ULI Arizona asked leaders and members from across Arizona to share their experiences and perspectives in this ever-changing world due to COVID-19. Their views represent various real estate industry segments and delve into both professional and personal thoughts and ideas in this snapshot in time, and what positive opportunities can be found today, and in the future.
Gilbert’s Economic Development Redevelopment Manager, Amanda Elliott, shared her thoughts and observations on Gilbert, Arizona. This is Amanda Elliott’s second guest post in this series through ULI Arizona.
Over the last six weeks, I have spent innumerable hours on the phone with businesses, organizations, downtown counterparts and colleagues and there is one central element in all the conversations – uncertainty. When will things reopen? How long will it take to return to normal? Will there be a new normal? What will that look like? If we do reopen, will people have money to spend? Will people be afraid to leave their homes? These questions are weighing heavy on all of us. This feeling of uncertainty, and at a deeper level, change, is generating anxiety and fear.
There are companies and motivational speakers who have built their entire business models and careers on assisting both companies and people to overcome the fear of change. After all, that fear of change is manifested into resistance and if we cannot overcome that resistance, we don’t act. Oftentimes, I don’t have answers to the questions that I am being asked about returning to life as we knew it before COVID 19. But what I do know is that change is necessary for growth.
As I think about recovery, I continually ask myself, what we could have done better or what should we have been doing differently. I have heard from several businesses that are approaching this time in the same manner. Are the conversations about their struggles to pay employees or keep afloat still tough? Of course, they are. But it is also energizing to hear about the new concepts they want to implement as they reopen. Their creativity is palpable. One thing is for certain, those who are using this disruption to innovate, transform or pivot are positioned for success.
There is no time like the present to be bold. It’s not an easy task but those that are truly worthwhile never are. As downtown revitalization has been my focus, I thought it appropriate to share some of the ideas I have heard from my counterparts in city centers across the globe: Allow for temporary extension of premises for restaurant patios in order to better serve social distancing requirements. Examine areas where a lane of traffic could be easily altered to a pedestrian pathway to allow for larger “sidewalks”. Create flexible curbs that can accommodate curbside pickup of foods and goods. Add handwashing stations in areas where people congregate. Rethink uses for vacant storefronts. Prioritize adaptive reuse policies.
We realize it will not be one single measure but many calculated measures that will energize our cultural and historical centers. I mentioned this in my piece last week, but I urge you as urban leaders to reach out to your cities and urban place management organizations with your bold ideas. Collaboratively, we will endure.
Town of Gilbert, Office of Economic Development
Redevelopment Program Manager