Phoenix debates role of urban renewal agency

Consultant gives city three primary options

PHOENIX — The future leadership and direction of the Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency is up in the air, and city officials are gathering input to decide whether to make any changes.

The City Council held what Mayor Jeff Bellah called a "vigorous study session" during a council workshop Thursday, and another council session about the agency is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 19.

Last Thursday's session focused on the structure of the urban renewal agency. At a council meeting before that, a consultant suggested three possible options for the agency: Have the City Council assume control as the urban renewal board, maintain the existing agency, or form a combined group.

Discussions about the direction of the urban renewal agency came after City Council last month rejected a proposal to relocate and remodel the historic Steadman House. Urban renewal agency board members had favored the project.

Bellah said last Thursday's meeting was aimed at giving council members an open forum to voice their opinions on various options. The meeting planned for Sept. 19 will give urban renewal board members the same opportunity, he said.

Bellah, a proponent of building trust between the two entities, said he wants to hear from both sides before any changes are made.

Marla Cates, executive director of the urban renewal agency, declined comment other than to say she had decided not to attend recent council meetings to discuss urban renewal and felt "right now the council needs to work things out in their own minds."

Council member Terry Helfrich said he went into the Thursday meeting "in neutral," but he left feeling that things should be left as they are — with the City Council and the Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency board functioning separately.

Helfrich, who serves as a council liaison for the urban renewal board, said he hoped to hear more input from urban renewal board members.

Helfrich noted that the early years of urban renewal, under council control, were not ideal, with the city losing out on urban renewal dollars due to missed filing deadlines. "I definitely believe we need more input ... before we can make a good decision. I also believe our urban renewal agency is doing a good job, and the council really has other things they could be focusing on," Helfrich said.

The Sept. 19 City Council study session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the city offices at 1000 S. B St.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at

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