown's reach south of the railroad tracks could also push low-income people out of the homes their families have lived in for generations.

Resident Nenette Parra says she wants economic growth, but not the gentrification that developers sometimes bring with projects like these.

"They cater to those that are more educated, that are able to speak up. Everything that our seniors and our neighborhood isn't -- that's why they cater to. And that's what we don't want," Parra said.

KJZZ News Director Peter O’Dowd finds something alluring about Phoenix and public radio, as if they have always been a part of his destiny.O'Dowd, who oversees all daily editorial direction of the KJZZ newsroom, took on the role of news director in February 2011, after serving as an assignment editor and reporter for the station since 2009.