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Opinion: SEV development good for environment, economy

by Southeast Valley editorial board – Sept. 20, 2011 09:39 AM
The Republic |

Our View
Commerce, public infrastructure and other developments are necessary components of a bustling metropolitan area.

The developments also can be artful, eco-friendly and serve multiple purposes to create livable communities, as the winners of Valley Forward’s environmental excellence awards affirm.

They enhance the landscape, use natural resources wisely, improve older areas and spur economic development. These qualities are particularly important as environmental concerns grow and budgets in the private and public sectors shrink.

Many of the winners are in the Southeast Valley and should serve as models for future developments.

They include:

Chandler City Hall
The 143,000-square-foot complex has Earth-friendly written all over it. City officials worked with Arizona Public Service Co. to install energy-efficient systems that qualify for rebates and with Sundt and Smith Group to use sustainable materials to achieve LEED gold certification.

Chandler saved for years for the $73 million project, took advantage of low construction costs and created much-needed construction and related jobs in 2009 and 2010. City Hall provides a sense of place and has been captured in various mediums, including a cable reality-TV show.

Downtown Chandler revival
Chandler enhanced Arizona Avenue with trees, benches, bike lanes, wider sidewalks and on-street parking to create a vibrant city core. Once an area of high crime rates and dilapidated structures, it now boasts urban living, unique businesses, a farmers market and other popular events.

These improvements reassure the private sector that downtown Chandler is worth the investment. Ports America, a marine-terminal operator, will move into office space that formerly housed City Hall functions. City officials are working with state universities to bring a campus to the area.

Recycling efforts helped this Chandler corporation save more than 360 million gallons of water and reuse more than 890 million gallons of wastewater in 2010 alone. Since 1996, the microchip manufacturer has recharged billions of gallons of water from the city’s reverse-osmosis treatment plant to the aquifer.

Its multimillion-square-foot Ocotillo plant is built to LEED silver certification standards to reduce energy. With an expansion project and a new plant on the horizon, it’s good to know Intel is conscientious about its environmental impact.

Tempe Marketplace
The site at the southwestern corner of Loops 101 and 202 was once the subject of a federal superfund. But after years of cleanup, the site is home to Tempe Marketplace, a 1.3 million-square-foot, open-air regional shopping, dining and entertainment destination near Mesa, Scottsdale and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Tempe Marketplace is an example of how harmful substances can be replaced with jobs, commerce and sales-tax revenues.

The building’s signature blue and yellow lighting is easy to spot from Interstate 10 in Tempe. What most people don’t see are the 2,600 solar panels on the roof of Ikea, a Scandinavian home-furnishings megastore that draws people from as far as Mexico.

The 75,000-square-foot solar array consists of two 300-kilowatt systems that will produce about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. At 342,000 square feet, it’s good to see Ikea minimize its carbon footprint by taking advantage of Arizona’s sunshine.

Shade, tree summit
The Regional Tree and Shade Summit is working to boost the Valley’s “tree canopy” to create shade, absorb carbon dioxide and reduce urban heat. Plus, trees are pretty. The summit, which included Mesa representatives, is part of Sustainable Cities Network at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

Streets and buildings are vital infrastructure in the Southeast Valley, as are shade and trees. The “tree canopy” is a great project for neighborhood, non-profits and community groups to get behind.