New Senior Complex 1 of Many Changes Planned Along Tatum

Credit: City of Phoenix

By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

A proposed new senior living facility is one harbinger of many changes to come along Tatum Boulevard north of Bell and south of Loop 101.

A mix of big-box anchors and smaller retail operations cover three of the four corners at Tatum and Bell. The NWC is home to a large multifamily development. Another multifamily complex sits immediately north of that one, and a third lies just east of the NEC.

Stretching north to the 101 is an expansive collection of single-family homes, mostly built between 1990 and 2005, with few other development types mixed in immediately touching Tatum. The immediately Tatum-adjacent items are a non-denominational church/meeting center, a Circle K, two plant nurseries, a small medical office/urgent care, a formerly city-owned and now privately run horse park, a luxury senior living complex set well back from the road, and the Musical Instrument Museum.

Many residents have been on edge about neighborhood-changing development plans for the area since June of 2016 when Shea Homes submitted a proposal to City of Phoenix to develop Shea at North Tatum on 114 undeveloped acres at the SEC of Tatum and Grovers Avenue. The Planned Use Development request was for, “A maximum projected density of approximately 550 single family homes, 1,044 multifamily residences, and 295 age-restricted (+55) homes.”

Because of the density and the lack of infrastructure and density management/capacity improvements planned for Tatum and Grovers the proposal was rejected.

Residents breathed a sigh of relief, but many remained suspicious of what was to come.

The Latest Plan

On Saturday, Nov. 24, many area residents found anonymously placed found fliers on their doors announcing plans to demolish the church/meeting center facility and replace it and the vacant lot next to it with a four-story, 210-resident senior living and memory care facility. The fliers urged residents to contact their city council representative and Valley Village planning staff to express opposition.

On October 15 a Planned Unit Development request was filed with the city by Tiffany & Bosco, P.A. on behalf of TB-AZ Management Company, LLC to create MorningStar of North Phoenix on the current church site. The 3.44-acre site is currently zoned R1-18.

According to the submittal narrative, “The four-story development is composed of 3 neighborhoods (independent living, assisted living and memory care) in a single building specially designed to provide care for the specific needs of its residents as they age and/or their care needs change. The building interior design provides for an abundance of amenities, which include the following: common dining spaces and service areas, activity areas, art studio, theater, chapel, cafés, lounges, a fitness and activity center, spa/pool area, beauty salon/barber shop, private dining for family events and a central kitchen for chef-inspired meals. The Independent and Assisted Living neighborhoods are joined by shared common use “core” areas in the center of the development. The Independent Living and Assisted Living neighborhoods each have an individually landscaped courtyard. The look and feel of the community will integrate effortlessly with the adjacent neighborhood.”

The unit breakdown under the proposal will consist of 90 independent living, 45 assisted living and 25 memory care units for a total of 210 beds in 160 rooms .

Developers MorningStar Assisted Living and N-Shea Group currently have a project — MorningStar of Glendale — under construction at 6735 W. Golden Lane in Peoria. If approved, the new submittal states, MorningStar of North Phoenix will be MorningStar’s fifth Phoenix-area community and its third in association with N-Shea Group. MorningStar has a portfolio of 30 properties in the western U.S., totaling more than 4,000 units. (AZBEX, May 27, 2016)

The narrative states the development standards and architectural design will “ensure that the character of the area is maintained, while also preserving views of the surrounding area. The building design and extensive landscaping will ensure this condition.”

In arguing for the change request, the applicant argues that while the property is currently designated as Residential 3.5 to 5 du/acre (Traditional Lot) in the General Plan Land Use Map, lots fronting arterial roads are not usually zoned single-family residential and point to the multifamily developments south on Tatum as an example.

On Monday, Nov. 26, a representative of Shea Connelly Development told AZBEX Research staff no construction timeline has been established. The City of Phoenix currently shows no hearings or meetings as scheduled for the proposal.

Residents Concerned About Scope of Area Plans

Many residents of the area near the proposed MorningStar development were unaware of the proposal until the fliers were posted. When asked, they were almost universal in their concerns about this project and the general growth planned for the area along Tatum.

Most single-family residents are long term, having owned their homes for more than five years. Demographics range from early thirties well into retirement age. While most residents own their home, there is a population of renters as well. (Full disclosure, AZBEX Editor Roland Murphy, author of this article, has been a single-family renter in the area for more than 10 years, which significantly facilitated research for this piece.)

The most common concerns regarding MorningStar specifically were the height of the proposed development, which would be nearly twice as tall as anything in the immediate vicinity, and traffic impacts, particularly on residential side street Robert E. Lee Street, which is the site’s northern boundary.

A charter school sits immediately west of the proposed site on Robert E. Lee. Residents have long expressed displeasure with the volume of traffic on Robert E. Lee during pickup and drop off times, and they fear the new development will exacerbate the issue.

“You already have parents parking on the street during the day to drop off and pick up their kids,” said one resident who asked not to be identified. “Now you’re going to add deliveries and visitors all day and into the evening? On a residential two-lane street with no traffic controls but speed bumps? Some kid’s going to get killed.”

It’s not just the senior facility that has residents worried, but the entirety of planned development for the immediate area along Tatum between Bell and the 101.

After Shea Homes’ proposal fell through, developer DR Horton submitted a new proposal to create 420 single family and 286 attached single-family duplex units on the same site at Tatum and Grovers. The City’s Paradise Valley Village Planning Committee staff recommended the proposal for approval in September of this year.

“Horton was a lot smarter about it than Shea was,” the resident said. “Shea tried to drum up community support and did a lot of outreach. Horton kept it as quiet as possible, and it pretty much sailed right through even though it’s still way too big for the neighborhood to support.” City documents appear to confirm a lack of organized opposition to the proposal, with only four emailed responses attached to the staff report.

Among the other developments planned or in process for the area are:

  • Sagewood Senior Living Expansion
  • ASU/Mayo Clinic Health Solutions Innovation Center
  • Mayo Clinic Campus Expansion
  • Generations at Mayo Blvd & 66th St
  • American Express Campus/Garage Expansion

The area near the Mayo Clinic is also envisioned as a potential biomedical corridor.

“You’ve got all these projects going in around here,” the resident said. “Any one of them is probably okay, but when you put them all together, it’s just too much. Way too much volume. Way too much density. It’s ridiculous. This area is a throwback to the sloppy, inconsistent, growth-for-growth’s sake mentality of the old boom and bust cycle. The planning for this stretch, as currently under consideration, will absolutely devastate the entire area. We can’t absorb the proposed capacity. There aren’t any infrastructure changes and improvements for Tatum in this short-sighted so-called ‘vision.’ Traffic is already heavy, particularly the closer you get to the 101 — it can take four changes of the light to get from Mayo to the freeway during peak times, and these ‘visionaries’ want to add tens of thousands more people? How does that even remotely qualify as intelligent planning?”

Specifically regarding the proposed senior development, he found it hard to justify. “You’ve got something planned out on Mayo near Scottsdale. You’ve got one going in on Greenway east of 51. Sagewood just up the street is expanding. While seniors make pretty quiet neighbors, I can’t imagine another complex like that is really necessary, particularly when it’s going to screw up traffic so much worse around here.”

N-Shea Group LLC is the project owner. Development is by N-Shea Group LLC and MorningStar Senior Living. The architect is Rosemann & Associates, P.C. Shea Connelly Development LLC is the general contractor.

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