For the Town of Marana, fixing neighborhood problems can mean solving surface-level issues and their deeper causes, both figuratively and literally. These fixes involve the town’s water, financial and legal departments, as well as an application process for funding. But through this process, two Marana neighborhoods are seeing major improvements.
In early 2016, former Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson discussed a new funding plan to reinvest in some of the town’s older neighborhoods. In the three years since, Marana has used this plan to upgrade multiple aspects of the Adonis neighborhood and Honea Heights, and even more upgrades are in the works.
The neighborhood funding program, originally called the colonia revitalization program, seeks to fix municipal and logistical problems affecting local homes. Some of the major problems were drainage and sewage in the Adonis neighborhood and mobile home park.
The Adonis area streets were not originally part of Marana, operating on a private sewer system. According to Marana Town Manager Jamsheed Mehta, had they originally been part of the Town of Marana, the sewage plans would not have been approved. Adonis’ streets experienced drainage issues which caused sewage to collect, ultimately resulting in two over-capacity lagoons.
“If we were to just rebuild those streets with better drainage, we still wouldn’t know the state of the manholes or the sewers underneath,” Mehta said. “It’s almost like a domino situation.”
As part of its neighborhood revitalization program, the town applied for state funding by making a two-point argument: the area would structurally benefit, and the funding could halt a sewage system failure that could lead to an environmental hazard. From this plea, the Town of Marana received $1.5 million from the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Half of this money was a grant, and half was a loan with a 2.7 percent interest rate.
With this financing, the town staff acquired the Adonis sewage systems and built a new lift station and force main. These were able to pump Adonis sewage into the nearest Town of Marana municipal system. And by the end of 2019, the Adonis area will have a complete, refurbished sewage system owned by the town.
“Our intent was to make changes to the drainage on top; we never anticipated getting into the sewage,” Mehta said. “But at the end of the day, it was part of the Marana community.”
Another Marana neighborhood being revitalized is Honea Heights. In a similar complication, Honea Heights is a ‘colonia’ with private property and private septic tanks. But in addition to this, the town is also constructing a neighborhood park for Honea Heights.
The Honea Heights park, which is in its final design phase, is planned to include a basketball court, a shade ramada, dedicated parking, benches and barbeque areas.
“We think it will make for an excellent asset to the area,” Mehta said.
Both of these Honea Heights projects are still in the works, and plans are to continue the active revitalization for just the two neighborhoods throughout 2020. But this doesn’t mean those are the only two Marana neighborhoods that can be improved in the coming months.
Marana residents and neighborhood groups can apply for a Community Development Block Grant to fund the revitalization of private property. According to Mehta, the town can lend tools and provide cleanup for these communal projects, describing it as a form of “organizational investment” rather than “capital investment.”
However, these block grants cannot simply fund home improvement projects, and generally need to help prevent community code violations. If a property qualifies for this type of funding, the work can be completed either by professional contractors or by town staff.
For the next step in neighborhood revitalization and investment, the Town of Marana is looking to see if there is an empty lot in the Adonis area to convert into a “pocket park” similar to the planned park in Honea Heights.
“Ultimately, the goal for this is to see how to make our neighborhoods more livable and kid-friendly,” Mehta said.