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Chandler’s Downtown, Capital Projects Anchor City Future

By Eric Jay Toll for The Arizona Builder’s Exchange  

Part 2 in a 3 Part Series

Chandler has a long string of successes to build on when setting a future vision. The city will reach physical build-out in less than a decade. To sustain its quality of life, Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny and Economic Development Director Christine Mackay are turning some of their long-term vision to empty lots they see from the windows of the new city hall.

August 15th was the middle of a heady month for the City of Chandler. Intel announced its 285K SF, $300M R&D facility and the next week, the TechShop chain announced it selected the downtown Chandler ASU Technology and Innovation Center downtown for its next branch.

Downtown Open for Business

Chandler City Hall

Years ago, the city made a big investment for the future of downtown Chandler. “We knew that it would be hard for a developer to come into downtown Chandler and put up a four or five story office building,” Mayor Tibshraeny says. “Part of our goal was to seed office development with the old city hall. When we built the new one, we now had some high quality office space available for lease.” Chandler’s award-winning $47M, five-story city hall opened in 2010. SmithGroupJJR designed the project, Sundt was the GC.

Ports of America took over one full floor of the old building. Others, such as software developer Levementum, a sales contact relationship management servicer, have taken expanses of floor space along with smaller businesses.

“We’re ready for development downtown. We have the zoning for new and vertical growth in the area.” Christine Mackay

“We’re ready for development downtown,” Mackay says. “We have the zoning for new and vertical growth in the area. The city controls a number of parcels, which opens the doors for public-private partnership opportunities.” Around a dozen city properties provide a flexible inventory and the ability for the city to carefully select its new downtown neighbors. The city is looking for the right partners with the right mixes of development.

“We have an RFP process for parcels, and it’s attracted major local and national developers,” reports the mayor. “We’re focused on quality because the decisions we make today are going to affect the economic future of the city. We need to fill our downtown, maintain and enhance our neighborhoods and continue to secure the right combination of revenue sources for our residents.

Capital Improvements Build the Future

Chandler has pumped a lot of money into capital projects – particularly in the Price Corridor. This investment has paid handsome returns with significant new construction. Allred Park Place started Phase II shortly after announcing Infusionsoft’s relocation from Gilbert into 86K SF of Phase I. More growth is expected at Intel’s Ocotillo campus. PayPal and Isagenix are recent additions to the area.

“Sure, we’ve helped businesses with the cost of infrastructure,” assures Mayor Tibshraeny. “Providing infrastructure is one of city government’s most basic services. However, we are very careful with our incentives. There are no give-aways from Chandler.” The city, says the mayor, uses its bonding power and one-time money on one-time investments for its neighborhoods and businesses.

Chandler’s capital improvement program, reported in the AZBEX July 31 Capital Projects edition for subscribers, shows a decline to the lowest levels in ten years by 2017. “This doesn’t mean we don’t have the money,” he explains. “We’ve been hit hard by the economy, but we have reserves, the highest bond rating in Arizona, AAA+, and we are careful where we spend. If something comes along where a capital investment makes sense, we have the ability to deliver.”

Silicon Desert

Chandler’s collection of technology businesses gives rise to the nickname “Silicon Desert.”

“We’re going to be the economic oasis in the Valley.” Mayor Jay Tibshraeny

“We’re being selective, we’re focusing on quality and we want to move the city with the right plans from general growth into a sustainable growth and redevelopment stage,” the mayor concludes. “We’re going to be the economic oasis in the Valley.”

This is the second of three stories from an August 15th conversation between AZBEX publisher Rebekah Morris and Senior Correspondent Eric Jay Toll with Mayor Tibshraeny and Director Mackay in the Mayor’s conference room at Chandler City Hall. The first installment was published August 21st. AZBEX looks at parcels available or downtown public-private partnerships in the August 27th issue.