Surprise’s downtown includes its city hall, a library, a four-year university and plans for new popular restaurants.
Downtown Surprise is an island of city buildings and amenities in a sea of dirt.
But city leaders see the raw desert as the community’s best shot at creating a unique downtown in the fast-growing suburb of stucco master-planned communities.
On the 1-square-mile block bounded by Bullard Avenue and Litchfield, Bell and Greenway roads, they envision a walkable shopping district, a university campus and entertainment venues.
However, the Surprise City Council is split over how to realize it.
The division was on full display this summer when a four-member council bloc rejected a developer’s plans to build houses on a chunk of the land.
A fractured council
Dissent over how the city should develop its downtown erupted in June as the council, the landowner and residents clashed over a proposal for Mattamy Homes to build single-family homes in the area.
Some council members and residents opposed the development, calling for apartments or condos to attract Millennials. Mattamy Homes representatives said focus groups show greater demand for single-family homes.
Mayor Sharon Wolcott urged…
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