Mesa ‘Eyesore’ to Become 5-story Apt. Complex

Credit: Chicanos Por La Causa

By Lauren Castle and Lindsey Collom for The Arizona Republic

One of the most notorious corners in Mesa should look different by March 2021.

What are now fenced-off largely vacant lots on the northwest corner of Main Street and Country Club Drive are envisioned as a five-story, nearly 200-unit apartment complex with bottom-floor retail space.

The city recently sold 1.3 acres, which surrounds the empty Bailey’s Brake Services building, to Chicanos Por La Causa, which is developing the land through a for-profit subsidiary.

Construction is expected to begin by August.

“We’re very excited,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said Wednesday. “This is going to be a great entry point to welcome people to a new and improved downtown Mesa.”

Giles had called the corner an “eyesore” prior to the Mesa City Council approving the sale Jan. 7.

The sale of the land is just one of the city land deals approved in January. Mesa also will sell land for another hotel near the Chicago Cubs spring-training complex and auction off city-owned land further east.

A Corner with a History

The downtown property now planned for apartments has a long history. Past development efforts there led to years of legal battles.

In the 1990s, Mesa began condemning land at the intersection as part of an urban renewal effort to make way for a hardware store and other private businesses. But Randy Bailey, who had taken over Bailey’s Brakes from his father in 1995, enlisted legal help from libertarian activist groups and became a national celebrity in a growing debate over cities’ use of eminent domain.

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in 2003 that Bailey could keep his property, and the city had to put a 10-year stop to redevelopment efforts on the corner.

Those efforts rebooted in 2015, this time with Bailey as a willing participant.

What’s Planned?

Chicanos Por La Causa was selected to develop the land after answering a request for proposals from the city seeking a developer to transform the corner into a “high intensity, modern, urban development that contributes to an active and livable downtown Mesa.”

Along with the city-owned lots in the area, Chicanos Por La Causa’s development arm has purchased 1.25 acres of adjacent privately-owned land, including the brake shop, for the $49M redevelopment project called the Residences on Main.

The Residences on Main is planned as a five-story building with:

  • 198 market-rate apartments.
  • 20KSF of retail, restaurant and commercial space.
  • 200 parking spaces.

Price of the Land

The city agreed to sell the land in the latest project for $400K, although the city estimated the value at $700K.

Jeff McVay, downtown transformation manager, explained the appraisal value was assigned from the total development site’s appraisal of $2M. However, the city does not own the entire 2.5-acre development site.

The purchase price is less than the estimated value because of the land’s “reduced development potential without consolidation with the privately-owned land,” according to city documents.

City officials also said irregular boundaries and a shared driveway reduce the value.

City Councilman Jeremy Whittaker questioned the sale price during the meeting.

“The only thing that I would suggest is that we do an appraisal on the individual parcels to make sure we are getting a fair evaluation on the parcels that the city owns,” he said.

City Manager Chris Brady said the value of the land is not the most important concern.

“We do the best we can to get the best values for the city, but that is not our perspective, right?” he said. “We are the City of Mesa, we look at the big picture. And the big picture that the council gave us, was to find market-rate housing and to bring that closer to downtown Mesa.”

Read more at The Arizona Republic.

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