Phoenix’s West Valley is on the rise. In fact, 52-percent of the Phoenix area’s future growth is expected to occur in the West Valley, according to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
A taste of what that growth may look like can be seen today in the City of Buckeye where a successful master-planned community is spurring the development of a nearby commercial district, creating tremendous growth potential for businesses and economic development opportunities.
Since its grand opening in 2004, Verrado — a master-planned community spanning 8,800 acres with plans for 14,000 homes in Buckeye — has made headlines for being one of the best-selling master-planned communities in the nation, and Buckeye has too for being one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
Consistent with the philosophy that “retail follows rooftops,” a 150-acre commercial district, dubbed the Marketside District, has seen an increase in interest from site selectors and businesses.
The mixed-use hub is being built in phases based on user demand, but plans currently include robust retail, office, hospitality and medical uses on the commercial side and both single-family and multifamily on the residential side.
Developers DMB tapped Cushman & Wakefield to market and lease the site’s retail space, Lee & Associates for office space and JLL for multifamily.
Located on both the east and west sides of Verrado Way between McDowell Road and fronting Interstate 10, Michael Burke, senior vice president of commercial for DMB, says, “We see this as a regional site.”
Strong leasing activity at Verrado coupled with Marketside’s location creates the potential for the commercial district to become the region’s next mixed-use hub, similar to Westgate, but closer for residents in the far West Valley.
Not every West Valley city needs or wants a Westgate, says Sintra Hoffman, CEO and president of the Western Maricopa Coalition, but Buckeye has the population to support a regional retail, employment and recreation hub.
Her role at WESTMARC is to provide the numbers and marketing strategies for West Valley cities, in this case specifically Buckeye, to show it has the demographics, household income levels and population size to warrant outside business interests.
Hoffman says, “These mixed-use projects showcase we [the West Valley] have the workforce, we have the housing and now we are getting the amenities.”
Buckeye’s population increased by more than 11,700 people in the last five years, says Len Becker, economic development director for Buckeye.
With 1,400-home permits issued to Buckeye last year, the highest of all West Valley cities, Becker says, “that bodes well for the momentum moving forward for the city, which in turn drives a lot of the retail, professional services, employment and educational opportunities and really elevates the community into a full-service community rather than a veteran community.”
What’s needed next for Buckeye, Becker says, are base employers, professional services and users that can serve residents like accountants, attorneys, dry cleaners and restaurants.
He mentions “retail leakage,” as one of the reasons why the city is focusing on bolstering its retail offerings. Becker explains, “Within a 10-mile radius from I-10 and Verrado Way, we lose about $700 million in retail sales taxes to neighboring communities.”
Marketside aims to be a regional hub for Buckeye residents but also neighboring communities so West Valley residents don’t need to travel as far from home to shop, dine and spend their dollars.
“The Marketside District will serve as a regional hub for not only Verrado, but the larger Buckeye and West Valley submarket,” says Brent Mallonee, senior director at Cushman & Wakefield.
On the western half of Marketside, T.A. Shover, director of commercial leasing and sales at DMB, says, “We’re currently picking off smaller users that could provide services to existing residents like corner stores, gas stations, fast food, dentists, doctors, other restaurateurs, hotels.”
On the east side of Verrado Way, Burke says, “Marketside will be the more regional in nature with theatres, entertainment venues and bigger boxes.”
But that those regional draws will come later down the road. “The future users of the Marketside District that we are targeting are regional, destination draws,” says Burke, but success of the smaller users will draw in more office opportunities and residential growth.
“The opportunities here are endless,” Becker explains. “The mayor, city council and all of us are looking at the big picture, 30-40 years down the road, to make sure the community isn’t like anywhere else in Greater Phoenix, and has its own identity and amenities to foster continued growth.”
Shover predicts the success of Marketside will have a domino effect for everything around it and adjacent to it. “Once you prove that a regional draw works,” he says, “it will draw more activity throughout Buckeye and the neighboring communities.”
Looking into the future, Shover adds, “Buckeye has a tidal wave of growth heading its direction. It’s no longer seen as this sleepy ranching community.”