Town planners have power. Their blueprints for roads and public spaces go a long way toward determining whether the people who use them share a sense of community.
Last week, Marana moved a step closer to its planners’ vision of that community.
The town council unanimously voted on Tuesday, Nov. 18, to put the groundwork in place for a new pedestrian-friendly area between Sandario and Frontage roads.
Earlier this year, the council gave planners the go-ahead to move toward designing a town center — a public area with open spaces and inviting walkways connecting facilities such as the Marana Municipal Complex, the Northwest Fire Station and the proposed Marana Health Center.
That quarter-square-mile proposed area is planned for roughly the area between Barnett Road and Grier Road north to south and between Lon Adams Road and Sandario road east to west.
A proposal for another area, Barrios de Marana, aimed to spread the pedestrian-friendly theme farther north, and now the Marana Main Street Specific Plan — the plan discussed Nov. 18 — would carry community-nurturing design all the way north to the modest pizza place, tavern and corner food market near the intersection of Marana and Sandario roads.
The 28-acre proposed Marana Main Street area is planned for the piece of land wedged between Sandario and Frontage roads, just south of Marana Road.
Once the site of a cotton gin, the stretch remains undeveloped.
The area’s new zoning category, unanimously approved by the council, will accommodate a mix of multi-story buildings that integrate storefronts at the street level with offices and living spaces above.
Town planners envision plazas and open spaces that will encourage foot travel and outdoor community gatherings.
From Interstate 10, town planner Paul Papelka said Main Street Marana could bear some resemblance to the Arizona Pavilions shopping center to the south. After all, an aim there will be to encourage travelers to stop.
But you won’t have to veer far from Frontage Road to see a difference.
“It will be dominated by pedestrians, not parking lots,” Papelka said.
Designs call for a large retail store in the area’s northeast corner and for two or three hotels, Papelka said.
New stores, restaurants and a bank could add vitality to the existing business district along Sandario Road.
All these plans are part of an effort to restore in Marana some of the cohesion it lost in the face of explosive population growth and the expansion of Interstate 10 in 1961, which cleaved the town in two.
The groundwork for that vision is falling into place, but Papelka said he doesn’t expect the owners of the property — holding companies NSHE Seal Beach and 8829 South Priest — to start bringing businesses in along I-10 right away.
“Everything is so dependent on the market now in this economic crisis,” he said. “A lot of people are adopting a wait and see attitude.”