Master Plans/Specific Plans Form-Based Coding Downtowns Corridors

Mesa Downtown Plan and Form-Based Code

Mesa, Arizona


Capturing the Transformative Potential of Transit: How a Form-Based Code generated over $500 Million in Downtown Redevelopment Projects

Opticos Design worked with the City of Mesa, Arizona to create a master plan and Form-Based Code to capture the transformative potential provided by three new light rail stations within the city’s downtown. The Form-Based Code provided incentives for redevelopment and Transit-Oriented Development in the downtown core and along a five-mile stretch of the Main Street corridor, which ran along the light rail route. The light rail connected downtown Mesa to Tempe (Arizona State University) and Phoenix.

The plan and code reinforced existing historic neighborhoods adjacent to downtown, focused more intense development around transit stations, provided a network of public spaces and streetscapes, and created a strong identity or “brand” for Mesa with a new civic center and new, high-quality architecture.


The project included:

  • Most of the designs were created during three, three-day charrettes
  • Creation of a Form-Based Code to implement the plan
  • Detailed design/vision plan that established the basis for a land use plan and more clearly articulated the vision to the community
  • Detailed studies and program assessment of city-owned parcels in downtown
  • Macroscale mapping and analysis to understand the context of transit stations and downtown
  • Design proposal for a new City Hall and Civic Square
  • Microscale analysis of building types, frontage types, and civic spaces appropriate of the desert climate

Development of New Projects in Mesa

Arizona State University, whose main campus is in nearby Tempe, is building ASU at Mesa City Center; a 118,000 square foot building that will house a Dolby-certified screening room, an immersion studio, community spaces, and state of the art computers, cameras, lighting and production equipment. This new home for ASU’s film school and digital futures lab is set to raise the university’s national profile as home to one of the most competitive film schools in the country, and elevate Mesa’s reputation as a center for innovation and creativity.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has multiple projects currently underway or recently completed, including a Visitor’s Center that explores Mesa’s history and invites visitors to learn more about the first families in the area.

Mesa in the Next 15 Years

Mesa had a vision for a vibrant downtown city center with a bustling population of eager students and new residents ready to shop and eat at thriving local businesses and engage in community gatherings. As these development projects are completed and others go before City Council for approval, downtown Mesa continues to flourish, attracting national attention and proving to be an exciting place to live.

In Mesa...this plan is getting a major boost from the economic redevelopment fueled by the opportunity zone classification. The fact is that this location aims at becoming Class A. Upon completion of all of the…projects, Mesa will become one of the most desirable places for a millennial to live in the East Valley.

— Ben Iyebovich, Just Ask Ben