Gilbert‘s booming retail developments signal a shift in the role retail plays in the addition of residential projects and economic impact from tourism. Gilbert is cultivating community through mixed-use developments where residents can live, work and play and visitors are invited to explore all the friendly town has to offer.
Over a five-year period from fiscal 2015-2019, Gilbert has added 1.5 million square feet of retail, said Dan Henderson, economic development director for the Town of Gilbert. “A little less than 70 percent of that was added in what we call our Central Employment Area, which a lot of that seems to be in and around the SanTan Village Mall area as well as in Cooley Station and Agritopia, about 16 percent was outside of the town’s employment areas and 13 percent was in our Northwest Employment Area.”
One of the major developments is Cooley Station, a 650-acre master-planned community at the southwest corner of Williams Field and Recker Roads will include single-family housing, multifamily residential options, commercial space, and a transit station for a future commuter rail line, and Verde at Cooley Station, a nearly 150,000-square-foot commercial space that will include retail, restaurants and 450 multifamily residential units; within a quarter mile of Verde, more than 2,000 apartments and 1,000 single-family homes are under development.
Epicenter, a high-end, vertical mixed-use community and retail destination in the heart of Agritopia in Gilbert, will have about 49,000 square feet of retail space. Epicenter will be filled with retail options from premier health and wellness brands to top eateries and locally owned artisan shops. Gilbert Warner, an 11-acre 95,000-square-foot shopping center located at the intersection of Gilbert and Warner Roads, will join SanTan Village, the popular 1.1 million square-foot outdoor shopping center along with Cooley Station and Epicenter as retail destinations in Gilbert.
“Retail comprises about half of the Town’s tax base and retail as a share of revenue has neared 60 percent in recent years,” Henderson said. “So as we look at these employment areas and the amount of sales tax revenue coming from those areas, it is certainly largely retail and employment, and I think this shows the balance that is coming to Gilbert.”
Henderson said due to the influx of residential developments (multifamily or single-family) showing up in areas including Cooley Station and SanTan Village area, retail will naturally follow. One of those housing communities in progress is Residences at SanTan Village, a new Class A 380-unit multifamily community north of SanTan Village Mall that will have its first units available in early Fall 2020.
“I think one of the other positive aspects that these developments bring is folks in Gilbert now are no longer traveling to other communities to shop some of these unique destinations or eat at these great restaurants, we’re starting to be able to provide that type of place here,” said Kyle Mieras, Gilbert’s development services director.
“These developments are very unique in the fact that they’re really creating a sense of place and these also will start to draw people to different parts of our community from outside of the community,” Mieras said. “So not only on the economic side does it have a positive impact for us, but from a tourism standpoint, from people wanting to locate businesses here or travel to Gilbert, it really helps round out the services and amenities that can be provided.”
The economic impact of these kinds of developments is evident: Gilbert had about $221 million in visitor spending in 2017 that supported almost 1700 jobs that saw about $20 million in local tax revenue for the Town of Gilbert, Henderson said.
“Retail can function as an export when tourism occurs…when you take this momentum and you add tourism, visitors and other factors, spending trends lead to large increases, so we can’t stress enough how much retail and tourism complement each other,” Henderson said.
“If you look at Gilbert’s demographics and you look at psychographics (the median age is about 33; 67 percent of the population is under 45, and about 70 percent are younger, well-educated families that have a labor force participation rate of 70 percent), it’s a very nice complement to the visitors coming into the area and wanting to spend their money in the same ways that locals spend their money because the retail is not only complementary but in many cases it’s unique,” Henderson said.
Gilbert’s residential efforts have complemented the retail developments. Mieras said Gilbert’s conscious effort to provide housing types for everyone include single-family, multifamily or estate lots. “We’ve balanced our housing options along with the different retail options because we want this to be a place for everybody where people can be born here, grow here and don’t have to leave the community to do anything.”
In addition to the growing residential and retail projects in progress that attract potential residents and provide options for current Town of Gilbert residents, Henderson said another factor that impacts the resident mix is not only where people choose to live in a community, but their choice to commute. “As we look at the resident median commute time compared to neighboring communities, it suggests a need for more local employment,” Henderson said.
“The visions of these massive planned areas that not only have residential options, they now have abundant retail options. Our work is focused on bringing in more local employment, so that people can live, work and play here.”