Mill Avenue District

Red and black Mill Avenue District signs can be spotted as you walk along the popular path of Mill Avenue, but have you ever wondered what this organization actually does?

Basically, the Mill Avenue District’s job is to create the experience when people are in Tempe – they create the environment to give people a good time downtown.

The Mill Avenue District is an enhanced service district that has a team of ambassadors, usually seen wearing red polo shirts around town. Their jobs include cleaning, landscaping, emptying trash cans and other tasks that bring Mill Avenue’s standards to a level that the community is proud of and tourists can enjoy.

I’ve seen the red-shirted ambassadors busy at work on Mill Avenue, watering plants, replacing signs and cleaning throughout the day.

Employee Wann Sierra said he, "likes his job because it's something different every day."

Nancy Hormann, president and executive director of the Downtown Tempe Community said, “We have what’s called a “Clean Team”- people who are out on the streets cleaning all the time, emptying garbage, etc. The City does it once a day in the morning, but for the remainder of the day, we take over that responsibility,” Hormann said.

Many cities also have enhanced services districts, like the downtown areas of Chandler, Phoenix and Mesa. Currently, Glendale and Flagstaff are both exploring similar ideas in their areas. The term “enhanced services” really means that the Mill Avenue District takes over the maintenance and care of Mill Avenue, where the City of Tempe ends their services.

“It’s typical in every major city across the U.S. They’re called different things in different states. Some are called business improvement districts, city improvement districts, enhanced services districts, but they’re all exactly the same thing,” Hormann said.

The Mill Avenue District receives its funding from local property owners, who voted to tax themselves for this specific purpose, but is actually employed by the Downtown Tempe Community. The DTC is a non-profit organization that works with the City of Tempe and downtown stakeholders.

“The property owners pay into this district in order to provide services that go above and beyond what the city already does, but the City [of Tempe] will not reduce their services because we are adding services,” Hormann said. “So we just have a higher level services here – more cleaning, landscaping and safety.”

In recent months, a safety team has been added to the area. The Safe-T-Patrol Guides, can be spotted wearing bright yellow polo shirts and may be patrolling around town on foot or by bicycle. The Safe-T-Patrol Guides act as goodwill ambassadors that welcome visitors, provide directions or a safety escort and can give recommendations of where to go in Downtown Tempe. You might also notice the Safe-T-Patrol in the park at Tempe Town Lake. Their territory also extends to the park, in order to be more helpful to Tempe visitors and provide a sense of visual security.

You might have also noticed the addition of credit card enabled parking meters in Tempe, which has made it easier for visitors to find parking – especially when they are all out of quarters. This action, by the Mill Avenue District, was in hopes to better accommodate customers in their downtown Tempe experience.

Hormann said, “It’s fabulous, but it’s not a money-maker. It’s about convenience and customer service and we are trying to expand on that.”

Credit card parking meters

Since the program began, there has been a positive response to the credit card parking meters and one could only image that convenient parking would lead to happier customers and more business on Mill Avenue.

The Mill Avenue District also manages parking garages and lots in Tempe. I learned that sometimes when you need to park for an extended period of time, it’s better to use a parking garage than a meter with time restrictions.

“We want to encourage people, if they are coming for longer periods of time, to park in parking lots or parking structures because you have a short window of time on the meters,” Hormann said. “But you can stay as long as you want in parking lots and structures. And in the ones that are branded with the Parkit Logo, they’re all free for the first hour.”

Parking garages are the better choice in the summertime, as well, to keep your car from baking in the sun while you are off enjoying lunch or shopping.

Parking can be such a hassle and I really appreciated the insiders’ tips for parking in Tempe.

Now that you have knowledge and a higher appreciation for what the Mill Avenue District provides for our city, you’ll know who they are next time. If you see a red-shirt ambassador or Safe-T-Patrol Guide, say hello or ask if you need help!

Some other activities and events associated with the Mill Avenue District:

Festival of the Arts


More info:

  • To see upcoming events in Tempe, click here.
  • For a better parking spot in downtown Tempe, click here.
  • To apply for a job with the Mill Avenue District, click here.

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