open space estrella gin
The city is buying back a two-acre parcel near Estrella Gin Business Park that was to be home to a NAPA Auto Parts store, for about $150,000. Photo by Bryan Petersheim, Jr.

The Maricopa City Council approved the reacquisition of two acres adjacent to Estrella Gin Business Park at its meeting Tuesday, returning a potentially valuable asset to the city’s control. Estrella Gin is the city’s major commercial development, promising to bring more than 80,000 square feet of office, retail, light industrial and warehouse space to Maricopa.

Read more: Construction begins at Estrella Gin, with a twist – InMaricopa

Tom and Tena Dugan, who owned a Maricopa NAPA Auto Parts store until it closed Feb. 1, 2020, had planned to rebuild on the Estrella Gin parcel at the northeast corner of Edison Road and Estrella Gin Business Parkway. The Dugans purchased the Estrella Gin parcel to relocate their store after the Arizona Department of Transportation bought their building as part of the overpass construction project.

City Manager Rick Horst said the transaction was a simple buy-back of the property, facilitated by a clause in the sale agreement that gave the city that right if the Dugans’ company, Mel’s Auto LLC, didn’t build on or develop the land within two years.

“We sold it to them with the proviso that if they chose not to go forward and build within a two-year timeframe, we would have the first right to buy it back,” Horst said. “We’re just exercising that right.”

Tena Dugan said she and her husband wanted to develop the parcel, but events of the last two years put a damper on their ability to do so.

“It was a lot of things,” she said. “We absolutely wanted to build another store in Maricopa. We had a contractual obligation to start construction by September of 2021, and due to things beyond our control we couldn’t meet that obligation, so we sold the land back to the city. As you know the last couple years have been pretty rough on the world.”

The city paid the same price, $1.75 per square foot, to reacquire the land as the Dugans paid for it in 2020. At that price, the city will pay about $150,000 for the land, which could end up being a good investment for the city.

“We already have several people interested including the Estrella Gin people and others,” Horst said. “I suspect it (the price the city paid) is considerably lower than what the current market value is.”

Read more: Demolition begins at NAPA building in Heritage District – InMaricopa

Estrella Gin was initially designed to provide primarily office and flex space, but Horst said in the area where Edison curves to the north and becomes Loma Road, that vision may be changing with Sprouts and the water park coming.

“I think there is an opportunity for some retail right on the main road, and office and other things in the back,” Horst said.

Developer Shane Cook said he is one of the parties interested in acquiring the parcel, although his opinion of the value differs from Horst’s.

“The city will probably put that out for bid again in the next week or two,” Cook said. “I’m sure we’ll be interested in it. If there’s no competition for the parcel, it will probably go for about that same price again.”

Cook also foresees a change in use for the property.

“That whole Edison/Loma frontage is a lot more likely to have retail now than before these other things went in,” Cook said. “I suppose you could have some office there depending on what it was, but I sure don’t see any flex space going in there. That frontage will be way too valuable.”