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PHOENIX-If a group of local businessmen have their way, Phoenix could be the stage for the next World’s Fair.

Julian Blum, with the Rio Salado Community Development Foundation, tells GlobeSt.com that the group has spent about two years and $300,000 formulating plans to turn a five-mile stretch of run-down junkyards, landfills and mining pits near the Rio Salado River into the staging ground for the 2008 World’s Fair. If the drive is successful, it would be the first World’s Fair to be held on US soil in 25 years.

“It would have a tremendous economic impact on the whole Valley and in the process, it would put together the infrastructure that would clean up all the blight in the area,” Blum said of the fair, which would run for a minimum of six months.

The group, comprised of 20 members that could grow to the hundreds as the idea picks up momentum, has already consulted with the former operations manager for 10 World Fair groups who performed an analysis of the site. “He’s said he’s never seen a potential site that’s better,” said Blum, the owner of Infill Realty Services, a Phoenix-based developer of infill projects. “We’ve got an airport five minutes away, freeways that converge on the area and all this open space that can be brought in with all the infrastructure already in place.”

Blum said the group will begin a feasibility study soon and is presently starting the funding process that will allow the dream to become a reality. Architectural students at Arizona State University have also lent a hand with land plan designs for the site, he added. “We still have a long way to go and the whole thing could still be aborted, but we’re very excited about it,” he said.

The project, which began as a major real estate venture, calls for linking downtown Phoenix to a master-planned site along the Rio Salado River where the fair would be held. “It will create a complete new cultural environment for the entire valley, the entire state,” Blum said of the project, which is expected to attract 25 million to 50 million people.

Although no one has yet put a price tag on the venture, Blum said the project is expected to cost in the “hundreds of millions of dollars,” almost all of it from private contributions. Despite the steep costs, the returns are expected to be even greater. “They’re usually very successful from an economic point of view,” he said, noting that in addition to funneling money into the Valley, the fair will also have a major environmental impact on the blighted Rio Salado area.

But the plan is still months, if not years, from going before the Phoenix City Council, although Blum said city officials are well aware of the group’s intentions. “They’re very much aware of what we are doing and they’re very supportive,” he said. “And if we can pull this off, there’s every indication that they will be ecstatic.

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