From State Route 238 to Stanfield, the City of Maricopa owns a wide array of land parcels. Since 2004, the City has acquired about $143 million in property.
While there are parks, public buildings, streets, rights of way and other uses on much of the property, City Hall has some parcels listed simply as “miscellaneous,” and there are still undeveloped acres. The City has plans for some parcels, but others will sit empty for the foreseeable future.
“We are doing the city an injustice by not developing these properties,” Councilwoman Julia Gusse said. “Our predecessors did a great job of securing these properties for future development and growth; it’s time we put them to good use.”
One of the longest-held properties has been the most divisive and the least likely to be developed any time soon.
Called the Peed property and noted as miscellaneous, the 11-acre parcel on SR 238 cost the city $1.2 million in 2006.
“It has no water; it has no utilities,” Councilmember Marvin Brown said. “The city bought it because a former council member pushed the former council to do so.”
The property initially was brought to the council as 150 acres for a possible location of a city hall. At the time, the council was set to spend $14.6 million for it. Steve Baker, then-councilmember, was a real estate agent representing property owner Dennis Peed. While Baker recused himself from votes on the matter, it was a relationship that vexed residents and other Realtors.
After months of debate in 2006, the City ended up buying only the southern portion of the property abutting SR 238. Its continued lack of infrastructure keeps it on a backburner, but some current councilmembers have ideas.
Councilmember Nancy Smith said her vision of the SR 238 corridor is “something similar to the Price Road Corridor in Chandler. Basically, it would include light industrial businesses with high paying jobs.”
Vice Mayor Peg Chapados, who is leaving city council in December, said she, too, sees a major transportation corridor, “a development with elements that complement surrounding growth and that offers the benefits and accessibility of being on SR 238.”
Though there has been little recent city discussion about the Peed property, Councilmember Vincent Manfredi sees it being part of a thriving business park, though it is used as asphalt storage now. There are caveats.
“The city only owns a tiny portion of the surrounding area,” Manfredi said. “Much of the development of the Peed properly rests on the shoulders of surrounding development. Before anything can really be accomplished with the Peed property, there are some flood-zone limitations that must be corrected.
In 2008, Maricopa acquired 129 acres off White and Parker Road for City Hall and a city center at a cost of $3 million. Five years later, the City Hall building ($14.5 million) and police station ($3.9 million) were completed, but there remain wide open spaces for development. What kind of development has been an ongoing discussion this year. Its full cash value now is $12.6 million.
Smith said her vision for city center correlates with an open house held earlier this year for public feedback. “It would include civic buildings, small businesses, diverse housing and restaurants,” she said. “It would be walkable, have open space and be a place to meet up with family and friends.”
Chapados said it should be an area “where people come to live, work, play, learn, socialize and recreate.” Manfredi said it could be something “similar to the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix.”
In 2010, the City acquired part of Bowlin Plaza property that was to become Copper Sky and the police substation at Copper Sky. The cost of the five acres for the substation and 118.5 acres for the park was $6.8 million. Another $15.9 million was invested in the recreation center and aquatic center in 2014.
From the beginning, Copper Sky was seen as more than a park. A recent contract with Commercial Properties Inc. aims at commercial development on city land between the park and John Wayne Parkway, to be anchored by a hotel.
Chapados wants the area to create the “sense of place” developers have long talked about for Maricopa. “A robust combination of retail, a hotel or two, and possibly residential units that complement Copper Sky as an active, vibrant recreation and aquatic destination to be enjoyed year-round.”
Cecil Yates, property management director for CPI, told the Maricopa City Council he already had three hotel users interested. “They want to stick shovels in the ground as soon as possible,” Yates said.
“I think you’ll find that at the end of the day the City will sell that land, but it will be to restaurateurs, hoteliers, residential units, shops, all those type of things,” City Manager Rick Horst said. “The public benefit will come in a lot of forms, to include the revenues needed to support Parks and Rec and Public Safety, but also lifestyle.”
ESTRELLA GIN BUSINESS PARK
Maricopa purchased the Estrella Gin property for $3.1 million in 2011. It has been intended for a light industrial business park. Manfredi also imagines a container park.
“This property has a lot of potential, if we can find the right developer to work with us as a city,” he said.
But it has been a struggle to bring in companies. The City ended its agreement with The Boyer Company, which produced no tenants or buildings in four years, and Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart said the city may have a new developer on board soon.
“My experience tells me the market gets it right about 85 percent of the time, and government gets it right about 30 percent of the time, so we have to create partnerships,” Horst said. “There’ll come a time when we don’t have to do that anymore because the market will take over.”
Chapados said she would like the business park to complement “Maricopa’s Heritage District and rich history through design function, and tenancy.” She added it “is poised to be Maricopa’s first job-center/business-park destination that also offers a place to house historically significant components, like a museum. It’s easily accessible with room to grow and lots to offer.”
Maricopa is also heavily invested in the under-construction overpass that will re-create midtown. Smith sees an interesting future coming to the Heritage District that involves Estrella Gin property.
“It would be great to have a nice, historical-looking building that serves as a train depot, café and historical museum by the railroad tracks,” she said. “Close to this building is the pedestrian overpass that allows both communities north and south of the tracks to safely cross the railroad tracks, especially for the high school students who currently cross there.”
- The area now called Pacana Park was acquired in 2006 for $1.8 million. It was 18 acres. In 2008, the City acquired 10 acres for $700,000 to expand Pacana Park to the south.
- In 2007, the City – with its municipal fire department taking over for the Maricopa Volunteer Fire Department – purchased scattered pieces of property of 1-3 acres each for future fire stations. The stations have been built on Porter Road, Edison Road, Bowlin Road and Alterra Parkway. There remains one parcel lying well outside the city boundaries but in the middle of Maricopa’s future planning area. What is listed as the Stanfield Site is a one-acre, vacant lot on Pepper Place in Hidden Valley Estates. It was acquired for $10,000 on a quitclaim deed, costing the city nothing, and the council has started discussions of disposing of it.
- The city acquired the building for the current Maricopa Public Library in 2009 with a sale price of $1.9 million, according to county records.
- In 2010, Maricopa paid $3 million for a strip of land along the Santa Rosa Wash east of White and Parker Road and south of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.
Vincent Manfredi is a minority owner in InMaricopa.
This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.