'mini-Mill' is pushed for ASU area
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 11, 2003 12:00 AM
Ambitious plans for a mini-Mill Avenue that will
be a retail, residential and commercial gateway
to Arizona State University are being rapidly
pushed forward by Tempe and university officials.
Tempe has proposals from two developers to turn
a three-block stretch of College Avenue, from
Fifth Street to University Drive, into a shopping,
condominium, apartment and business corridor similar
to Mill Avenue, three blocks west.
"I think the area is very ripe for something
like this," said Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano.
"I think the community is large enough and
density of the area is great enough to support
"This is really exciting, and it's happening,"
said City Councilman Mark Mitchell, who worked
with ASU on the deal. "It will be a gateway
to the campus and energize the whole area. It
will broaden the retail scope of Tempe from the
downtown to College Avenue and create depth for
Valley zoning attorney and developer Grady Gammage
is leading one of the development teams that responded
to Tempe's request for proposals for development.
Though Gammage won't know for several weeks whether
his group will get the project, he has pretty
clear ideas about what would grace College Avenue.
'Related to campus'
"It would have a little bit different character
than Mill Avenue," Gammage said. "It's
only a few blocks long and more related to the
campus, so it will be more collegiate in feel.
There would be smaller retailers, cheaper food
service and more local business. It would also
be more residential, including condominiums and
One Valley real estate analyst says the development
sounds like a good idea.
"I don't think you can overdo residential
in a college town; people will buy them for their
children who are in school, so that's a slam-dunk,"
said Judi Butterworth, vice president at CB Richard
Ellis, a commercial real estate company with Phoenix
offices. "The demand for residential around
any university is huge and growing."
Butterworth also likes the chances for retail
on the avenue.
"I see some potential to create what Mill
Avenue used to have before the big retailers took
over," she said. "If they can get smaller
retailers in there it would be fun."
Also working in favor of the development is that
the Valley's light rail line, due to open in 2006,
will have a station on the northwest corner of
College Avenue and Fifth Street, right at the
top of the redevelopment area. And the light rail
station will share the site with Tempe's main
"Lots of people will use that station, especially
since the stadium is there, too," said Valley
light rail spokeswoman Daina Mann. "People
can get off the light rail line and walk to the
stadium or College Avenue."
The redevelopment would mean significant land
partnerships and exchanges, said Steve Nielsen,
Tempe community design and development director.
The Arizona National Guard will trade most of
the land on which its armory sits at Fifth Street
and College Avenue in exchange for a new, smaller
building on the same site, he said.
ASU would give up the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center
south of the armory and likely get cash in return,
"If the right proposal comes along and it
makes sense to improve the Mona Plummer area,
we'd be glad to relocate it," said Virgil
Renzulli, vice president for Public Affairs.
Ted Cary, ASU's director of Capital Programs,
said the school for months has been working with
Tempe on the redevelopment plan.
"We've done studies on relocating the Mona
Plummer into Parking Lot 59 in the area around
the stadium," Cary said. "We haven't
nailed anything down yet, but as far as the redevelopment
goes, this is a real issue. It isn't just pie
in the sky."
Tempe hopes to attract yet another developer
to transform the city block across the street
from the aquatic complex. Though a historic home
on the southwest corner of the block would remain,
three 12-story, multiuse buildings could be built,
In the past decade Tempe revitalization efforts
have resulted in more than 2.5 million square
feet of office space, restaurant space, residential
units and hotels.
This has included the rehabilitation of several
late 1800s historic structures for office, retail
and restaurant uses.
Nielsen's office today will issue a recommendation
to the City Council regarding which of the two
redevelopment teams should be picked and the council
will vote on the matter at its Thursday meeting.
There then will be a 120-day period during which
a "development and disposition" agreement
will be drawn up, Nielsen said.
Nielsen said the first phase of the project would
be at the Armory site and could be under way in
12 to 18 months. He hopes the whole project is
completed in 2006.
Light rail opening
"That's when the light rail line opens,"
Nielsen said. "It would be perfect."
Mitchell said he is confident that adding retail,
residential and commercial square footage to an
already heavily built area of Tempe will only
bring more business.
"With the College Avenue plan we're trying
to create more demand," Mitchell said. "Tempe
is already a major Valley destination and with
the College Avenue redevelopment we hope to become
the Number 1 destination."