On October 30, the Town of Marana received a Common Ground Award from the Metropolitan Pima Alliance for its part in the creation of the Marana Center and the new Simon Premium Outlet Mall. This annual celebration honors public projects across Pima County that exhibit a spirit of collaboration across jurisdictions and between the public and private sectors.
From the first stages of this project, Marana worked closely with developers to ensure a speedy yet thorough design and review process, so that the Mall could meet its target to open before the holiday shopping season.
Developers first approached the Town in the summer of 2013 with the idea of a new Marana Center. They needed reassurance, however, that the Town would provide adequate support throughout the design and review process. “We were eager to partner with them from the very beginning,” remembers Steve Cheslak, the project planner for Marana. The close partnership between the Town and developers is what allowed this extensive project to proceed quickly from idea to reality.
Typically, when construction occurs in any municipality, builders must undergo a lengthy design submission process. This entails plans shuttling back and forth between architects and Town plan reviewers. Due to the extensiveness of this project, however, the Town convened a roundtable with both the Marana Center and Simon teams, including engineers, planners, and builders, and the Town’s own staff. Through this partnership, the private and public sectors were able to enjoy an open dialogue that facilitated a firm foundation for future cooperation.
“Our meetings were an open forum to talk through potential challenges and anticipate them long before they became major issues,” recalls Ryan Mahoney, Marana’s planning director. “Without that kind of cooperation, I don’t think we would have been able to do this as quickly and effectively as we did.”
That is not to say, though, that this project encountered no obstacles. A significant archaeological site was discovered, dating back to the days when the Hohokam farmed the banks of the Santa Cruz. Rather than letting this discovery derail the project, however, the developers collaborated with the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the State Historic Preservation Office to document these historical findings. Only when all three groups gave their final approval could the project proceed. Due to the collaborative effort among all parties, this process occurred efficiently and thoroughly, without sacrificing quality.
In the months preceding the opening of the Simon Premium Outlets on October 1, an army of construction workers descended on the site. Amid a torrent of activity, Marana was able to provide a dedicated inspector who remained on site every day. The availability of this inspector enabled builders to deal immediately with problems as they arose. That inspector was also trained as a plan reviewer, and so could approve on-the-spot revisions to the mall building plans.
On October 1, to much fanfare, the Simon Premium Outlets at Marana Center opened. A year earlier, an undeveloped desert had stood on that same site. A year before that, this project was only the glimmer of an idea in a developer’s eye. Only through close collaboration among all parties could so significant a project unfold under so tight a schedule. This Common Ground Award recognizes that accomplishment, and establishes Marana as a place where collaboration is the top priority.