By Luci Scott for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
A major development opportunity to build a landmark looms in downtown Phoenix in a vacant 7.5-acre site on the south side of Fillmore between 4th and 6th avenues.
The city could issue an RFP March 26 if city council gives the green light at its meeting March 25.
The city worked with the Downtown Phoenix Community Development Corporation to do a planning study as part of the RFP, focusing on what’s currently in demand, which is residential development.
But the city won’t dictate the parcel’s use because the private sector better has its finger on the pulse of the market, said Scott Sumners, the city’s deputy economic development director.
“Our RFP is open; if somebody wants to propose office or retail or restaurants or a grocery store instead of residential, or a combination of those with residential, we’ll be happy to look at it,” he said.
Two additional adjacent properties
The planning study was not limited to the 7.5 acres of vacant property; also included in the study were two additional properties the city owns immediately south of the vacant site that contain occupied affordable housing.
“We aren’t saying we want to tear down and build; we’re saying there’s a possibility you could build on those footprints if you can figure out how to handle them and build replacement affordable housing nearby,” Sumners said.
He expects to see proposals for the 7.5 acres first, and predicts build-out could take three to five years.
Another possibility would be a school on the site if there is demand and if it works financially.
“For both sites, we’re really leaving this open,” he said. “We’re asking the private sector to propose what they think will work.”
In preparing for the sale, the site is being appraised. The city recently bought the property from Maricopa County at $24/sf, and Wood Partners bought adjacent property about the same size at 7th Avenue and Fillmore for $27/sf.
“We expect to get our money back out of the deal but also expect to get things good for the community,” Sumners said. “There’s a big push for a community parking facility, and if we have to give up a little cash to provide public parking in the area, that’s something we’d consider.”
Density is sought
The city is interested in seeing density on the site, maybe 80 to 120 residential units per acre, so a high-rise is a possibility. Sumners said the constraint will not be the height allowed but what the market demands.
“We’ve said from the beginning that this could be home to 2,000 residents, but we don’t want to suggest that all we want is residential,” he said. “If the private sector thinks other uses or a mix of uses is appropriate, we’d love to hear about it.”
The city wants the development to be coordinated and holistic, not patchwork. Fifth Avenue runs down the middle of the property, and Sumners said there’s a possibility of widening what’s now the street and dedicating space to widen sidewalks and a tree-lined walkway, allowing for two lanes of traffic and a bikeway.
Replies to the RFP will probably be expected within 60 to 90 days after the RFP is issued.
“We want to give developers enough time to come up with a good proposal but not so much time that they’re not sure what the market will demand down the road,” Sumners said. “It’s a fine line to walk.”
Sumners has seen great interest in the location, and he said development teams have already formed. Officials from Phoenix will be in Dallas this week at a public-private conference to spread the word that the site is available and spur interest nationally.
“This is the largest parcel that we have issued an RFP for in a long time,” Sumners said. “The scale of this site is pretty remarkable; CityScape is only 4 or 4.5 acres. The closest thing … is Arizona Center back in the 1980s. It’s a fantastic opportunity.”