Tag Archives: density

downtown Gilbert AZ

Downtown Gilbert Mixed Use Project on Life Support

Phoenix (December 14, 2010) – The Gilbert Town Council has a big decision to make on Thursday with respect to the fate of a proposed downtown mixed use project.

“Heritage Marketplace” is a proposed mixed use development that has long been billed as an important catalyst to revitalization in downtown Gilbert. The 2.7-acre project proposes five buildings comprising a total of 90,000 square feet for office, retail and residential uses. The project may be another unfortunate casualty of the recession which is a huge disappointment considering the 350 jobs and $15 million in annual payroll that town officials estimated to result from the project.  Town officials reported to Council several years ago the essential nature of job creation in any successful downtown redevelopment effort.

A development agreement for the project was executed in 2007 and was since amended last December. The following are some of the key deal points from the agreement:

  • It sets the purchase price of the land at approximately $218,000 per acre.
  • It requires the developer to pay a total of about $1.7 million for the land and an adjacent parking garage.
  • It requires the developer to commence construction by no later than December 31, 2010.
  • It obligates the town to pay $7.6 million for the construction of the 365-space parking structure upon “substantially complete” work on part of Heritage Marketplace.

The Town Council must decide whether to extend the deadline outlined in the agreement or cancel the agreement altogether considering that construction on the project will not commence by its prescribed due date.  To fund the parking garage, the town has already begun the fulfillment of its obligations by selling Public Facility Municipal Property Corporation bonds which do not require voter approval. As a result, the town is paying 5% interest and earning about 1% while the money sits in a bank.  The town maintains that the parking garage remains a vital piece of infrastructure to support future economic growth in downtown Gilbert. The town contends that such a facility helps support the employment densities that will be needed in the Heritage District to make it a viable commercial location.

So now the Town Council has a decision to make. Several options are on the table for this decision, which may involve amending or dissolving the agreement.  The options are as follows:

  • Amend the agreement to extend the construction timeline or to allow the town to build the parking structure before Heritage Marketplace is constructed.
  • Dissolve the agreement and wait until the market improves to advertise the land to a new developer, begin the search for a new development partner, or commence work on the parking structure without a current development partner.

Read more at Livability Law

Photo: www.valleymetro.org

Density: Our Ticket To The Green Express

Five years ago, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon courageously announced his intention to rehabilitate a dilapidated 12-mile stretch between the Arizona Capitol and Arizona State University in Tempe.

He appropriately branded the area along Washington Street the Opportunity Corridor and pledged to replace the shuttered businesses, vacant lots and dilapidated trailer parks with new office, biomedical, industrial and developments.

Unfortunately, the recession stepped in before the idea could fully take root and today the Opportunity Corridor is still packed with opportunity, but short on actual redevelopment projects.

That is, unless you take into consideration one major development that occurred in the interim: light rail.

Construction of a light rail line through parts of Tempe, Mesa and Phoenix – including in the Opportunity Corridor — raises critical questions about its potential effect on land use and urban development. But more importantly, light rail presents an enormous (and to date un-tapped) opportunity in Arizona for resident and community leaders to take their eyes off the sprawl ball and focus, instead, on how to build viable development along the track in order to sustain ridership.

Though it’s been considered a dirty word here for decades, density has a place in the Valley. That place is along the light rail.

Like the spine is to the human body, light rail is the backbone of a thriving urban scene. Density is the fuel that feeds the core. To flourish, density needs zoning code changes and public policies that encourage a vertical mix of commercial and residential projects.

In short: light rail begs for compact, sustainable, transit-oriented development (TOD) that promotes walkability and increases dependence on public transportation.

Cultivating density along transportation routes is nothing new. The growth patterns are a throwback to the turn of the century, when neighborhoods, homes and businesses cropped up along streetcar lines.  Post-World War II growth in Phoenix has seen this same pattern spring up along corridors where miles of freeway, parkways and loops were rolled out.  What’s new, at least for metro Phoenix this time around, is a concerted effort by the public and private sector to make it happen along the light rail corridor.

Said Phoenix Community Alliance President Don Keuth, speaking last year at a meeting of Arizona State University’s Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family and HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims: “Different rules are going to come out of Washington that will make doing the ‘same old’ impossible, and if we don’t have a plan to meet these new objectives, then we will be left behind.”

Summing up, he added, “We need to instill ‘spinal courage’ to do something different because we have to. If we don’t, this community is not going to reach its potential.”

The Arizona chapter of the Urban Land Institute, LISC  Phoenix, ASU Stardust Center, and the City of Phoenix have been collaborating to aggressively pursue funding to promote transit oriented development along the Opportunity Corridor.  The recent launch of the amazingly interactive website www.connectingphoenix.com demonstrates the true opportunities that light rail presents for the metro Phoenix region.

These efforts and the efforts of other community leaders have the potential to lay the groundwork for truly sustainable transit oriented development in Phoenix.  It’s only a matter of time before we start benefiting from these efforts and enjoy our Phoenix urban lifestyle experience!