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EV Cities Seek Vibrant Downtowns, Chandler Leaps Forward

Today, restaurants and shops are located within a short stroll of one another along the west side of Arizona Avenue, between Boston and Buffalo streets in Chandler's downtown Heritage Square Area. New developments are planned to the north and west in the coming year. Photo credit: Chris Coppola/The Republic

By Chris Coppola for The Arizona Republic

In the game of downtown leapfrog that has seen East Valley cities embark on decades-long efforts to transform the site of their historic roots into thriving urban centers, Chandler is poised to take a big jump forward in 2015.

With a major new apartment community already being built, another given the green light for a possible 10-story residential tower and plans for a dine-in movie theater and several new restaurants moving forward, Chandler officials and downtown advocates see a critical mass taking shape in the coming year.

This comes as Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe all have been embarking on efforts of varying degrees to boost their downtowns.

At its final meeting of 2014, the Chandler City Council approved two measures that could give a major boost to the city’s historic downtown:

The city will pursue a development agreement with Vintage Partners, a Phoenix-based commercial real estate development and investment company, for a new mixed-use project called The Row. It would be built at the southwest corner of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard on city owned land that now is vacant.

The key to the project would be the state’s first Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an eight-screen dine-in movie theater, bar and restaurant, along with adjacent restaurants, offices and retail. A potential second phase could add residences. The council set a March 31 date for the agreement (AZBEX, Dec. 13, 2014).

DC Heights, a mixed-use project that could bring up to 250 apartments, and possibly a 10-story tower, to an area on the west end of downtown between California Street on the east and Essex Street on the west, and Commonwealth Avenue and Boston Street (AZBEX, Dec. 5, 2014 Print Edition Only).

The council approved a zoning change that would allow greater building heights. The project by Valley developer Thomas Gardner would consist mostly of five-story buildings with some space for retail shops and restaurants. The land already is vacant.

Those approvals come as another major project is under construction, the Alta Steelyard Lofts, a 301-unit apartment community on Frye Road just east of Arizona Avenue at downtown’s southern edge (AZBEX, Sept. 9. 2014).

The projects, along with more that could come forward in 2015, have city officials cautiously giddy. Both represent the types of development long envisioned as keys components for an energetic downtown — attractions that would draw Valley and out-of-town diners and shoppers, along with nearby residents who live a short walk away.

Read more at The Arizona Republic