By Rebekah Morris for AZBEX
The diversity of East Valley cities was on full display at the August 12th, 2020 Leading Market Series discussion hosted by BEX. Economic development directors from the cities of Mesa and Scottsdale, along with the Town of Queen Creek, identified their unique challenges and goals in bringing in new employers to their municipality, especially during a time when typical face-to-face meetings and travel are not happening.
Panelists included: Doreen Cott, economic development director for the Town of Queen Creek; Lori Collins, deputy director of economic development for the City of Mesa, and Rob Millar, economic development director for the City of Scottsdale. The discussion was moderated by Rebekah Morris, founder and president of BEX.
Already Large, Mesa Continues to Grow in All Directions
Mesa, already the third largest city in the state by population, is expanding with new development on nearly all sides. Collins described five areas of the city that are driving employment growth: The Falcon District, the Mesa Gateway Area, the Fiesta District, Downtown Mesa, and the Riverview Area. The Falcon District is home to nearly 2,000 individual businesses, and plenty of new development, including the Longbow Gateway and Marketplace.
Near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, the city is benefiting from infrastructure investment such as the completion of SR24 and the continued investment at ASU Polytechnic campus. Also in this area is the Landing 202 where Dexcom recently leased a large space for their operation. That location is especially relevant to the city because it cemented the area as a viable logistics hub and will likely attract similar types of projects.
Queen Creek Driven by Population Growth
Queen Creek is uniquely situated in the far southeast valley and has a long history of being a place of high activity for new single-family homes. Before the COVID-19 health pandemic clamped down on economic activity, the town was seeing strong growth in permit activity for single-family homes. When COVID-19 hit, projections for future activity were revised sharply downward. Cott was happy to note that although the projection was reduced, the first month into the new fiscal year saw nearly 25 percent of the volume expected for the next twelve months. Cott went on to touch on the infrastructure needed to support so many new residents – for instance – road construction everywhere has led to the city’s unofficial slogan: “Better Roads Ahead”.
Scottsdale to see Redevelopment, State Land Development
Of the three municipalities represented, Scottsdale is the most land-locked, which naturally gives way to more redevelopment activity than new greenfield expansion. Millar did highlight State Land as the most expensive land in the state with the best location. Two parcels of state land, each approximately 75-80 acres near Hayden Road in the north end of Scottsdale, are expected to be auctioned off, one in September 2020 and one in the first part of 2021. There are opportunities everywhere for redevelopment however.
Development hotspots to watch for in the Scottsdale include Scottsdale Entrada – an office and multifamily development along McDowell Road, Cavasson – a master planned campus located at the Loop 101 and Hayden Road, and the Scottsdale Collective – a variety of new redevelopment projects in the Entertainment District of Downtown Scottsdale.
Office, Retail, Hospitality have Slowed. Industrial, Finance, Insurance Remain Bright
Across the board, new hospitality and retail development projects have slowed or been canceled outright. Millar stated that most of them will not resume until 2022, if at all. Cott and Collins noted that most of their projects in process have continued. The Hampton Inn at Queen Creek will be the first-ever hotel to open its doors in the town.
Collins noted that Industrial has proven to be a bright spot for Mesa. Scottsdale acknowledged the dependence of the city on hospitality and went on to explain that healthcare even took a double-hit when their ability to perform higher margin elective surgeries was restricted, and the added burden of preparing for COVID-19 patients set the healthcare systems on their heels.
Panelists agreed that with much uncertainty in the market, it is tough to predict with any amount of accuracy what the market will be doing in six months, but all are cautiously optimistic that things will stabilize and many of the businesses they were hoping to attract will eventually come to fruition.