Should Glendale City Hall move from historic downtown to the Westgate area? City officials exploring options

·5 min read
Glendale officials offered up a conceptual rendering in January of what a newly renovated City Hall might look like.
Glendale officials offered up a conceptual rendering in January of what a newly renovated City Hall might look like.

Glendale’s proposed renovations to its downtown campus already was raising questions, but a council member on Tuesday added another: why not move city hall to Westgate?

City buildings are in Glendale's historic downtown, but Councilmember Joyce Clark proposed moving city operations to the newer area that has developed further west along Loop 101. The city owns land in the area that is home to the NFL stadium, concert arena and a boom of commercial development.

The proposal was a dramatic departure from what the council set out to discuss at Tuesday’s workshop: an update on their nearly $70 million proposal to upgrade the 1980s-era city hall campus and adjacent Murphy Park.

Not all councilmembers supported Clark's idea.

"Hogwash" is how Vice Mayor Jamie Aldama characterized it. "You would decimate downtown Glendale," he said.

Councilmember Bart Turner sided with Aldama, while Councilmember Ian Hugh sided with Clark. Mayor Jerry Weiers and councilmembers Lauren Tolmachoff and Ray Malnar, with varying levels of skepticism over Clark's idea, agreed to explore alternative locations, while continuing to work through the downtown renovation plans.

City Manager Kevin Phelps confirmed the city owns land near Westgate, and that it would be possible to explore alternative sites. But he also expressed concern that the city already had hired design and construction firms to move forward on the downtown renovations.

The discussion happened as about two-dozen residents and downtown merchants, clad in bright green shirts with "#SaveMurphyPark" emblazoned on the front, listened in the audience.

Glendale residents Debbie and Michael Eberhard attended Tuesday's City Council workshop clad in green shirts and holding up signs to save Murphy Park.
Glendale residents Debbie and Michael Eberhard attended Tuesday's City Council workshop clad in green shirts and holding up signs to save Murphy Park.

The group is concerned not just about exactly how renovations to the historic park will be carried out, but scaling back on longstanding community traditions at the park like Glendale Glitters. The council had downsized the holiday festival in recent years and changed the name entirely last year.

Former Councilmember Yvonne Knaack, who is leading the Save Murphy Park group, dismissed Clark's idea. "It sounds like punishing downtown for standing up for themselves," she told The Arizona Republic.

Council talks city hall move

Clark, who represents the council district that encompasses Westgate, didn't offer a specific reason she thought that area would be better for city operations, except that it would alleviate concerns raised in the downtown.

She said people pushed back against change in downtown, from the loss of Glendale Glitters in favor of other events to planned renovations.

"Nothing satisfies y'all," Clark said.

Councilmember Ian Hugh said he favored the idea of moving west when it was raised four to five years ago. "I'm not saying we have to pull the plug and come to a dead stop, but look at options of what it would cost to build city hall elsewhere."

Councilmembers Lauren Tolmachoff and Ray Malnar said they would need to hear more about alternative sites. Tolmachoff said part of the exploration should look at alternative uses for the downtown city hall building.

Mayor Jerry Weiers said he favors downtown, and compared the revitalization project to flying an airplane. "One thing that you typically do when you're going on a journey ... is you set your course. And during that course you're constantly making very small minor corrections, because of wind, different things like that. I'm not changing my direction. I still feel that downtown — that everything we've talked about here is where we should be. But I'm willing to stop and get more fuel and kind of think about it a little bit."

Turner said city operations in downtown support area merchants. "I'm not and never have been in favor of moving city hall," he said.

Aldama, who represents the downtown area, said any study of alternative sites should’ve happened long before the council hired contractors and OK’d the downtown updates.

“It’s retaliatory,” he said of Clark’s proposal to look elsewhere. “Because somebody’s upset I’m going to move your building and that’s the way I took that. And that’s absolutely wrong.”

More on Murphy Park

Lorraine Zomok, a downtown Glendale resident and business owner, said she was disappointed by Clark's proposal, "but I'm hoping that is just a small blip in the system and that eventually all the good things will come to fruition for downtown Glendale."

Zomok said she was pleased that it seemed the group had the ear of city leaders, both in the presentation on downtown renovations made by city management and the comments from some council members.

"Our biggest concern is to do what's right for the community. We heard today that the council wants to do that as well," she said.

One of the biggest concerns for the group and several council members is that Murphy Park's trees have not been properly irrigated, which has led some to become diseased and die.

The park used to be flood irrigated, but in 2005 a sprinkler system was installed instead to water both the trees and the turf. Knaack, as well as several members of the council, said flood irrigation is better to reach the deep roots of mature trees.

Turner said flood irrigation could also be better for addressing the state's water crisis, as sprinklers sometimes use potable water but flood irrigation does not.

"Not a single drop of the Colorado River water ends up in Murphy Park through our flood irrigation system," Turner said. "The water that goes to Murphy Park comes from the Salt and Verde Rivers, here in Arizona."

Reach the reporter at endia.fontanez@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EndiaRain.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Glendale considers moving City Hall to Westgate area