By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
W.M. Grace Companies and PB Bell have proposed a Planned Area Development to try to breathe new life into a long-dead site at the NWC of Southern Avenue and Alma School Road in Mesa.
The 15-net-acre Fiesta Village site was originally developed as a shopping center in 1979, but shifting demographics and retail trends slowly forced merchants out, and the property has sat vacant for years.
Nearly 10 years ago there were tentative plans to develop a Lowe’s home improvement store on the property. Those plans fell through, and little, if anything, has been seriously discussed since.
The East Valley Tribune covered a September 2016 discussion about potential redevelopment efforts south and west of downtown. Then-City Councilman Dave Richins was quoted as calling Fiesta Village, “The worst of the worst,” in terms of blight.
Over the years Mesa has invested significant energy and resources into revitalizing the overall area. The City conducted numerous studies and input forums, eventually leading to the publication and adoption of the Fiesta District Design Handbook, detailing renovation goals and guidelines. Projects were undertaken to create a brand for the area and make it more modern and bike/pedestrian friendly, with vibrant and colorful “Fiesta District” signage and shade structures. The efforts have met with mixed success, with the nearby Fiesta Commons area performing fairly well and a major shift in focus planned to turn Fiesta Mall into a healthcare and education hub.
Fiesta Village, surrounded by chain link fencing and generating zero economic activity, has remained the District’s problem child, but that may be about to change.
The Landing at Fiesta Village
The proposed PAD would redevelop 10 acres as a gated multifamily development and five acres as supporting restaurant and retail facilities.
The multifamily component would feature 220 units broken out as 100 one-bedroom, 96 two-bedroom and 24 three-bedroom residences. “The residential buildings will be three stories in height and two-story carriage buildings. These carriage buildings include six garages on the ground floor and two units above the garages,” according to the project narrative.
Plans call for a 7.4KSF clubhouse and nearly 2KSF fitness building. “Amenities include fitness center, pool/spa, ramada/outdoor kitchen area, game court, dog park, dog wash, tot lot and a community park/open space area.”
The site boundaries are Alma School to the east, Southern on the south, Stewart Street to the west and an existing multifamily property to the north.
Planned improvements include a detached six-foot sidewalk and shade trees along Alma School. The main entrance for the mixed-use will be on Southern, and the drive will feature new landscaping and trellises.
Residential buildings facing Stewart will be planned to “interact with the street and engage a pedestrian environment. The commercial building at the intersection is placed forward toward the sidewalk and parking is placed behind.”
The “Fiesta” icon will be incorporated into the signage, and the developer plans to work with the city on other design and branding elements with the goal of creating a sense of place and distinct identity within the District’s overall look and feel.
The architectural style will be contemporary Southwest and feature stucco, masonry, metal and tinted glazing. Balcony rails and some other features will be made from steel balusters painted to maximize visual interest.
Individual buildings will be erected “as market conditions warrant”, according the submittal. The frontages, entryway and streetscape are expected to go in in the first phase of development. At each phase, new plans will be submitted to the city for compatibility and infrastructure review.
In the same September 2016 discussion, then-Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh expressed opposition to the idea of putting a multifamily development on the site. The tribune quoted him as saying, “Apartments there, unless they’re really vertical – the city is not interested in having another two- or three-story apartment (in a part of town already saturated with such complexes).”
However, given the city’s active efforts to rejuvenate the area, changes in leadership and economic conditions in the past 18 months, and the fact that a detailed plan and request have now been presented for the first time in years, perhaps the mindset that something is better than nothing will carry the proposal forward where others have failed.
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