The Paseo Trail

The Paseo Trail could have an overpass over train tracks at the south end of the Heritage North project.

A final conceptual design and cost estimate for a half-mile, car-free pathway connecting Elliot Road to Juniper Avenue in downtown Gilbert are expected at the end of February.

The Paseo will link to several existing open spaces in the Heritage District such as the Water Tower Plaza, Veteran’s Park and the Western Powerline Trail.

“The purpose of this really is to create safe passage for pedestrians and bicyclists through the Heritage District,” said Chad Atterbury, a landscape architect with Dig Studio at last Wednesday’s Redevelopment Commission study session.

The Paseo will cut through the mixed-used Heritage North project consisting of nine buildings of retail, offices, a 100-bed hotel and 288-unit apartment. 

Later at a formal meeting, the Redevelopment Commission unanimously recommended approval of two permits for Heritage North, which will sit on 11.97 acres at the southwest corner of Juniper Avenue and Gilbert Road. 

The site includes a Burger King that the developer purchased “at great expense” and will remove to make way for the hotel.

There are no proposed breaks in the pedestrian corridor. An overpass is envisioned at the Union Pacific railroad tracks at the south segment of the project, according to Atterbury. An at-grade crossing at the tracks on Gilbert Road also is being reviewed, he added.

There also are different iterations of the design for the Paseo on Ash Street in the Lacy neighborhood, according to Atterbury.  A realignment of Ash Street is planned but is not part of the Paseo project.

“One thing we realize is we need to keep the driveways and alley access and a lot of the different elements like that always opened and available,” Atterbury said. “We want to keep on-street parking available on the east side of the road especially and within the two blocks near the residential areas. We also want to maintain tree coverage.”

The other goals for Ash Street include providing a safe route for Gilbert Elementary School students and connecting pedestrian and bicycle routes from Elliot Road to Juniper Avenue, according to Atterbury.

The Paseo project is outlined in the 2018 Heritage District Redevelopment Plan.

Atterbury said a few public meetings were held and there was outreach to stakeholders.  

Feedback on what the public wanted to see for the Paseo included shade as a priority, well-lit pathways along the entire route, accommodation for events and festivals and a clearly marked bike lane.

Atterbury said the project’s cost won’t be borne entirely by the Town and that there are opportunities to find partners.

 The Planning Commission last Wednesday also recommended approval of  two conditional use permits allowing for the hotel and for the apartment building in the Heritage North project. No one from the community spoke at the public meeting.

Planner Ashlee MacDonald said the apartment building called for 52 units on the ground floor.

 Vice Chairman Casey Kendal asked what would happen if ground-floor residential was not approved.

“We’d have to go back and ask for additional height” for the apartment, said attorney Charles Huellmantel, representing the developer. “In the end, I think you will have a project that is out of balance.”

The apartment building is currently planned at 78 feet and 10 inches tall.

“We would have to find something else to do with the ground floor,” Huellmantel said. “I think we have appropriately place retail where it should be.”

He said the project has a “huge amount of retail for the downtown” and the developer would have to remove it from the other buildings and look at relocating the hotel from the corner.

He reminded commissioners that the developer has worked with staff for two years to arrive at an acceptable project.

 Commissioner Cassandra Mehan said she didn’t like the idea of the apartment building going taller and was comfortable with the ground-floor residential, calling it an optimal location when looking at the site plan.

Commissioner Boe Bigelow agreed.

“We do have tons of retail and a ton of restaurants down here,” he said. “Having more multi-family, people actually living in the district will definitely help keep those businesses alive and just keep the whole thing flowing and functioning.”

Kendel said he had reservations with the multi-family component of the project but “I believe that it will be managed well. At least that is my hope.”

The commissioners voted 3-0 on both permits. Chairman TJ Claassen recused himself from the discussion due to a conflict of interest.