A Look at Developments and Investment Opportunities in Downtown Mesa
By Greg Marek
Many people talk about Gilbert’s or Chandler’s downtown’s as the place for real estate opportunities and where things are happening. I believe the real opportunity is in downtown Mesa.
Why is downtown Mesa such a good real estate opportunity? There are several reasons. First, sale and lease prices are still reasonable. Another selling point for Downtown Mesa is light rail, which opened for service in August, 2015. Mesa currently has three stations, with 3 more to be completed by 2018. This has improved the accessibility to Downtown Mesa and thus increased the traffic in the area. Lastly, Mesa uses a form based zoning code for downtown development projects which allows more flexibility for developers. For these reasons, people looking to open a business, investors, and developers are turning their sights to downtown Mesa.
A planned Facade Improvement, which will remove the colonnades that line Main Street is also in the works. An article featured in the East Valley Tribune reveals that starting to get rid of the colonnade is a key goal of a new Mesa Program.
“Far from promoting downtown development, the city believes the colonnades actually have hurt. They obscure Main Street’s storefronts, mar the historic architecture of a dozen or more buildings and, in fact, are something of a drain on the city budget.” The article states.
Jeff McVay, Mesa’s manager of downtown transformation, believes the historic preservation, and resulting character, will draw more people downtown.
In addition to 6,000 employees and 380 businesses, downtown Mesa has a growing arts and culture district anchored by the Mesa Arts Center (MAC). The MAC, a performing and visual arts complex with more than 210,000 square feet is the largest comprehensive arts campus in the state. Coming soon is the Mesa Artspace Lofts project at 155 S. Hibbert. Using the proximity of the Mesa Arts Center, this project provides 50 live/work units for artists and their families along with space for non-profit arts organizations and community events. With four museums are all within walking distance of the MAC this arts district, along with light rail, is a major selling point to potential residents, businesses, and investors.
Currently, there are several projects either approved or in the entitlement process, including about 1,500 residential units along the rail corridor from Tempe to Mesa. Recently completed was the renovation and adaptive reuse of the historic 122-year-old Alhambra Hotel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The developer, Venue Projects and Community Development Partners, built this $3 million project to provide housing for about 60 Benedictine University students.
In the entitlement process at the northwest corner of Main St. and Country Club Dr. is a $40 million, 200+ multifamily unit project with 20,000 sf of retail. This project will be a significant entry feature to downtown. Additionally, Sunbelt Holdings, one of the premier developers in the Valley recently purchased the 13-acre former Auto Nation block at the southeast corner of Main St. and Sirrine – preliminary plans for an exciting multi-use development are reportedly being discussed with the City. Furthermore within the last year there has been a run on early to mid century properties by several local investors.
Even the blighted 25-acre vacant site at the southwest of Mesa Dr. and University Dr., is available for redevelopment. After extensive input from area residents and businesses, the City is preparing to issue a Request for Proposals to find a developer to build a mixed use project.
If looking for real estate opportunities in the East Valley, don’t overlook downtown Mesa as a hot spot for real estate investment opportunities.
Greg Marek has over 30 years experience in working with real estate developers, business owners, and investors in both the public and private sectors. As Redevelopment Director for two large Arizona cities, Mr. Marek was involved in complex real estate deals between real estate developers and the city. He also was involved in recruiting businesses and assisting them through the city approval process.
Mr. Marek specializes in retail sales and leasing, tenant representation, land sales, and working with municipalities. Mr. Marek is a member of the Arizona Museum of Natural History Foundation Board and the Mesa Historical Museum Board of Directors.