Glendale is set to move forward with its riverwalk project

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A few other buildings would need to move to make way for the riverwalk, as well. The Original Hamburger Stand across Virginia Avenue from Shotgun Willie's sits on land owned by the city, so that shouldn't be a problem. But the rug shop next door is another story. A woman who identified herself as the owner of Authentic Persian & Oriental Rugs but didn't want her name used says she hasn't decided whether to sell. "It depends on what the city has to offer," she says.

Similarly noncommittal are the owners of the Staybridge Suites hotel located on Virginia Avenue, next to the site of the former wastewater treatment plant. "We don't have any plans, because I don't think there's enough definitive there," says Dan Boyum, the vice president of investor relations for Summit Hotel Properties. "We have to wait and see what happens."

But Dunafon reports that all of the landowners are on board with the riverwalk. "We don't have any dissension among the landowners," he says proudly. The city is the biggest landowner, with 42 percent of the land. And it's true that other landowners say they support the project.

"We're supportive of any positive changes in the immediate neighborhood," says Kevin Richey, the vice president of Crown West Realty, which owns the One Cherry Center office building located at the corner of Virginia and Cherry within the riverwalk boundary. "We'd be an advocate of a riverwalk project, certainly. It's a great addition to Glendale."

To finance the project without RTA money, Glendale wants to create a metropolitan district, a special district that can issue bonds to build infrastructure and then increase taxes on future tenants to pay down the debt. The district would hopefully be created in 2014 and the bonds issued the same year, Line says. He was hesitant to say how much they'd be for, but Dunafon hazarded a guess at between $80 and $110 million. The project should be 75 percent complete by 2016, Dunafon says, though other officials say it may take until 2017.

"We're very fortunate that we have a population that constantly says yes," Dunafon says about the city's residents. Not to be overlooked, however, is Glendale's small but loyal cadre of city employees, whose connections stretch back to that contentious 1998 election.

"It's a group of really dedicated, professional people who took a vision fifteen years ago and have worked toward that vision every step of the way," he says.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar