Communities where folks live, work and play has been the foundation from which the West Valley has grown, but many West Valley residents have been left out of the fun as they spend a large amount of time commuting to the East Valley for work.

WESTMARC and its new CEO Sintra Hoffman hope to change that for West Valley residents as WESTMARC gears up to bring more high-paying jobs, and, in turn, more development to the west side of the Valley.

With housing permits on the rise, growing populations in Buckeye and Glendale, and plenty of industrial, retail and office space available, the West Valley is turning into a hotbed for activity.

This time, experts say, the West Valley is ready. During the fast-moving growth spurt before the economic downturn, many West Valley cities didn’t have much time to prepare for what was next, Hoffman says. But cities took the time during the recession to focus on getting the West Valley ready for development.

“Now, we’ve got a lot of transportation infrastructure in place and overall infrastructure in place, where we can step back and plan a little bit better,” Hoffman says.

One thing that the West Valley certainly has is space. There are plenty of industrial, office and technology vacancies available along the Loop 101 and 303 corridors, Hoffman says, and now the focus is on filling up those places with businesses.

Since the West Valley is so close to California and its two major ports of access, there are many opportunities for distribution and manufacturing. Companies can haul something from California to the West Valley in a single day, without having to push through the downtown congestion of Phoenix, making the West Valley a great place for industrial and manufacturing opportunities. Hoffman explains that there are already major firms such as Amazon (already operating in the West Valley) and outdoor equipment retailer REI (planning to build a distribution center in Goodyear), and the next phase of development is attracting additional manufacturing jobs.

And as far as office space is concerned, it’s available and open for business in the West Valley.

“We’re not closing ourselves off to anything,” she says. “We’re really identifying future uses along the (transportation) corridors, but they’ll all be job related.”

Glendale grows  

Before the recession, the West Valley was just beginning to join the development boom that had swept the state, but growth came to a halt after the financial meltdown.

“When it comes to development on the west side, it was last to join the party and first to drop off during the recession,” says Mike Trueman, vice president of development at P.B. Bell.

The Velaire at Aspera, Courtesy of Todd & Associates, Inc.
The Velaire at Aspera, Courtesy of Todd & Associates, Inc.

Aspera at Joy, a $152 million mixed-use project situated on the corner of 75th Avenue and Loop 101, is just one major project in the West Valley that has many excited for the area’s growth.

The project is taking up one of the last major parcels of land in Glendale north of the loop 101, and includes Banner Health facilities, senior living, commercial retail space and Velaire at Aspera, a 286-unit luxury apartment complex that P.B. Bell is developing.

The entire project is expected to add 1,700 new jobs, said Brian Friedman, director of economic development for the City of Glendale.

Velaire at Aspera will be open and available for leasing in April, Trueman says, and the area that has been zoned by the Community Church of Joy for years has many excited.

“Because of the large amounts of space out in the West Valley, the whole area is beginning to pick up,” Trueman adds.

According to Trueman, Glendale has a total of 10 miles of frontage along the Loop 303 which can now be developed, creating new opportunities for development that hadn’t originally been possible. Development along the Loop 303 had stopped when it passed through Glendale, but with the new Epcor water, wastewater and reclaimed water plant, the whole region is prime for development, Friedman says.

Medical milestones 

Healthcare has always been at the center of the West Valley, especially when it comes to employment, and now the sector is continuing to grow. A medical corridor is starting to emerge in Glendale near the Westgate Entertainment District. Two new projects will be built around St. Joseph’s 23-bed Westgate Medical Center. Rendina began construction on a 62,000-square-foot St. Joseph’s Medical Center office building adjacent to the hospital, and SimonMed is developing a 200,000-square-foot healthcare campus just south of the hospital on 99th and Glendale avenues.

“Glendale is beginning to balance out the west side of the Loop 101 with new developments,” Friedman says. “In 2000, there weren’t any jobs in the area. Now, 16 years later, there are close to 50,000 jobs and a lot more development in the area.”

One of the things Hoffman has heard when attracting new businesses to the West Valley, has been a lack of Class A office space.

“Glendale has a new Class A office building in the works, which is pre-leaseing,” Friedman says. “The 43,000-square-foot, three-story project, Glendale Northwest Office Building, will be located near 83rd Avenue and Loop 101.”

Rising star  

Last year, Buckeye changed from the Town of Buckeye to the City of Buckeye as the area continues to experience serious growth and more development.

The Census Bureau named Buckeye as one of the fastest growing places from 2010 to 2013, and housing permits have been on the rise, with many folks moving into master-planned communities such as Verrado.

“Growth in Buckeye has been coming in cycles,” says Len Becker, economic development director at the City of Buckeye. “Buckeye is welcoming its first hotel to the area in 20 years, a 76-room Holiday Inn Express.”

The Jones Ford dealership is also relocating to Buckeye and is building a 30,000-square-foot dealership along I-10. And a big-box retail center, Parkview Plaza, is coming to Buckeye, which will be anchored by a 120,000-square-foot Fry’s Food Store.

“Buckeye wants to retain as many of its citizens as possible,” Becker says, “and doesn’t want individuals having to drive 10 or 15 minutes outside of the city for groceries or other services.”

In recent years, the city has invested $70 million into its water infrastructure as the city prepares for more growth.

As the economic recovery continues, the West Valley is ready for expansion. Buckeye alone encompasses 650 square miles of land, and has become just one of the many places of opportunity in the Valley.

“We’ve got a huge amount of real estate to cover, and a huge amount of opportunity,” Becker says.