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Metro Summit Highlights EDV Bounty

Mark Stapp, Director of ASU’s MRED Program, provides the opening remarks at the 2015 Phoenix Metro Development Summit. Photo Credit: Rachel Kettenhofen/AZBEX

By Luci Scott for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

The site of the former greyhound-racing park at 38th Street and Washington in Phoenix is being actively marketed and the city has visions there for a science and technology park.

In fact, businesses are being recruited for the former park’s surrounding area, from Van Buren to Washington and from State Route 143 to Central Avenue, said Christine Mackay, director of community and economic development for Phoenix.

“We’d like to see the hourly-rate motels along Van Buren leveled and turned into office buildings,” Mackay said.

She spoke at the first Metro Phoenix Development Summit, which was held March 5 and 6 at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in north Scottsdale. The summit was sponsored by the Arizona Builder’s Exchange to bring together the A/E/C & CRE industries with cities’ economic development staff.

While development in the Gateway area is forecast, the next hot tech corridor will be on the “pristine land” along the I-17 and Loop 101 and from the Mayo Clinic to State Route 51, she said, noting that sites there have great access to a workforce and amenities.

At the same time, she hailed downtown Phoenix as a “crazy cool” area that has come to life spurred by light rail, with the Phoenix Biomedical Campus and the 12K ASU students soon to be joined by another thousand in a program moving downtown, which ASU is due to announce soon.  More housing will be needed, she said.

She said downtown Phoenix is a magnet for the millennial generation, which grew up watching “Sex and the City” and “Friends,” and who want to be connected to the city, not isolated and holed up in the previously traditional large house with a large yard in the suburbs.

‘Connection to community’

Despite downtown’s popularity with millennials, who want to live where they work and play, Mackay said Phoenix is losing too many to Austin, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle – not for jobs, but because those cities are “cool.”

“We need to create connection to community,” Mackay said.

Phoenix struggles to compete for business with Austin, Salt Lake City and others because of disparities in educational attainment.

Mackay is heartened by the activity as well in midtown, which has high vacancy rates, but where some buildings are undergoing renovations. She hinted that three large tenants would soon announce plans to move to midtown. She also addressed the common complaints about lack of parking in Phoenix with a database to locate parking spots.

“The city has quite a number of vacant lots that can be turned into parking places,” Mackay said.

She said the city is always looking for public-private partnerships, highlighting a few projects ready for development, including I-17 N. Corporate Center at I-17 and Pinnacle Peak, a 60KSF mixed use and office space project, which is being developed by Ryan Companies

The thousand-acre Algodon Center at Loop 101 and Thomas will probably be a tech and office campus; the site is being brokered by NOVO Development.

The West Fillmore parcel downtown, which comprises 7.4 acres between Fourth and Sixth avenues, could be developed into a landmark mixed-use and residential project with retail and a grocery store.

Activity follows freeways, light rail

Activity will follow the future South Mountain freeway and ridership on light rail. Although there are arguments that light rail is too expensive, Mackay said, “If you watch redevelopment, it doesn’t happen next to a bus stop. … It happens at a light rail stop.”