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Surprise Loses Fight for Downtown Land

Surprise sought to take from a developer this square-mile of land near city civic buildings. The developer bought it in 1997, but it remains empty. Surprise had argued that the developer waited too long to develop the site. Photo credit: Rachael Le Goubin/The Arizona Republic

By Garrett Mitchell for The Arizona Republic

The possibility of a lengthy, expensive court fight over vacant land envisioned as the future downtown of Surprise has been avoided after a judge denied the city’s bid to take the property back from a private developer.

The square-mile of land surrounding Surprise’s gleaming civic buildings sits empty 18 years after the city struck a deal with a developer to transform the area of brush and mesquite trees, where cattle occasionally graze.

The city had sought to take back the land, arguing in court that the developer — an affiliate of Scottsdale-based Carefree Partners — had lost the rights to the property because of the amount of time the land has stayed undeveloped.

But last month, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Patrica Starr denied the city’s attempt and said it was a decision the city could not appeal.

Now, the developer plans to go forward with plans announced this year for a walkable, urban downtown that would include residential and commercial spaces and perhaps be a destination for residents throughout the West Valley.

The land is between Bell and Greenway roads on the north and south, and Bullard and Litchfield roads on the east and west.

Read more at The Arizona Republic

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