by Connie Cone Sexton – Jul. 21, 2009 10:16 AM
The Arizona Republic
The land in and around the Macehualli Work Center in northeast Phoenix has been a field of dreams for many years for Salvador Reza, who runs the day-labor center.
He worked to create a place to help men and women find temporary day jobs, but also wanted to develop the land into housing and possibly, a two-story employment and training center.
But now, Reza’s ability to hold on to the site at 16801 N. 25th St. near Bell Road is in jeopardy, he said Monday. Two years ago, Reza’s organization entered into an agreement with Chicanos por la Causa. “Unfortunately, the economic crisis hit and CPLC was not able to fulfill its commitment,” he wrote in a letter to supporters, alerting them to the need for funding.
Edmundo Hidalgo, president and chief executive officer of CPLC, confirmed the situation. “At the time, when we conceptualized the mixed-used project, the residential portion was to provide resources because of some of the shortages on the commercial side. But then the residential portion was no longer viable.”
“With the downturn of the housing market, we got caught holding the bag,” Reza said. Reza said his group bought the land with a loan. “We cannot afford a $700,000 property and we will have to put it up for . Hopefully, we’ll come up with somebody who is willing to permit the center to continue operating. But no one wants to step up to the plate.”
In the meantime, Reza said his group has been trying to keep up with the interest on the 2.2-acre parcel. “But it’s $60,000 a year and that’s hard.”
He estimates they may have another three months to operate the day-labor center, unless the land is sold.
“The losers will be the Palomino neighborhood, the business alliance and the businesses, really, because they (the day laborers) will go back to the streets,” Reza said.
• February 2003: Center opens as the first taxpayer-funded day-labor center in the Valley.
• June 2003: Opponents of the center launch what will be a failed recall campaign against Councilwoman Peggy Neely. She was blamed for bringing the center into the neighborhood.
• June 2004: Phoenix officials confirm the city will not back the center financially.
• May 2005: Gov. Janet Napolitano signs House Bill 2592, a Republican-backed bill that bans local governments from spending taxpayer money on day-labor centers.
• June 2006: Three of the four non-profits that fund the center confirm they are withdrawing financial support.
• February: The center turns six years old