Tempe plans to open the Hayden Flour Mill on April 25 about six months after renovations began despite controversy over finishing details.
The cost of the project was originally estimated at $300,000 but has doubled, Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said.
Hallman is also the president of the Rio Salado Foundation, the organization responsible for funding the project.
The foundation needs to raise $20,000 more to finish the project, Hallman said.
The project elements that would require more money have caused debate.
By turning the flour mill’s exterior into an event space, Tempe hopes to make the property more attractive to developers. Tempe wants developers that will turn the site into a restaurant, venue or boutique hotel while preserving the historical integrity, Hallman said.
The temporary nature of the project has made it difficult to reach solid conclusions when planning.
A community garden is one aspect currently in question, Councilwoman Onnie Shekerjian said.
At the Tempe City Council meeting on March 22, the mayor and council voted to take over development of a Tempe community garden as part of the mill project.
However, the Downtown Tempe Community, Inc., and students from the Global Institute of Sustainability are concerned that the mill grounds will not be a permanent location for the garden, Shekerjian said.
“It seems a little silly to put the garden at the mill when we really need a permanent location,” she said.
The Tempe community garden was originally on College Avenue and Fifth Street but was forced to relocate because of property development.
“It’s been a lot of work for the DTC, as well as some of the students at ASU, and it’s been disappointing that they’ve had to quit the current garden,” Shekerjian said.
Most of the work done on the mill so far includes pieces that can be moved in the future, said Chris Messer, Tempe’s principal planner of special projects and historic preservation.
The trees around the mill will be kept in boxes and used around the city when a tree is needed.
“They will start at the flour mill like a nursery,” Messer said.
The final decision facing the City Council is whether or not to paint the mill.
The debate arose because the mill’s paint has peeled off during the last decade, revealing several historic logos.
At least four different versions of the iconic logo can be seen on the north side of the building right now, Messer said.
The building will either be partially painted and sealed to preserve its current appearance or completely painted with a new logo, identical to the original, Messer said.
Sunbelt Holdings, the owner of the Hayden Ferry Lakeside business complex, asked the mayor to wait on painting the mill because the business complex is trying to attract tenants, Hallman said at the March 22 City Council meeting.
The “funkiness” of the building may be what makes it attractive, he said at the meeting.
“The goal is not to make the place look crappier, it’s to make it look as good as we can,” Hallman said at the meeting.
Shekerjian said residents and businesses are divided over whether to paint or not.
“Some say, ‘Paint the eyesore,’ some say ‘Wait for landscaping and light,’” Shekerjian said.
Hallman said it is important to remember this renovation is about bridging the Mill Avenue and Tempe Town Lake districts, giving people a reason to go between the two areas.
“Regardless of when a project comes in, we’ll have an activated space for public use,” Hallman said.
Reach the reporter at Michelle.Peirano@asu.edu