Ryan Stanton, rstanton@ExplorerNews.com
Nov. 9, 2005 - Without being in on the ground floor, it'd be hard for a potential homebuyer to know exactly what the future holds for Marana - a place they might consider calling home.
With the creation of the Marana Community Showroom, a new exhibit on display inside Town Hall, town officials have taken steps to inform future residents about Marana's history and its progressive vision for the future.
It's probably not a bad resource for current residents, either, said Diane Mangialardi, the town's administrative manager.
"It's a great source of information for our residents or people who want to move into Marana. They can actually see what's happening, what developments are going in and what the future holds for Marana," she said. "It's a one-stop shop here for everything, and you can see where you might want to live."
The showroom was built just in time for the 2005 Wild Ride tour Oct. 27, where several hundred community stakeholders were given a taste of new development taking shape in Marana, Pima County's hottest real estate market.
One of the highlights of the bus tour was a stop inside the Marana Municipal Complex, where visitors gawked at colorful showroom displays featuring Marana's upcoming development projects, including everything from new parks and cultural exhibits to thousands of new homes.
"It was an opportunity to highlight all the successful developments and community projects that are taking place within the town of Marana and I think the end result has been excellent," said Gilbert Davidson, assistant town manager. "Everyone has walked away with a good direction of where Marana is headed."
Mangialardi worked with Davidson and several other town officials to plan and design the room, selecting a layout and color scheme that fits the town's state-of-the-art municipal complex. The Chicago native said she wished the town had a showroom when she first moved to Marana 10 years ago.
Drawings of a new town library and district park in Continental Ranch hang on the walls near plans for a new terminal building at the town's airport. Maps of a future trail system through the Tortolita Mountains and drawings of the Heritage Park are juxtaposed to a poster featuring a detailed history of Marana.
However, it may be a $2,700 display prominently featured near the entrance that tells visitors what the heart of Marana will look like in the next decade. Sketches of Marana's future Town Center, printed on glossy posterboard, cover an entire wall and show a lively, pedestrian-friendly community yet to be built.
The town solicited funds from developers and homebuilders in exchange for display space. Shell space inside the new municipal complex, which was intended for future staff expansion, was renovated for the showroom at a cost of $28,339, according to town records.
The town expects a total of $19,588 in contributions from developers and homebuilders, $7,738 of which has already been collected. About $10,000 of the cost to convert the empty space was allocated for ventilation and electrical work that would have been done regardless of whether the town built a showroom, said Jessica Ziegler, the town's community relations officer.
The showroom includes two brand-new touch-screen kiosks, complete with Marana's town logo. The kiosks, which cost $6,144, allow visitors to tour the Web sites of various developers, homebuilders and other nonprofit organizations in Marana.
Ziegler, who helped coordinate construction of the room and purchasing of equipment, said the kiosks will benefit developers, residents and the town. Town officials will be able to lug the high-tech gizmos to regional and statewide conferences to showcase Marana to other communities, she said.
Everything inside the room was designed and built by Marana employees. In the "town- zone corner," a large table-top display features a three-dimensional topographic map of Marana, which was put together using the town's satellite imagery.
Ziegler said town employees worked tirelessly setting up the displays. Chris Mack, a senior analyst in the town's Geographic Information Systems Department, helped by getting graphic displays off the computers and onto the walls, while Facilities Laborer Jeff Perto rose to every complicated task thrown his way, Ziegler said.
Nonprofit entities such as the Marana Rotary Club, Marana Health Center, Marana Chamber of Commerce and Miracle in Marana were allowed free displays.
Some of the homebuilders and developers that paid for display space include: KB Home, DR Horton, Meritage Homes, Hallcraft Homes, Richmond American Homes, Lennar Homes, Gladden Farms, Dove Mountain, Standard Pacific, Saguaro Ranch and Stellar Gray.
Ziegler said the town has made a minimum two-year commitment to keep the room up and running. In the meantime, the room is open to the public during the town's business hours.
Forest City Land Group, developers of Gladden Farms, spent about $3,000 to have a display of its development, where visitors can help themselves to chewing gum samples branded with the Gladden Farms logo.
Shane Graser, of TMR Investors in Scottsdale, handled getting Tortolita Mountain Ranch's large display put into the showroom. His firm's project, also known as The Zipprich Project, could boast up to 7,000 new homes on about 1,895 acres along the east side of Interstate 10 in northern Marana.
"The community exhibit is excellent for both builders and developers to showcase our products and to show what the future of Marana will look like," Graser said. "We're really impressed with the town of Marana and how innovative they are. We're finding Marana definitely knows what it wants to do with its future."
The town expects that realtors will bring potential homebuyers to the showroom to get a feel for the products and the town's facilities. If anyone has questions about the displays, town officials are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to meet and explain projects, Mangialardi said.