Town revitalization

Carefree town officials are inviting residents to an open discussion regarding the comprehensive signage and circulation plan and village master plan to get input, feedback and answer questions Tuesday, June 28.

The comprehensive signage and circulation plan is under the umbrella of a larger revitalization plan for the town center, a project that has been in the works since 2015. According to Economic Development Director Steve Prokopek, the purpose of the comprehensive sign and circulation plan is to improve arrival awareness, improve wayfinding, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, slow traffic on Cave Creek Road and Tom Darlington Drive, and ensure adequate and functional parking distribution.

“When people arrive into the Carefree town center area, they don’t even know that it exists,” Porkopek said. “So the idea is that with the signage, a little bit of parking and making the area look a little bit more pedestrian, it’ll allow people who are visiting to understand that they’ve arrived. It gives it a really nice sense of arrival.”

Planning and designing consultants at Kimley-Horn have been working with the town and have come up with a conceptual signage circulation and parking plan and possible renderings of what signage might look like. These will be discussed at the June 28 meeting. 

“We’re going to kind of outline everything that’s been done to date,” Prokopek said. “At this point we’ve been utilizing the stakeholder group along with the Planning and Zoning Commission to kind of help shape the form of where we are today. So right now we do have some conceptual ideas, and what we’re doing is seeking input from the community on those conceptual ideas that have been put together by our consultants.”

He emphasized that this project is an update, not an overhaul, and in the best interest of the town. 

Only a portion of the project is concerned with how the town looks to visitors, though. A lot of it has to do with increased usability and safety for residents, which is why the meeting will also serve as a platform to hear from residents on what they would like to see.

“The other things we’re soliciting from the public are about the usability of the town center, which goes hand in hand,” Prokopek said. “What kinds of things do you want to see? What types of businesses? Are you using it primarily to go to the Post Office? If you had better opportunities to walk or ride your bike, would you prefer that method of being able to access the town center? Those are the things we’re trying to ascertain from the public.”

This is not the first public outreach being done for the project, though. Prokopek said he and other town staff members have been personally communicating with property owners in the area since mid-2021. So far, he said the feedback has been mixed. He said most people agree the town center could use a bit of updating, though.

“I think everybody wants traffic to slow down. Everybody agrees traffic moves too fast through town,” Prokopek said. “The contentious issue is a concept of taking those streets and reducing them to one lane each way for the entirety of the length of street from Bloody Basin to the intersection of Cave Creek and Tom Darlington.”

He added that about 30 to 40% of those roadways are already one lane. By having it all one lane, traffic will move slower, pedestrians are safer because they don’t have to cross as many lanes, and it opens up the opportunity for multi-use trails and street parking.

According to Prokopek, the economic development department will be spending the next couple of months getting input from both the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as the public. He’s hoping to start getting approvals for the projects in mid to late fall.

A full breakdown of the redevelopment plan process and details on the sign and circulation plan can be found online at Carefree’s website under the economic development section. These details will be discussed at 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, at the Town Council Center.