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Phoenix Mayoral Debate, Real Estate

Phoenix Mayoral Candidates Debate Commercial Real Estate Issues

Filling existing vacant commercial buildings, impact fees and economic development incentives were some of the issues discussed by the six City of Phoenix mayoral candidates Friday at Valley Partnership’s monthly breakfast meeting.

Anna Brennan, Wes Gullett, Claude Mattox, Peggy Neely, Greg Stanton and Jennifer Wright answered questions and made their pitch why they should be Phoenix’s next mayor before a packed audience at the Phoenix Country Club.

The first question: Arizona’s economy has taken its toll on commercial real estate is our state. What is your plan for attracting users to existing vacant commercial buildings and jumpstarting new commercial development in Phoenix?

Gullett said his focus was on helping small businesses, attracting new jobs, and making sure there is also job growth. He also said the challenge he sees is a lack of investment capital. His vision is for a partnership with banks to create an investment pool.

Neely stressed the importance of job creation, and the fact that the Valley needs to become more competitive as a region. Wright pointed out the 30 percent vacancy rate among commercial buildings in Phoenix. She added the city’s development department must be more business friendly.

The second question: Most cities in the Valley assess development impact fees on commercial development. Some subsidize certain categories of impact fees to attract certain kinds of development. Others have very limited categories of fees. What do you think the City of Phoenix’s approach should be to assessing impact fees for commercial development?

Stanton alluded to the ill-fated CityNorth project because it was a public-private partnership in which part of the impact fees helped build the development’s parking garage. He added that impact fees should generate “growth that pays for itself.”

The third question: Are you in favor of providing economic development incentives like infrastructure reimbursements to commercial projects?

Stanton, Brennan, Gullett and Maddox said yes. Gullet said it’s a “good gamble as jobs are created.. It has to be applied across the board.”

The fourth question involved a zoning case. A Fortune 500 company wants to relocate its corporate headquarters on Camelback Road and has a site tied up. They want 10 stories. If they can’t get 10 stories, the building goes to a Tempe Town Lake site. The General Plan dictates the Phoenix site can have a maximum of four stories. A highly organized neighborhood group says it was promised that high rises wouldn’t go this far east and that the city shouldn’t break that promise. How do you vote?

Wright, Brennan, Maddox and Neely voted in favor of rezoning the property. Gullett and Staton voted against.

And finally, when asked to describe their leadership style in one word, their responses:

Gullett – patience; Maddox – committed; Neely – decisive; Stanton – smart; Wright – determined; and Brennan – a facilitator.

The City of Phoenix mayoral election is Aug. 30.