By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
Last week the City of Maricopa took a major step forward in the long-sought-after development of its Copper Sky Commercial Site and entered into an agreement with Tempe-based Commercial Properties, Inc. to bring the project to fruition.
Maricopa released an RFP in February “to transform the Copper Sky Commercial Site into a high quality mixed-use destination.” (AZBEX, Feb. 27)
AZBEX Research staff discovered CPI was selected as the developer in May. Under the new agreement the firm will develop the master plan and identify partners for creation of the site’s various components.
The 18.3-acre site is next to Maricopa’s Copper Sky Recreation Complex, a 120-acre area that features a 52KSF activity center and the 98-acre Copper Sky Regional Park. Activating and capitalizing on the draw of those facilities with a new development that would create a sense of destination was a key consideration, according to the RFP.
“We weren’t looking for just another development in Anytown,” Denyse Airheart, Maricopa’s economic development director, said in a telephone interview Monday morning. “We were looking for a development that was really going to be responsive to the community’s needs – something that included that retail, that multifamily housing component, that walkability – something that really allowed residents to take advantage of that beautiful regional park and also enjoy amenities at the future Copper Sky District.”
The first phase of the development will be the creation of a hotel, ideally an extended stay facility with 100 rooms, according to the contract. Subsequent development on the city’s wish list includes at least 70KSF of retail/restaurant, office and residential space, a high degree of walkability/interconnectedness, and public gathering spaces, confirmed Airheart.
The contract states, “CPI agrees to provide a master plan to include general site layout, building location, site access, parking, landscaping (“Master Plan”), building designs to include elevations, color palette, building height and size (“Building Designs”), draft Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions and marketing services to potential users in specific to retail, restaurants, office, and residential and delivery of a hotel for the Premises.”
Airheart confirmed CPI’s architecture team on the development is winslow + partners. The full scope of the firm’s duties will be determined by the recourses and partnerships potential developers bring to the table, such as whether or not they have in-house design teams or exclusive partnerships in place with other firms.
An Up-and-Coming Developer
While Maricopa officials initially expressed a desire to partner with a development firm or team with extensive experience developing mixed-use retail and with expertise in restaurant and nationally-branded hotel projects, CPI is a relative newcomer to the development arena, having started out as – and still maintaining the majority of its operations in – commercial real estate brokerage and property management.
In point of fact, this is CPI’s initial foray into service as lead developer on a major project, CPI Director of Property Management Cecil Yates and VP of Retail Sales & Leasing Trent Rustan told AZBEX in a Monday morning phone interview.
Asked why the firm decided to go after the project, Yates said, “I have a lot of experience with public-private partnerships. I’ve been here three-and-a-half years. I’m a developer as well. I’ve done several projects both personally and as well as when I was with Chicanos por la Causa. As soon as I got here development was something I worked on. It was a natural (progression) for CPI. We have all the information and the skillset but haven’t done it formally as a company. As each deal progresses, we’ve been involved, but not as the lead developer. I was the one who pitched it to the management team and said, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity for us.’ I have the skillset; lots of people in the organization have the skillset; this is something we should start pursuing formally. We’ve been doing it informally for decades.”
Rustan added, “CPI has always had a great resource base. We realized that staff members and affiliates have great knowledge and ability to help our clients with some of their broader development needs.”
Yates added both he and CPI have extensive familiarity doing business in Maricopa. “We have several listings and I have several properties that I manage down in Maricopa. We’ve known those folks for a long time.”
Regarding CPI’s selection, Airheart said, “It was a combination of things. I understand that CPI is relatively new to the development industry, but they’ve managed several different projects. They also have a diverse team. Their ability to pull together a strong team was key to us. A firm that’s high quality and has experience working with the public was important to us. They also had some interesting ways to raise capital for the project. It was really a combination of things. A lot of times it has to do with the right people at the right time. We’ve been hearing awesome things about CPI. We’re really excited.”
Under the terms of the contract, an extended stay hotel of approximately 100 rooms is the goal, and the targeted opening date is July 1, 2020. The developer will have the right, at the city’s discretion, to either purchase or lease the land after it obtains the hotel agreement and notifies the city of its intent. Cost of the purchase would be determined by third party appraisal.
Beyond the July 2020 target date for the hotel, Airheart said it is too early to predict the timelines for the remaining components. “We’ll be having a meeting later this week with CPI to deliver a better timeframe,” she said. “It’s all going to be market-driven. (The hotel) is the first phase, but CPI has been working pretty aggressively and doing their due diligence to really garner interest. I think we’ll see some traction on the site much sooner than we had originally anticipated.”
Yates echoed Airheart’s enthusiasm. “This is coming together very nicely,” he said. “I can’t disclose everything, but as I said during the council meeting, we’ve got three different hotels that we’re talking with. We already are working on letters of intent and contracts, and we’re talking with folks about the multifamily, the commercial and even senior living.”