Town's Future Tied To Its Past, Says Retiring Director

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If retiring town Community Development Director Bob Gould could complete one last initiative with the wave of a wand, it would be Main Street.

"Without a doubt, it's Main Street and Green Valley redevelopment," Gould said. "The absolute, positive truth is that Main Street is the economic engine for the town of Payson; there is nothing else, and when we acknowledge that then I think we'll start making more investment and making more progress down there."

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Community Development Director Bob Gould

Gould, who has been with the town for 17 years - 15 as community development director, believes the process of revitalizing Main Street has started.

"Payson is not going to pull in a million dollars a year from big industrial concerns or anything like that, so if the town wants to provide good police protection and good fire protection and they want to be able to put money into streets and things like that, then we need to realize you have to invest some monies into Main Street," Gould said. "That's what's going to drive development on Highway 260, Highway 87; that's what's going to provide revenues to provide parks and police and fire protection and all that."

Gould hopes the formation of a Main Street merchants committee, currently under way, is an important step.

"I think one of the concerns the town council has had is that you didn't see the commitment from the Main Street community," he said. "Once that's up and going, it's going to give a large group of people a voice in what goes on down there, and it's going to provide an opportunity to show that they're committed."

Another key to Main Street's success, Gould believes, is parking.

"One of the big detriments we have to development down there is being able to achieve the vision that we want and provide the parking at the same time," he said. "And the only real solution we see for that is to provide public parking."

Completion of the proposed American Gulch Plan is also a vital component of Main Street. The 44-acre area known as the American Gulch is west of Sawmill Crossing Shopping Center and runs behind the properties that front on the south side of Main Street. It's southern boundary is Aero Drive and its western boundary is Green Valley Park.

Currently, most of the American Gulch, about 38 acres, sits in a flood plain. About 75 percent is privately owned and vacant, but much of it would be reclaimed for development if engineered flood control solutions are implemented.

The proposed American Gulch Plan would do just that, creating a 200-foot wide channel running from Sawmill Crossing to Green Valley Park. The channel would use just 12 acres from the floodplain, effectively freeing 26 acres for new development.

But while the channel is the backbone of the plan, it is considered a "multi-objective project." The plan envisions private retail, office and condominium development, with pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths alongside the channel.

"It would really create a people place," former Green Valley Redevelopment Committee Chairperson Blair Meggitt said.

"We want to see shops, restaurants, artisan's galleries, night life, park activities, cycling, walking, street parties," Meggitt added.

Gould believes the American Gulch is the ultimate lure to bring locals and visitors alike to Main Street.

"I think that's going to provide a nice leisure area with the bike paths and the foot paths and the landscaping and things like that," Gould said.

It would also help to address one of Gould's pet peeves.

"One of the things I pushed hardest for people to understand is my frustration with the automobile, and how we've directed billions and billions of dollars toward making the automobile safer and cheaper to operate, while at the same time we're literally ignoring the pedestrian and the bicyclist and public transit," he said.

The town council recently rejected a public transit initiative despite studies predicting its success and a promise from the Arizona Department of Transportation not to let it fail.

"We dipped into public transit for the first time this year and it didn't fly, but it will fly within the next year or two," Gould said. "I'm sure of that."

Given his approach to getting things done, you have to believe it would be more likely to happen if Gould were sticking around.

"I'm looking favorably that there's going to be a commitment from council in the future," he said. "Either that or we're going to run with a mediocre economy forever and ever."

Friday, Aug. 19 was Gould's last day on the job.

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