For more than a decade, the northwest corner of Baseline and Kyrene Roads in Tempe was an empty eyesore in the middle of this otherwise bustling commercial and residential corridor. Originally zoned for a mobile home park, and also classified as “Archeologically Sensitive” by the Tempe Historic Preservation Commission due to its location within the boundaries of Los Hornos, an ancient Hohokam site, many developers had inquired about the 1.5-acres, but no one was willing to tackle such a problematic site. Until Scott Whittington and his Scottsdale-based Avalon Development team acquired the property in August 2018, and set out to convince the City, the Historic Preservation Commission, and most important, the neighboring community that they could transform this defacto dumping ground into a point of pride.
Avalon was founded more than two decades ago as a regional commercial real estate development firm that specializes in high-quality retail, office and manufacturing projects for high-profile clients such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, AutoZone, Bridgestone, Raising Cane’s, Big O Tires, Little Caesars and the aforementioned Starbucks. As a proudly locally-owned firm, Whittington knew that a neighborhood-focused development cannot succeed without buy-in from the surrounding community.
Avalon scheduled a neighborhood meeting … and it was a disaster, with several residents saying they’d rather stick with a dirt lot than a cramped, crowded commercial project with too much traffic. After several more neighbor meetings, City Planning & Zoning meetings, along with a City Council meeting, where Avalon was able to present the proposed site plan showing that a full one-third of the lot would be dedicated to landscaping, including 66 new shade trees, and the potential for new tenants; soon after the Tempe City Council was able to approve the project 6-1.
Eventually, following a detailed review by the City of Tempe and the Historic Preservation Commission, the site was rezoned and construction is scheduled to start immediately. And to ensure that no historic artifacts are disturbed during construction, Avalon agreed to a Historic Preservation Officer condition to assure professional oversight and management of the property is used during any phase of grading, excavation or construction.
“Over the course of a year, Avalon was able to pull off what at first seemed disheartening,” says Founder and Principal, Scott Whittington. “But by having a clear vision and working with the community to address their concerns, it allowed us to turn an abandoned mobile home park into a future neighborhood gem where families, students and people from all over the community will have a place to meet, enjoy coffee on-the-go, study and work, as opposed to staring at dust devils for yet another summer.”