Here’s how a $750 million investment will transform the Metrocenter mall area

On September 30, 1973, the Arizona Republic hailed the opening of Metrocenter Mall’s first stores, calling it “Arizona’s boldest commercial development yet”. In the decades that followed, Metrocenter became a cultural landmark for a generation of young Phoenicians, who mixed as they walked the loop around the mall or skated on the indoor ice rink. Some lucky visitors were even able to be extras in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” in 1989.

After 47 years of operation, the Metrocenter Mall last closed on June 30, 2020, amid a pandemic and after efforts to revitalize the mall failed. But, like the namesake of the city it resides in, new life is coming to this Phoenix landmark.

Concord Wilshire Capital (CWC) and TLG Investment Partners (TLGIP) announced their partnership with hines to acquire Metrocenter Mall and plan to invest approximately $750 million to redevelop the property into a residential and mixed-use community.

“This is a remarkable opportunity to reimagine what was an iconic regional shopping center in a prime location when it was built, but has become even more attractive as a development site with the light rail transit running through it. will end in 2024,” said Steve Betts, senior adviser to CWC and Hines. “With growth continuing to move northwest and companies such as the Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturing company bringing 8,000 jobs just 15 minutes north on I-17, Metrocenter is now at the center of our subway.”

The agreement

The metamorphosis of a declining mall property into a revitalized community has taken a long and winding road. In 2016, the mall’s former owner, Carlyle Development Group, did the crucial work to make this community possible – he led a rezoning effort for Metrocenter.

Carlyle has obtained approval from the Phoenix City Council for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) designation, which allows an applicant “to propose uses, development standards and design guidelines for a site and, this doing so, to enter into a collaborative review process”. according to the City of Phoenix website.

In a press release announcing the redevelopment of Metrocenter, Abdi Mahamedi, President and CEO of Carlyle Development Group, said, “We have worked very hard to gain approval for a flexible PUD that allows for high-rise residential development. density and mixed-use in the Metro Phoenix market. ”

Still, the idea that Metrocenter could be turned into a residential village has met with resistance from skeptics. Christine Mackay, director of community and economic development for the City of Phoenix, told Valley Partnership roundtable attendees on Jan. 28, 2022 that she pitched the idea for a Metrocenter redevelopment to 25 different developers before she an agreement is signed.

“There were about a dozen developers who were adamant that Metrocenter could never be redeveloped into an urban village, that it had to be industrial or it was going to fall even further into disrepair,” Mackay recalls.

Betts adds that when it became known that CWC had acquired Metrocenter, the company received several inquiries from people interested in installing industrial products on the property. “They said, ‘Absolutely not, that’s not the vision of this site. Surprisingly, a number of people came back saying, “Well, we can integrate the industrial into your residential urban village”, which we repeated, “The industrial will not be a use compatible with the village feeling European we want”.

To achieve the aspiration of creating a walkable urban environment, Betts notes that having all 68 acres of the mall property was crucial. “All the pieces of Humpty Dumpty are pieced together, and I must give credit to Concord Wilshire for not only acquiring the main asset, but also the other anchors.”

With all that land to work with, the plan is to build 2,600 housing units around a town center with 100,000 square feet of service-oriented retail. Future residents will enjoy pet-friendly parks, an amphitheater, walking and biking trails, and other entertainment options. Existing facilities include the 150,000 square foot Super Walmart, Harkins Theater, Castles N’ Coasters amusement park, public library, restaurants, and nearby Rose Mofford Park.

Even with the wealth of nearby activities, Chris Anderson, Hines Senior General Manager, says the community will be reasonably priced.

“We like to call it accessible housing, so the nurse, first responder or service employee can live here just like the owner or executive of a business,” he says. “We will have multiple price points and amenities that a variety of people can enjoy.”

Light Rail

In the past few months, motorists traveling on I-17 have seen something new — a metal lane crossing the freeway from east to west erected over the traffic lanes south of Peoria Avenue. It is not for pedestrians or a typical vehicle overpass. It is the base for where the light rail transit will cross the freeway and terminate in front of Metrocenter as part of the $401 million Northwest City of Phoenix Light Rail Extension Project.

That wasn’t always the plan, however. The light rail station was originally designed to run parallel to I-17 east of Metro Parkway, but anticipation changed that.

“That was the vision of former councilman Thelda Williams,” Mackay recalls. “She was the one who went to the city manager and said, ‘I want this to end in my mall. She imagined what was going to happen for the next iteration of this mall.

For CWC, light rail was essential to what Betts describes as transit-oriented development. “This is an opportunity to build 2,600 units around a transit station that has access to the airport, ASU, and downtown and downtown jobs,” says- he. “People can use light rail as their primary source of transportation and have a car for other uses. They could theoretically not have a car at all.

Although the community emphasizes walking, there will be approximately 4,100 scheduled parking spaces in up to seven garage decks for use by residents, visitors and light rail park and ride users. .

While nothing has been confirmed, Betts says there are ongoing discussions about how to remember Metrocenter’s legacy, whether it’s a small museum or incorporating some of the mall’s architectural elements into redevelopment. Regarding a tribute to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” Betts concludes, “I hope that would be part of the historical connection.”

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