Despite the pandemic, Chandler maintained a brisk pace SanTan Sun News

Despite the pandemic, Chandler maintained a brisk pace

December 23rd, 2020 Editorial Staff
Despite the pandemic, Chandler maintained a brisk pace
Community
1

By the City of Chandler

2020 has definitely been one for the books. Despite the craziness with a worldwide pandemic and a U.S. Presidential election, there is still much to acknowledge and celebrate about this year in Chandler.

Everyone had to pivot and adjust the way they live their lives:  families, business, schools, churches and municipal government. Virtual experiences became the new normal. Despite the many challenges to the economy, several companies announced their relocation to or expansion in Chandler and are now thriving.

Once again our Community of Innovation was honored with multiple accolades to further showcase Chandler as a world-class city to live, work, play and visit.

January

2020 started off strong as the City of Chandler was named the #6 Best Place to Find a Job by WalletHub, moving up from last year’s #10 ranking.

In early January, the Tumbleweed Recreation Center (TRC) held a grand reopening to celebrate the refurbishment of the fitness center floor and the jogging/walking track. The new surfaces provide TRC guests with a more cushioned workout experience designed to reduce impact on the joints when running, walking and stretching.

New strength training equipment features state-of-the-art technology to enhance the workout experience, with ergonomic designs to help alleviate joint stress.

Chandler City Council unanimously voted during its Jan. 9 meeting to elect Councilmember René Lopez as the new vice mayor.

The City’s Diversity Office hosted the 25th annual Chandler Multicultural Festival, bringing the community together to celebrate Chandler’s diverse cultures. The one-day event featured live entertainment, arts & crafts and a variety of ethnic foods.

The City also partnered with the Chandler International Film Festival to host their weekend series of cinematic events, which attracted thousands of attendees to Downtown Chandler.

The community celebrated the lives of two former Chandler Mayors who passed away – Mayor Jerry Brooks and Mayor Coy Payne. Mayor Brooks served on the Chandler City Council from 1982 to 1984 and as mayor from 1984 to 1988 following a 30-year military career.

Mayor Payne, the first African American mayor in Chandler and in the state, served on the City Council from 1982 to 1990 and as mayor from 1990 to 1994.

Council members Matt Orlando and Mark Stewart were appointed to serve on the National League of Cities 2020 Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) federal advocacy committee and the Community and Economic Development (CED) federal advocacy committee, respectively.

The City kicked off its Live at Lunch weekly series at the Downtown Stage at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park that featured a variety of local musical performers, including Blaine Long.

The Chandler Arts Commission and Downtown Redevelopment teamed up to commission a new mural for the Downtown Chandler Breezeway, which is located in the passage between the Historic Square and New Square development.

The mural, completed by Cam DeCaussin and Joey Salamon, was inspired by the City’s historic past and innovative future. “Monuments to Us” depicts Chandler’s agricultural roots that evolved into the City’s iconic contemporary buildings.

The City’s Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) waitlist opened up for the first time in four years. In two weeks, 6,560 total pre-applications were received and, through the lottery process, 4,000 of those pre-applications were added to the waitlist.

Chandler released its 2019 Annual Report to highlight major projects and accomplishments as a Community of Innovation, as well as progress made to implement the City Council’s strategic policy goals.

February

Chandler commemorated the legal incorporation of the town, which was approved by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 16, 1920. To commemorate the anniversary, a new historical marker was installed on the northwest corner of Arizona Avenue and Chicago Street, the site of the original Town Hall that was dedicated in 1923.

Chandler became one of the first cities nationwide to implement a free texting service for customers and contractors to schedule construction inspections and receive results via text messaging.

The city Economic Development Division hosted the 9th Annual Chandler Science Spectacular. Sponsored by Northrop Grumman, Intel and First Things First, the event brought thousands of attendees of all ages into Downtown Chandler to experience science in an interactive way.

Chandler Municipal Airport held its first open house to kickoff the Airport Master Plan update to the community. The open house provided attendees with the opportunity to provide feedback regarding the initial results of the inventory phase of the airport master planning process.

This was the first of three open house events scheduled for the public.

Clarivate Analytics, a global leader in providing trusted insights and analytics to accelerate the pace of innovation, signed a 30,000 square foot lease at Chandler Viridian in the Price Corridor — with plans to employ approximately 150 people.

The Chandler office will be one of three new Centers of Excellence, with the other locations in London and Malaysia.

During the annual State of the City Address, Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke highlighted Chandler’s achievements during the past year as well as new things coming in the year ahead. The event kicked off with a Made in Chandler Expo, featuring local businesses with innovative products made in the City. View the State of the City address and accompanying videos on YouTube at youtu.be/X1X5HLMtVTE.

The Chandler Center for the Arts organized its ninth Annual Eat Your Art Out Chandler community event. For one day in February, 10 local restaurants donated a percentage of their proceeds to support the programs at Chandler Center for the Arts, making them accessible to everyone.

March

The City signed a new one-year recycling contract with Chandler-based United Fibers. As part of the contract, there were additional fees included at the request of the contractor for the disposal of contaminated materials (or items that aren’t accepted) that are often unintentionally placed in the recycle bin.

Chandler held an all-mail ballot Special Election to amend the City Charter regarding the timing of City elections to conform with state law, which was passed by Chandler voters.

Root Insurance, the nation’s first car insurance company to incorporate individual driving behavior in every rate, announced plans to expand its operations in Chandler, creating 480 new jobs over the next five years.

Starting March 12, Chandler residents received an invitation to be counted in the 2020 Census. It was the first time in the history of the Census that residents were able to participate online.

Mayor Kevin Hartke signed an emergency declaration proclaiming a local emergency in response to COVID-19.

As part of this declaration, all Chandler residents were ordered to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to further prevent the spread of the virus, including wearing a mask when not able to be physically distant.

Chandler City Council approved a resolution to relax standards on the City’s temporary sign code.

This gave local businesses that might be struggling during the pandemic the opportunity to have additional signage to promote their services and without needing a permit.

Chandler’s Economic Development Division created a “Choose Chandler” online tool for businesses to submit current offerings, such as online services, specials, delivery/takeout, curbside pick-up and hiring opportunities.

This was promoted to residents to help support local businesses, find new places to dine/shop and maybe even find a job. The tool is accessible at chandleraz.gov/ChooseChandlerMap.

By mid-March, Chandler temporarily closed City facilities including four libraries, four recreation centers, the senior center and six aquatic centers and pools to the public. All special events on City property through April 30 were postponed or canceled to help stop the spread of the virus.

April

The month of April kicked off with National Census Day — another reminder for all Chandler residents to complete their census online, by phone, or return the completed questionnaire sent by mail. Census outreach efforts continued through mid-October.

Chandler launched a recycling awareness campaign to educate residents about recycling in order to reduce contamination, thus reducing the overall cost to the city. With the potential for increased fees, it’s more important than ever that Chandler residents are only placing the items that the contractor accepts in their blue recycle bins.

April was Water Awareness Month and throughout the month the City shared water facts, tips & resources to help residents become more water aware and learn ways to conserve in and around their home.

After months of planning for the annual Family Bike Ride, the City changed course to host the first Chandler Family Bike Ride as a week-long community-building ride and social media event to coincide with Valley Bike Month.

Many of Chandler’s regularly scheduled programs, events and meetings changed from in-person to a virtual platform for the public to participate safely at home, including City Council meetings. Council meetings still can be watched live or on-demand on Chandler’s YouTube channel or chandleraz.gov/video.

Chandler launched a hotline and webpage dedicated to assist residents with needs or questions related to City services impacted by COVID. The webpage, chandleraz.go/COVID19, highlighted the numerous resources and services accessible online. In addition, the City promoted a variety of wellness and outdoor activities that residents could experience at parks or in their neighborhoods.

A new sculpture was installed on the southeast corner of Arizona Avenue and Boston Street in Downtown Chandler. The Chandler Arts Commission supported the effort through IN FLUX, a temporary public art installation initiative providing opportunities for local artists. Roommates is a six-feet sculpture that is equal parts saguaro cactus, paper airplane and building. The artwork will remain in place for one year.

Chandler launched a virtual Live at Lunch series that featured a variety of local musicians who performed live acts from their homes during the lunchtime hour.

The Chandler Center for the Arts (CCA) was awarded $50,000 from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust to offset major economic losses and to support the Center’s  community response to COVID-19.

In addition, the CCA was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Ruth McCormick Tankersley Charitable Trust to support its Connecting Kids program for the 2020-2021 season.

Chandler Police offered a business watch program to businesses closed for an extended period of time during the essential service restrictions by conducting extra patrols and spot checks at the business.

May

Chandler joined the International Code Council and its partners to celebrate the 40th Annual Building Safety Month. This year’s theme was “Safer Buildings, Safer Communities, Safer World.” Throughout the month, Development Services staff was featured, along with safety tips and activities for kids.

City Council hosted a Return to Service community briefing to discuss the City’s plan to begin reopening its parks, libraries and recreation center, as well as what departments are doing to serve residents during the pandemic.

The city Diversity Office and the Chandler Museum partnered to create the Veterans Database to document our community’s history of military service. The information will be used as a foundation for future initiatives to honor the service and tell the stories of Chandler’s veterans.

The city created a Memorial Day video tribute highlighting the community’s history of military service that includes interviews, exhibits and a musical performance.

The city installed temporary 30-minute free parking signage in the Downtown Historic Square. This assisted patrons with easier access to their favorite eateries and shops for takeout/delivery options.

Chandler kicked off a new initiative called ‘Dine in the Park’. In an effort to provide additional capacity for restaurants as they adapt to restrictions imposed due to COVID-19, patrons ordering from local eateries are now able to consume beer and wine in Dr. A.J. Chandler Park West and the Courtyard with their take-out meals.

Chandler implemented an advance appointment scheduling option for a variety of services that require a one-on-one session with city staff. This eliminated long lines and wait times for customers.

The Cultural Development Department teamed up with SanTan Brewing Company, The San Marcos Resort and the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership to commission a new mural in Downtown Chandler, along Commonwealth Avenue. The colorful addition, titled Hum of the Desert, was completed by Chandler resident and Chandler High School graduate Ariana Enriquez.

Rachelle Kuzyk was hired as the City’s new Library Manager overseeing the operations of the Chandler Public Library system. She brings extensive experience to Chandler from the City of Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

The Chandler Parks Division introduced a new website, planchandlersparks.com, to inform the public about the Parks Strategic Master Plan. As part of the outreach, several virtual forums were held to get community feedback.

City Council ratified an emergency declaration brought forward by City Manager Marsha Reed to reduce liquor license renewal fees by 50% and to push back their due date by three months (from June to September).

Chandler’s Economic Development Division received Council approval to prepare a multi-faceted “I Choose Chandler” marketing initiative to support local businesses and inform the community of the impact residents make when they choose to spend their money and volunteer their time in Chandler.

June

Chandler Libraries kicked off the annual Summer Reading Challenge with this year’s theme being ‘Imagine Your Story.’

The Chandler Center for the Arts launched its CCA Anywhere Series, virtual performances that the public could watch anywhere with a phone, tablet or computer.

Mayor Kevin Hartke and the City’s Economic Development Division, in partnership with ARIZONA@WORK Maricopa County, Career Connectors, Pipeline AZ and BestCompaniesAZ hosted a virtual hiring event. The job fair continued through July 10.

Chandler’s Economic Development Division, in partnership with the Chandler Industrial Development Authority, initiated an “I Choose Chandler” reimbursement grant program to assist small businesses with costs incurred from purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Qualifying Chandler businesses can still apply for a grant in amounts between $100 and $500. A total of $200,000 was made available for the program.

City Council approved the city’s annual budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21 in the amount of $931,336,929 and the 10-Year Capital Improvement Program budget in the amount of $1,164,226,378. The $931 million budget represents a .46 percent increase from last fiscal year and included a slight reduction in the property tax rate.

Chandler Aquatics, Fire and Police mobilized to bring together the power of community to raise water safety awareness. Fire trucks from all 11 Chandler fire stations converged on 11 neighboring elementary schools for a mini “Pool Together” drive-by parade, accompanied by police vehicles and City lifeguards.

The partnership also included Chandler Unified and Kyrene school districts.

The city Economic Development Department, in partnership with University of Arizona Eller College of Management announced the new Professional MBA program blending online learning with bi-weekly practicums in Chandler.

Chandler Public Library was awarded four grants totaling $42,206 through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) for projects developed by library staff to better meet the needs of the community.

CVS Health announced a new 101,000 square foot office at Allred Park Place development along the Price Corridor. CVS Health will employ approximately 500 workers at the site.

As a result of the governor’s executive order, Tumbleweed Rec Center closed its doors, Chandler Libraries reverted to drop-off and pick-up services, and capacity was reduced at Chandler pools and the Tennis Center.

During a council meeting on June 8, Mayor Kevin Hartke and the City Council issued a Unity proclamation, which tasked the Human Relations Commission (HRC) to engage with the community and make recommendations to the City Council to benefit the quality of life, economic opportunity and relationships within Chandler.

Mayor Kevin Hartke issued a proclamation regarding use of masks/face coverings in Chandler businesses and public spaces.

The Chandler Museum hosted the Smithsonian traveling exhibition, Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, which detailed the history of Indian Americans and their contributions to the United States from the 1700s to the present. The exhibit was on display through August.

Through an annual allocations process, the city Neighborhood Resources Department administered $1.2 million in human services grants that were awarded to 40 programs serving Chandler’s families in crisis, special populations and youth.

July

The annual July 4th Fireworks Spectacular was canceled due to new social distancing restrictions ordered by State leadership.

The Chandler City Council approved the allocation of nearly $30 million in federal coronavirus relief aid (AZ CARES Fund). A total of $9.5 million will assist businesses retain and hire employees and acquire personal protective equipment.

The city’s nonprofit and community service organizations will receive nearly $2 million in additional funding. Chandler will use $7.1 million to update the city’s technology infrastructure.

The city allocated $500,000 to purchase protective gear for employees and disinfect city facilities. The remaining $9.9 million will be saved for future needs.

The Douglas Allred Company broke ground on two additional office buildings at their Park Place Development on Price Corridor. Both of these three-story buildings will be 150,000 square feet and located on the northeast corner of Price and Willis roads. These buildings will have the capacity to bring approximately 1,800 jobs to Chandler.

The Chandler Symphony Orchestra returned to the stage for a live-streamed musical extravaganza – “CSO Wind Quintet LIVE.” The free concert was broadcast through televëda, the live-streaming partner of Chandler’s Community Services Department. The virtual performance was hosted by the Chandler Center for the Arts, in partnership with Chandler Parks and Recreation.

The Mayor and City Council dedicated four new multipurpose fields at Tumbleweed Park (south of the Park and Ride).

Chandler’s Neighborhood Resources Department and For Our City-Chandler hosted the annual Operation Back to School event. This year, four drive-thru events were held at four different locations. More than 2,000 backpacks filled with donated school supplies were distributed within two hours to Chandler families in need.

August

Chandler voters elected three candidates to serve on the City Council: Christine Ellis, OD Harris and incumbent Mark Stewart. The elected Councilmembers will take office after an installation ceremony that will be held on Jan. 14, 2021.

The Economic Development Division announced the creation of the “I Choose Chandler Business Hiring and Retention Program.” Approximately $9.5 million was made available for the program from the AZ CARES Fund, which provided qualifying businesses with $1,300 per employee retained or hired since Dec. 31, 2019, up to a maximum of $10,000. More than 540 Chandler businesses were provided funding.

City Council authorized the payment of $250,000 from the city’s AZCares grant funding to Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) to purchase 1,000 mobile hotspots. The hotspots provided Internet access to CUSD students in need so they can connect with their teachers and online/virtual classrooms.

The 2020 Citizen Bond Exploratory Committee was formed to provide a recommendation to the City Council of bond authorization needed to support important public capital/infrastructure based on the highest priorities.

“Bigger Than Boxing: Zora Folley and the 1967 Heavyweight Title” opened its year-long run at the Chandler Museum on Aug. 25.

This 3,000-square-foot exhibition features the stories of two boxers (Muhammad Ali and Chandler’s Zora Folley), the circumstances that weighed heavy on each man and the fight that was a turning point in both of their careers. The Chandler Museum also launched Museum in a Box, a series of themed at-home activities for the family — the first one titled, “Build It: Frank Lloyd Wright in Chandler.”

September

September kicked off with a new pilot program in partnership with rideshare platform Lyft. The program provides up to 50% off on rides to and from designated bus stops south of Pecos Road. Dubbed the First-Mile, Last-Mile program, this partnership helps the City expand public transit access to an area of the city with limited availability, while at the same time avoiding the high cost of adding multiple new bus routes.

Chandler Center for the Arts announced CCA Under the Stars, its first live outdoor concert experience presented on the terrace at the CCA and under the outdoor living room space at the Chandler Museum. The 60-minute intimate series were limited to 50 or less attendees in a social distanced seating arrangement to provide a comfortable and safe environment for patrons.

After many months of restricted access and limited hours, the four Chandler Public Libraries reopened all public areas to customers.

Adjustments included: patrons were required to wear a protective face mask upon entry, capacity was reduced for social distancing purposes and a registration process was put in place for 45-minute sessions allotted for some services, such as computer access.

The City of Chandler asked the community to participate in a diversity and inclusion survey to gauge community awareness and involvement. The Human Relations Commission presented the survey results to the City Council in early December.

This year’s Mayor’s Neighborhood Excellence Awards winners were announced on Facebook Live. Congratulations to Lagos Vistoso, winner of the People’s Choice Award, and to Fox Crossing, winner of the Mayor’s Choice Award.

October

VB Cosmetics Inc. signed a 40,000 square-foot lease to expand and relocate their corporate headquarters, R&D and manufacturing operations in Chandler. The company will move into the Lotus Project, one of Chandler’s premier industrial developments, located near Kyrene Road and the Loop 202.

The city launched a new program to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to Chandler businesses. Businesses may apply through the Chandler Chamber of Commerce to receive a free I Choose Chandler PPE Kit, valued at $240.

Chandler Parks and Rec hosted a free Halloween Spooktacular drive-thru event. From the comfort of their own vehicle, the public enjoyed a Halloween-themed cul-da-sac featuring a special soundtrack, festive décor and lights and tasty treats.

Chandler’s Price Corridor was honored with the Best of Arizona Award during the Arizona Association for Economic Development’s (AAED) annual Economic Development Distinguished by Excellence (EDDE) awards event. This award has been given out only a handful of times in AAED’s 45-year existence.

During National Manufacturing Month, the City’s Economic Development Division profiled a variety of high-tech manufacturing companies based in Chandler. There are more than 26,000 manufacturing jobs in the city, which is approximately 20 percent  of all jobs citywide.

Valley Metro recognized Chandler’s travel reduction program and Transportation Coordinator Nancy Jackson as ‘Champions For Clean Air’ during a virtual ceremony that celebrated the 33rd annual Clean Air Campaign Awards.

November

The Chandler Museum hosted a weeklong grand opening celebration for its new Museum Store. The store, located in the lobby of the museum, features a variety of quality gift items, including locally made pieces that capture the culture, history and art of Chandler.

The city Diversity Office, in partnership with the Chandler Museum, created the first annual Chandler Veterans Path of Honor at Veterans Oasis Park. Large signs featuring nearly 20 local Veterans were on display and placed along the trail.

Banner Health‘s newest hospital, Banner Ocotillo Medical Center, opened this month in Chandler. The four-story, 240,000-square-foot hospital is located on the southeast corner of Alma School Road and the Loop 202/Santan Freeway. The hospital anticipates handling about 21,000 emergency visits per year to start.

Chandler launched a new program that allows businesses to expand their premises into on-street parking. ‘On the Street’ was created to assist businesses who have been faced with indoor capacity restrictions due to the pandemic. The program also gives patrons the option to continue supporting their favorite local establishments safely outdoors.

The city was recognized as one of the top 10 Digital Cities Survey award recipients, by the Center for Digital Government (CDG). The annual survey recognizes cities using technology to tackle social challenges, enhance services, strengthen cybersecurity and more. Chandler ranked fifth in the category for cities with a population of 250,000-499,999.

City Council approved a historic preservation ordinance, allowing property owners to establish historic preservation districts on private property and neighborhoods to protect historically significant parts of the City from redevelopment. The ordinance also established a historic preservation commission, a historic preservation officer and a historic property register for the city.

In conjunction with the General Election, the city held a Special Election on Nov. 3, to approve a franchise agreement with Southwest Gas Corporation to allow the utility to construct, maintain and operate its natural gas system in the City-owned public rights-of-way. Chandler residents voted in favor of the item.

Mayor Harkte opened applications for CIVIC, an new interactive, 10-session program that will provide Chandler residents with the opportunity to meet with city leaders, tour facilities that keep our city running, participate in interactive sessions and learn how to stay engaged with the city and in their community. The free program will launch in January 2021.

Compound Photonics, a leader in compact high performance microdisplay solutions for Augmented and Mixed Reality (AR/MR), announced its opening of MiAC (MicroLED Innovation Acceleration Center) in Chandler.

December

Chandler hosted “Tumbleweed Tree Lighting: A Reimagined Tradition” – a video experience in place of the annual Parade of Lights and tree lighting ceremony. The holiday spectacular was full of musical performances, stories about Chandler traditions, and more. The event is available for viewing on the City’s YouTube channel.

In addition, the city kicked off Chandler for the Holidays, a variety of activities including photos at Tumbleweed Tree, a food drive held in partnership with AZCEND and the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership, Chandler Fire’s annual toy drive and more.

Comtech, a company that designs, develops and manufactures satellite ground equipment used throughout the world, signed a 15-year lease to occupy the entire 146,000 square feet at 305 N. 54th St. in West Chandler.

The company will consolidate between 300 to 400 employees from four buildings into the single building that can facilitate all operations and provide for future expansion. Comtech plans to begin operating in the building by June 2021.

The University of Arizona College of Law launched its Master of Legal Studies program in Chandler.

The Chandler Public Works & Utilities Department received full accreditation by the American Public Works Association (APWA) for the fifth time.

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