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Thrift store redevelopment moves forward, residents remain opposed

NOT HAPPY: Neighbors of Gracie’s thrift store express their opposition to the proposed building plans with scattered yard signs. (Photo by Rosie Gochnour)
NOT HAPPY: Neighbors of Gracie’s thrift store express their opposition to the proposed building plans with scattered yard signs. (Photo by Rosie Gochnour)

The redevelopment of a Tempe thrift store into low-income housing — a plan that has caused unrest among local residents— is one step closer to being realized.

The preliminary plan for the five-story building on the property of Gracie’s Thrift Store on Apache Boulevard near McClintock Drive has been reviewed by city planners and is now in the hands of development firm Gorman and Company. The developers have not finalized the building design but expect to resubmit the plans to the city in mid-November, said Brian Swanton, the firm’s market manager for Arizona.

“My personal preference is to stick with the plan we have,” Swanton said.

The current plans call for 75 low-income housing units on the two-acre lot where the thrift store is located. According to the city’s General Plan, the lot is designated for low-density housing, or 25 units per acre. The building’s height is also limited to 40 feet, according to the plan.

To allow the extra units and height, Gorman and Company is seeking to have the lot rezoned so there are no height or unit limits.

Residents in nearby neighborhoods are upset over the plans.

Sunday marked the fourth time that local community members picketed against the redevelopment in front of Grace Community Church, owner of the thrift store.

“We feel like we’re fighting to protect our property, our property values and our quality of life here,” said Gail Martelli, a resident who lives near the store.

Local community members like Martelli, who lives in the Tomlinson Estates neighborhood, are worried about the increase in traffic the redevelopment could produce on their streets.

Residents favor forcing those leaving the new building to head south, away from the neighborhood, Martelli said.

Tomlinson Estates residents also worry about privacy for homeowners who would only have an alley between their house and the redeveloped building.

Director of Gracie’s ministry and thrift store Jeff Brosman said that won’t be a problem because the back of the building will be a couple hundred feet from the property line and architectural features will be used to ensure there is no line of sight from the apartments into anyone’s backyard.

ASU alumnus and Tomlinson Estates resident Susanna Yazzie lives in a house right next to the thrift store’s lot. Yazzie said she doesn’t believe what Brosman said about the architectural features to block the line of sight.

“They’re going to do whatever they want to do,” she said.

However, not every community member is opposed to the redevelopment.

Manager of nearby Quo Vadis bookstore Sarah Sanders said the new building would add so much to the area.

“What I love about this development is it is actually making a place, in a beautiful building, for those who need affordable housing,” she said.

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