Trump, Town Lake site linked

The Donald tied to bidder on parcel east of McClintock

Jahna Berry
The Arizona Republic
June 2, 2005

Donald Trump's star power may be headed to Tempe Town Lake.

Trump is linked to one of 10 bidders who have expressed interest in 27 acres of prime real estate near the lake, city officials confirmed Wednesday.

Tempe has struggled to develop the site, which is north of Rio Salado Parkway and east of McClintock Drive, since plans for the Peabody Hotel collapsed and ended in litigation.

Now that Trump and other bidders have expressed interest in the area, the city's dream of a lakefront hotel cou ld be back on the front burner.

It also raises the possibility of another Tempe-Phoenix rivalry: A high-rise Trump project on Camelback Road has stalled politically and Tempe's land could give The Donald other options.

Trump's Valley representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

"This is probably one of the most intriguing properties in the Valley," said City Manager Will Manley.

The land is near the lake's southern shore, has great water views, freeway access and is close to downtown Tempe. An ideal project, Manley said, probably would include a hotel.

Manley and other city officials declined to give details about the bids -- including the price range -- because they are confidential. Privately, some leaders confirmed that Trump was associated with one of the bids.

Other lake property has been sold for nearly $1 million an acre or about $15 to $20 per square foot, Community Development Manager Chris Salomone said.

It's unclear if Trump is directly involved or has lent his name to add luster to another investor's proposal, one city official said.

The city put the land up for sale April 15 and stopped taking offers May 16, Salomone said. Of the 10 bids that came in, five were very strong, he said. Now, the city is doing due diligence -- vetting the financial backing for each project and completing background checks. That process would take at least 60 days. After that, the council will decide whether to pursue any of the proposals or look at other options. If the council chooses a bid, the city would work on a development agreement, Salomone said.

If Trump emerges as a top contender for the lake property his glitzy East Coast image may not impress Tempe city leaders. The college town is still smarting from the failed attempt to bring a $220 million, 1,000-room Peabody Hotel project to the site.

"We need to be cautious with any project," said Councilman Hut Hutson, who also declined to talk about the bids.

Hutson said, in general, Trump's name doesn't impress him. Trump's gilded image didn't seem to sway Phoenix officials, either. Trump and partner Bayrock Group want to put up the high-rise on a prime parcel east of 24th Street and Camelback Road, the hub of the ritzy Camelback Corridor.

Despite signing up a roster of top lobbying muscle, the developers appear to have been out-muscled by nearby residents, who have scored big wins against Trump.

Greg Stanton, the Phoenix councilman who represents the area, opposes raising the 56-foot height restriction for the project, as does Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.