at Town Lake has a new look
Alia Beard Rau
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 29, 2004
Touted as a development that would attract $1
billion in private investment, Tempe Town Lake
has been a tough sell: The promised restaurants,
hotels and entertainment venues have yet to show
up around the lake, and probably never will.
ost five years after the lake was filled,
city officials say development is finally materializing.
But this latest version of Town Lake development
has traded retail and cutting-edge for residential
and realistic. The nine projects that will begin
over the next 18 months are predominantly residential,
office space and open space.
"The old plans were on a larger scale, but
more sizzle than steak," Mayor Neil Giuliano
"We're getting more realistic."
He said officials now want the area to focus
on residential, commercial and open space, leaving
the retail and entertainment on Mill Avenue.
"We want to create an urban neighborhood
of people who want to live in a dense environment
that is also a wonderful outdoor recreation environment,"
he said. SunCor's Hayden Ferry Lakeside has been
the only office development to rise on the lake's
banks. Mill's End Espresso, inside Hayden Ferry
Lakeside, is the only retail. Regatta Pointe,
south of the lake near the western edge, is the
only residential property, with 136 luxury condos.
Plans for the $48 million aqua arena, $220 million
1,000-room Peabody Hotel and the multiuse development
around Hayden Flour Mill have been discarded.
Arizona State University has done nothing with
its 25 acres on the south bank.
"Everybody is disappointed there is not
more out there," Giuliano said. "But
we always knew it would be 10 to 12 years before
development is up around the lake."
The Town Lake area, called Rio Salado, cost $150
million to build. Tempe paid $88 million of that
and is coughing up $3 million a year for maintenance
until lake development revenues start coming in.
City officials say the new projects prove development
is finally catching up to the dream.
"For all the people who have asked for so
long where all the construction on the lake is,
here it is," Town Lake marketing coordinator
Kris Baxter said. "For the next three years,
there will be more construction down there than
anyone can imagine." SunCor Senior Project
Manager Randy Levin said he looks out each day
on a Town Lake filled with kayakers and dog walkers.
Every weekend there is a different event.
"The time has come," he said. "The
area matured, the market matured, we've come out
of a recession and everything has come together."
Michael Monti, owner of Monti's La Casa Vieja
steakhouse just south of Town Lake on Mill Avenue,
likes the fact that plans now focus on residential.
"The failure of the city to execute the
Peabody Hotel was a crushing, devastating thing
for us," he said. "What we don't need
down here is more retail or more office space."
He said what Town Lake does need is round-the-clock
residents in condos or hotels.
"The developers and the city are now being
realistic," he said. "They are coming
to realize that you can't have these grandiose
plans and force them to happen. You have to let
the market work on its own." Giuliano said
Town Lake is a success.
"The transformation from a garbage dump
and a dry river bottom into something that's already
productive from a recreation standpoint is pretty
amazing," he said. "And we will be successful
from a financial standpoint as well." While
city staff members are thrilled with the impending
construction, they warn that it will cause parking
The most-used free parking lot along the lake,
west of Beach Park on Rio Salado Parkway, disappeared
last week when construction began on the Tempe
Center for the Arts. "Things are going to
change," Rio Salado Manager Chris Anaradian
said. "When you come to an event, you will
have to expect to pay for parking."
The city staff is looking at allowing more bicycle
pedicabs in the area. It is also hoping to eventually
offer water taxis.
A parking lot will be built on the west side
of the arts center. During construction, Anaradian
said the city will work to provide better signs
to other available parking lots, including the
pay parking garage next to the America West building
at Mill Avenue and Third Street. There is also
new free parking on the north side of the lake
at the marina.