Editorial: Lorena Plaza housing project moves forward. For real this time.
The Lorena Plaza housing development in the East Valley is moving forward in a way that reflects the will of the residents.
After a years-long effort that has spanned the neighborhood, the development, which is to include 200 homes in the heart of East Valley’s poor and working class, is finally going forward. This is a story about the will of the residents of the East Valley, and the residents of the neighborhood being the true creators of the process.
In 2007, the East Valley Neighborhood Council approved a long-term plan that called for a housing development on the lands of the Lorena Plaza Shopping Center in the heart of the East Valley.
The plan called for a $30 million development that would include 100 percent affordable housing and provide thousands of local and out-of-town jobs. The development would also be a catalyst for the creation of another 1,500-unit, mixed-income housing complex. The site would be transformed from a retail hub into a neighborhood park.
From the time that the neighborhood council recommended the plan in early 2007 to the time the project was selected in late 2015, it went through about four years of planning. The plan was approved in May of 2011, and construction was approved in early 2012 with the start of the first phase of construction scheduled for early 2013.
Then, in July of 2013, the housing was approved by the city for the first time. But it is not clear if that approval was due to the fact that the project was being approved in the early stages of development, or the fact that the site was already being developed as a parking lot.
That site was also approved as a historic site, but the city was hesitant about having the site designated as such because, despite the efforts of the East Valley Neighborhood Council, the developer was unwilling to pay for the construction of a historic building. This, coupled with the fact that the project was being approved by the City’s Historic Preservation Commission, caused the project to get delayed twice more.
Then, in early 2015, the East Valley Neighborhood Council put the project on a three-year development schedule that would have the plan get back into the “planning” stage by September 2016, and then be approved by the board of supervisors by November 2016.
In the meantime, the project