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Estrella Gin

NAPA Auto Parts may have found a new home.

In an executive session planned for Tuesday at 6 p.m. before their regularly scheduled meeting, Maricopa City Council will consider the sale of property to Mel’s Auto, LLC, an Arizona limited liability company doing business as NAPA Auto.

The land under consideration is at the city’s Estrella Gin Business Park on Edison Road.

The council may only go into executive session for discussion or consultation with the city attorney and designated representatives of the city in order to consider its position on and instruct its representatives regarding possibly entering into an agreement. They cannot act on the proposal in executive session.

Also, on the agenda of the same 6 p.m. special meeting is discussion of also selling Estrella Gin land to Electrical District No. 3.


Mayor Christian Price (center) jokes with Councilmember Henry Wade and Vice Mayor Marvin Brown at the Tuesday morning ribbon-cutting on the Edison Road Extension. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Tuesday morning, the City of Maricopa officially opened a new loop connecting Edison Road to State Route 238.

Mayor Christian Price called it “a pretty monumental day.”

The extension was built to provide access to the Estrella Gin area that is intended to be a business park. Maricopa bought the property in 2011 for $3.2 million. Converting it to industry has not been an easy process.

Elijah Williams, president of engineer firm EPS, which also designed the coming overpass, recalled sitting down with then-Economic Development Director Micah Miranda to discuss all the challenges connected to the property. That included dealing with the Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Arizona Corporation Commission for permitting, traffic studies, environmental studies, cultural resource studies and water.

“I said, ‘Don’t worry, Micah, I’ll get you through this.’ And with the help of so many great people in the City of Maricopa, that’s what’s been able to happen,” Williams said.

“It’s very rare to find a leadership group that not only sees what needs to be done but has the will and the ability to see it done. And such is the case here in the city of Maricopa. Citizens of Maricopa should be grateful to have such leadership here.”

Developing the road took longer than expected as the city also forged agreements with neighboring landowners and worked with local utilities. Price and Councilmember Julia Gusse both touched on the necessity of patience.

“Economic development takes a long time, and it’s so frustrating at times,” Price said, “but the reality is that the longer you put into it and the more effort you put into it, the better results you get. You build a lot of partnerships and you work together to accomplish great things.”

The proposed business park is meant for flex spaces for light industry. The intention is not to build until leases have been signed. That has not yet happened.

In noting how the city has shifted from being a cotton-heavy, agricultural area to a residential-heavy city of nearly 50,000 in a short amount of time, Gusse said, “Times have changed, but that doesn’t mean progress has stopped. With that progress, that change, we’re going to need a lot of patience from the community … If we don’t get the patience from our residents, we’re all going to be doomed as far as standing up here before you.”

The road is four lanes with curb and gutter, sidewalks and medians with turn lanes as it loops from westbound to northbound. It then meets SR 238 as a two-lane road. Trees are already planted along a berm near the city’s new maintenance building. SR 238 also had to be improved at its junction with the road. There is also a connector road running south from Edison Road to Garvey Avenue.

“We don’t normally get to build roads in the proverbial 40-acre field. Usually they become a constant state of decay because they’re always being used as we build them,” said John Walstrom, president of the construction company on the job, Achen-Gardner. “But this was a lot of fun.”

Fun was also the term used by Mayor Price. He said it was fun to see previous construction at the site, like the fire station and the maintenance facility.

“Progress is fun,” he said. “It’s not always easy; it certainly doesn’t get there overnight, and it takes a lot of time.”

City Manager Gregory Rose said the Public Works Department and Director Bill Fay “did an outstanding job.”

Price called Edison Road Mariopa’s first mini-loop.

“It may just be a road to many people, but to me it’s the future of our economic development,” he said.

Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart is proud of the teamwork that created the Edison Road extension.

The Edison Road extension is complete.

Edison Pointe is finalizing leases.

Commercial development at Copper Sky may also see some stimulation in 2017.

Estrella Gin Business Park is still waiting for the light to shine.

City of Maricopa Town Hall Meeting

Public Works Director Bill Fay will give an update on the SR347 Overpass, Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart will let you know the latest information on the Edison Pointe development, and the mayor and councilmembers will be there to answer your questions and listen to your concerns.

What: City of Maricopa Town Hall Meeting
When: Tuesday, April 11 at 6 p.m.
Where: City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza
Who: All residents are invited.

Pieces are in motion for construction of an overpass to begin this year. Developers are reviving nearly-forgotten subdivision plans. APEX Motor Club and Denny’s have shown plans to build in Maricopa.

Economic development in Maricopa is showing varying signs of progress this year as the city has studied approaches to growing the economic base of the community.

The improving economy has not necessarily created changes to the demographics of Maricopa. Denyse Airheart, the director of the city’s Economic Development Department, does not predict major changes to the methodology when the Economic Development Strategic Plan takes form this year.

“We target companies based off the assets of the community,” Airheart said.

That includes the youth (the average age of Maricopa residents is 33.8 years), income and education level of the population. Those selling points look much as they did three years ago.

A draft of the Economic Development Strategic Plan is scheduled to come before city council in April.

Maricopa may broaden its target sectors, Airheart said. Growth of employment opportunities within Pinal County, especially Casa Grande, may also impact the plan. But Maricopa is still selling itself.

Nailing down a description of Maricopa for prospective companies and creating a narrative of its future is not just a challenge for City Hall. Retail developers have had similar tests.

Edison Pointe

Edison Pointe, at the northeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Edison Road, is about a year behind leasing a typical development of its size, according to Vintage Partners leasing director Casey Treadwell. He said it has been difficult educating retailers on the attributes of Maricopa.

“I know it’s been frustrating for people wanting to see something going,” he said. At a Maricopa Advocates Program meeting in February, he predicted movement on the ground within a couple of weeks. But a month later, he said Vintage was still putting final leases in place.

Businesses he announced as part of the development are Ross, Burger King, Planet Fitness, Dunkin’ Donuts and Petco.

Mayor Christian Price has called it a game of enticement.

“The city’s doesn’t control economic development,” he said. “We can advocate for it and we can entice for it. We can go out and sell our wares as to why it’s a great place to be, but I can’t make somebody locate here.”

Copper Sky

The City itself knows the irritation of owning commercial property that stands empty for years. It has property at Copper Sky intended for commercial development since the park’s inception. An effort to develop the land may soon be renewed.

“In 2014 we went out to bid, and it just wasn’t the right time, we believe, for the economy,” Airheart said. “We anticipate we would go out sometime in 2017.”

The conceptual plan includes mixed-use commercial, a hotel and a restaurant.

“What we envision there is a destination where people can go and enjoy themselves, where people can go and get an ice cream and sit and enjoy people-watching,” Airheart said. “As you know, we sort of don’t have that sense of place because of how quickly we sprung up.”

Edison Road

The City of Maricopa also owns commercial property at what is planned as the Estrella Gin Business Park. Luring companies to the site has been a struggle, but the six-year effort has produced a new roadway – the Edison Road extension.

Airheart calls the new road one of the proudest achievements of her department.

“All the partners had to work together to make Edison Road a project,” she said.

The road was completed in March and provides another bypass between State Route 238 and John Wayne Parkway. Using a federal grant, the city worked with private landowners and utilities for years to construct the road, which includes sidewalks, curb, gutter and a center median.

Estrella Gin

The road was created to access Estrella Gin, and that project has been a problem. The city contracted with The Boyer Company to market the flex space in the business park. That contract expires in June.

Matt Jensen, a partner in Boyer, said there has been a lot of interest from small companies needing only 1,200 square feet while the city is trying to market to industrial businesses. A couple of proposals have gone out to larger enterprises. There is also an ongoing discussion with the City of Maricopa about moving the fire department administration offices to Estrella Gin.

“That would actually be fantastic,” Jensen said.

Without leases in place, the city will not begin construction, but Airheart said the city is looking at “multiple options” if the contract expires without tenants being signed. She maintains a positive attitude about city-owned commercial property.

“A community that’s investing in itself means that it’s a healthy community. So we’re showing the development community there are investments to be made,” she said.

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Mason Callejas
Photo by Mason Callejas

Matt Jensen of The Boyer Company shares the latest information on the Estrella Gin Business Park.

It is an understatement to say the development of Estrella Gin Business Park has been a long process full of the unexpected.

A series of delays just to build an access road has been part of the frustration. Equally exasperating has been the slow process of finding appropriate tenants.

“The location is great. It’s a clean slate to work with,” said Matt Jensen, a partner in The Boyer Company, a development company that contracted with the City of Maricopa to find businesses for the location. “There is incredible community interest in it.”

An Oct. 27 open house for Estrella Gin Business Park drew dozens of Maricopans to City Hall to hear the latest.

“It was a great turnout. We’ve still got to get people to commit,” Jensen said.

Boyer’s agreement with the city has a pre-leasing threshold of 60-percent to be met before construction. But that number could be flexible.

“It depends on the type of tenants we get,” Jensen said. “If they are good-quality, established companies, we would feel more comfortable starting earlier with maybe 50 percent.”

Beyond delays in the construction of the Edison Road extension (its connection to State Route 238 has been postponed until January), The Boyer Company faces other challenges with the 52-acre property.

“The challenge is who to market to,” Jensen said. “Obviously, you want to reach out to the businesses in Maricopa, but the majority of them are retail-based. That’s not our intent. And I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect an established company to pull out of Chandler and move here.”

The Boyer Company is a Salt Lake City-based, family-owned business. It has worked on projects in Arizona for 20 years. The company signed onto the project in 2012 when there was no road, no water and no zoning. The objective for Estrella Gin was to “offer a first-class project that is price-competitive.”


The base lease rate is 74 to 79 cents per square foot per month. That is $8.80 to $9.40 per square foot a year, “so it’s cheaper than what we talked to you about,” Jensen told the gathering of business owners and elected officials at the open house.

The previous cited number was over $11 per square foot annually. That led to one long-time prospect, Shipfr8, to take its business elsewhere. Though maintaining an office in Maricopa, owner Peter Cockle said he is moving the “heavy” side of his transportation logistics business into a warehouse in Casa Grande.

At Estrella Gin, additional rent (insurance, maintenance, etc.) excluding electricity is 13 to 17 cents per square foot per month, which is $1.56 to $2.04 annually. The tenant allowance is $12 per square foot.

“I do feel like it’s competitive,” Jensen said. “There aren’t any newer buildings in Maricopa. Chandler and Gilbert, I would argue, are not comparable either.”

According to the commercial listings site Showcase.com, available industrial properties in Chandler have a base lease rate ranging from $6 per square foot annually (with smallest space more than 14,000 square feet) up to $16.80, which is flex space at Red Rock Business Plaza. In Gilbert, the price range is from $6.60 to $15.50. In Tempe, it is $6.24 to $15.50.

“I think it’s important, too, that we provide space in Maricopa that Maricopa businesses can afford,” said Beth Mundell, owner of Fyrestorm Cheer & Tumbling, who attended the open house. “I think it’s all well and good to bring in Chandler businesses or Tempe, but I would also like my business not to have to relocate to the Valley to be able to afford to continue running.”

Mundell rents business space at Ak-Chin’s Santa Cruz Commerce Center, “because that’s the only affordable space in Maricopa.”

She said the rent prices in the city are chasing out Maricopa’s own businesses.

Finding Tenants

Estrella Gin Business Park is conceived to be “flex space.” That is aimed at substantial, industrial or mechanic-based companies, plumbing and electrical installers or start-up dotcoms. Office space is in front with garage doors in back.

The first building is planned to be 36,000 square feet built to suit. When the shell is constructed to needs of the business, the tenant is responsible for adding walls and the location of restrooms within its space.

Utilities are connecting to the property along the Edison Road extension.

Jensen said eight to 10 companies have “expressed interest,” and a couple of those are deemed substantial, stable companies. No one has signed.

Local businesses, he said, are only interested in short-term lease agreements, however. That does not fit the business park model.

“We are hoping to get five to seven if not 10 years,” he said.

On the current timeline, The Boyer Company is trying to get pre-leasing agreements in place before February. Construction would be February through July. Tenants would move in September through December.

Even with construction delayed on the SR 238 intersection, the Edison Road extension is still expected to be finished by February or March.

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.


Twenty-two visiting Mandela Washington Fellowship recipients introduced themselves during the city council meeting Tuesday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A senior vice president assured the Maricopa City Council that the Greater Phoenix Economic Council was getting participants a 7-to-1 return on investment.

The council agreed Tuesday to continue a relationship with GPEC by spending $27,825 for its regional economic development program.

In a wide-ranging evening that involved a visit by Mandela Washington Fellowship recipients and a signing of thank-you cards for Maricopa’s first responders, the council advanced some efforts to boost economic development.

Brad Smidt, VP of business development for GPEC, said his organization had been instrumental in bringing major employers to the area.

Councilmember Henry Wade requested specifics.

Smidt acknowledged the new businesses were “not specifically in Maricopa” but did set up in surrounding communities. He used Tractor Supply in Casa Grande and Continuum Business Park in Chandler as examples.

When Wade asked what the city can do differently in the next few years to get businesses into town, Smidt highlighted the need for infrastructure.

Maricopa, he said, has to “have investment areas ready to go.”

Members of the Maricopa City Council Peggy Chapados, Henry Wade, Marvin Brown, Bridger Kimball and Mayor Christian Price sign cards for the Maricopa Police Department and Maricopa Fired Department to express their gratitude during a July 19 meeting. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Members of the Maricopa City Council Peggy Chapados, Henry Wade, Marvin Brown, Bridger Kimball and Mayor Christian Price sign cards for the Maricopa Police Department and Maricopa Fire Department to express their gratitude during a July 19 meeting. Residents can drop by City Hall to sign the cards for first responders until Aug. 15. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart said more companies are looking for build-to-suit opportunities. That seeming trend is behind the city’s attempt to create the Estrella Gin Business Park. That is planned as a build-to-suit complex on 51 acres off of an Edison Road extension that does not yet exist.

To alleviate that situation, the council approved four contracts on Tuesday’s consent agenda related to extending Edison Road to State Route 238. That involved up to $4.6 million for a construction contract with Achen-Gardner Construction, a $340,000 agreement with Electrical District No. 3 for lights and power along the road, up to $44,695 for the EPS Group for construction inspection services and a $24,000 addendum to a contract with Ninyo and Moore for material testing services.

Achen-Gardner is expected to begin construction in August. The project may take about nine months. The city had wanted to have the business park in place more than two years ago, but ran into roadblocks, especially the road itself.

“It’s frustrating at times,” Mayor Christian Price said of the city’s efforts to attract businesses. “You spend dollar A and get result B. Economic development is the hardest thing to deal with.”

Price said it is important that Maricopa take a regional approach to development. Participating in GPEC, he said, is part of that. The $28,000 contract, he said, provides “a lot of bang for the buck.”

The Mandela Fellows spent time with Maricopa city government recently and on Tuesday introduced themselves to the council. Twenty-two Mandela Fellows participated in the Young African Leaders Initiative.

By Ethan McSweeney

An extension of Edison Road west to State Route 238 will begin construction this summer pending approval of a contract by the Maricopa City Council in July.

That extension would allow the Estrella Gin Business Park, which is planned along the new Edison Road route, to move forward, but no definitive start date has been set for construction to begin on the project.

At its July 19 meeting, the Maricopa City Council will decide on a construction contract for the Edison Road extension past Maricopa Fire Department Station 575, where the road currently ends, said Josh Plumb, city engineering and floodplain manager. The extension would turn the two-lane road north through the future business park and connect to SR 238, providing an alternate route from State Route 347.

There is no price tag on the construction yet, Plumb said, as the details of the contract are still being negotiated.

Plumb said construction on the road extension will begin about one month after approval from the council, with construction slated to take about nine months.

“We’re anxious for it to get started,” Mayor Christian Price said. “It’s an important part of the future of business in our community.”

Both the Edison Road extension and the Estrella Gin Business Park have been delayed for years as the city has worked to negotiate the details of the projects with private landowners, Price said.

“I’d love it to be done already,” Price said. “The fact is we don’t control the private landowners, so whenever you work with someone, you have to work through different philosophies and different dreams.”

The City Council is also set to decide at its July 5 meeting on a contract with Electrical District No. 3 to build electrical infrastructure along the Edison Road extension as the road is being constructed, Plumb said. A contract with Global Water Resources is also scheduled for a vote from the council during that meeting.

The Boyer Company, a Salt Lake City-based real estate developer, plans to begin Estrella Gin Business Park’s construction with a 36,000-square-foot “flex space” building, said Denyse Airheart, economic development director for the city of Maricopa. The flex designation lets businesses use the space for office, warehouse or light industrial work.

“It allows tenants to have a wide variety of options for that space,” Airheart said.

It’s still unclear when exactly construction on the Estrella Gin Business Park will begin. Boyer will build the first building once it has attained 60 percent occupancy, Airheart said.

No one has signed a lease for space in the Estrella Gin Business Park yet, but information has been sent out to potential tenants, Airheart said. A prospective business would also sign a letter of intent before signing a lease for space in Estrella Gin.

Price said the lack of tenants is due to Boyer not marketing the space until recently because of the delayed progress on the Edison Road extension.

The delays to the Estrella Gin project through the years have frustrated Peter Cockle, owner of the shipping company SHIPFR8, who would like to move his business into the planned business park.

Cockle initially expressed his interest to move his business, which has locations in the Phoenix area, into Estrella Gin in 2012, when the then-economic development director for Maricopa told him about it. He signed a letter of intent and was told his business would be able to move in January 2014. Construction never got underway, and his letter of intent expired.

“We keep getting told they’re going to break ground, they’re going to break ground, they’re going to break ground,” Cockle said. “Last week, when I went over there, I didn’t see anything happening.”

Cockle has sought other options for places in Maricopa for his business, which needs plenty of space because of the trucks involved in his shipping. He said Boyer reached out to him a month ago to say the company would likely break ground before the end of the year.

“Yes, we’re interested, but we’ll believe it when we see it,” Cockle said.

Estrella Gin Business Park will have 40 acres of development for businesses, with buildings offering office, industrial and flex space. The firehouse and the City of Maricopa Maintenance Facility currently sit on the Estrella Gin property. Maricopa’s Amtrak station will also be relocated to the Estrella Gin property along Garvey Avenue.

Airheart is confident the space will be filled. “We have very low vacancy rates,” she said about Maricopa business space.

Estrella Gin would be Maricopa’s first light industrial business park. The city bought the 50-acre property in 2011 for $3.2 million.

This story appeared in the July issue of InMaricopa.

The local economy was on the rise in 2015, and residents were able to enjoy new venues for eating, see an expanded realty market and enjoy new options for shopping and styling.

However, like most growing cities, the new development also brought controversy. The overpass for State Route 347 will likely force some businesses to relocate, projects that have been rumored for years are still in limbo and the new businesses that arrived left some residents unimpressed with the city’s lack of lively attractions.

These are the top “Business” stories that caught Maricopa’s attention:

10. Ak-Chin Opens Elements Event Center

July 8, Ak-Chin Indian Community and UltraStar Multi-tainment Center opened Elements Event Center as conference space and banquet hall for public and private functions. It was a reimagining of the space that had been constructed as retail shops

9. Second Saturday Market Returns

Nov. 14 marked the return of a revamped Second Saturday Market in Maricopa after a slow first attempt. The farmers market allowed residents to purchase 60 pounds of food for $10 and provided local merchants with a new outlet to reach potential customers.

“The turnout [has been] phenomenal,” Niesha Whitman, special events and marketing manager for the city of Maricopa, said. “It was more than we had anticipated.”

8. Sun Life Relocates

The Sun Life Family Health Center moved to its new location at 44572 W. Bowlin Road across from Copper Sky Regional Park in early August. The new building was divided into family practice and pediatrics sections and features 12 examination rooms in the family practice section and six in the pediatrics side.

The old building on Hathaway became Sun Life’s Center for Women.

7. Edison Pointe

In mid December, the Maricopa Planning & Zoning commissioners approved a development review permit for the proposed Edison Pointe shopping center south of Fry’s Marketplace on the east side of State Route 347. The development is designed for stores and shops, an auto-repair business, a sit-down restaurant and a fast-food restaurant.

Traffic issues are still a concern for the shopping center, and no stores are confirmed to be in the complex yet. “This is something that we need for economic development,” Commissioner Michael Sharpe said.

6. The Duke for Sale

The Duke at Rancho El Dorado went back on the market after six years. Hiro Investment LLC purchased the golf course in 2009 for $1.45 million and is currently asking $4.995 million for a return on their investment. The property includes the 7,011-yard course, 5,400-square-foot clubhouse and the 3,000 square foot veranda.

“The best thing I can see is that during the period between 2009 and 2015, they went from a considerable negative number in what the business was generating to a considerable positive number,” InSight Golf broker Jon Knudson said. “So these guys have totally turned around the business. They made almost half a million dollars last year.”

5. Estrella Gin Continues to Struggle

Due to development changes and a lack of committed businesses, the city delayed the creation of the Estrella Gin Business Park.

The city bought the Estrella Gin property for $3.2 million in 2011 and paid almost $48,000 for a feasibility study for a business park. The new fire station is already on the property, a Public Works building is being constructed, and the Amtrak station will be moved to the site. However, the planned business park keeps hitting snags with utilities and access.

“The city only controls one-third of the project,” Maricopa Mayor Christian Price said. “Ongoing negotiations between us, Global Water and private landowners will help shape the cost estimate. Some assumptions were made when the project started, but in a five- to 10-year projection, you work through stages of development.”

4. Unemployment Rates Decreasing

Pinal County saw its unemployment rate drop from 6.3 percent to 6 percent despite a 2.6 percent increase in the county’s population. The unemployment rate was at its lowest point of 5.6 percent in May, but has steadily remained lower than 2014.

Arizona’s unemployment rate is also 6 percent, and research administrators are optimistic about the state nearing pre-recession levels of jobs.

“We’ve grown, and we’re still gaining jobs. That’s very, very, very difficult to do,” said Tim Kanavel, Pinal County Economic Development manager.

3. Maricopa Realty on the Rise

After years of dipping sales, 2015 provided positive results for many Realtors in Maricopa and the surrounding regions. Property values increased and the seven-year economic downturn left buyers with plenty of options to pick from.

“2015 will finish with double-digit increases in home sales and a modest and sustainable increase in appreciation rates, so it was a good year,” Maricopa Real Estate Company associate broker Jay Shaver said.

2. ED3 Solar Issues

In early June, after an obvious increase in solar customers, Electrical District No. 3 announced it would limit solar installations to 30 units per month and increase its fixed cost recover charge from 70 cents to $3. The decision was met with outrage in the community, but 244 applications for solar permits came through Maricopa City Hall in June in an effort to beat the policy’s deadline in July.

“We’re not looking to recover lost revenue,” ED3 General Manager William Stacy said. “We’re just looking at recovering some of our fixed costs.”

ED3 also announced it will lower its electric rates 5.16 percent for most customers starting in January.

1. Maricopa Station Opens for Business

After years of rumors and anticipation, the Maricopa Station business center opened on April 27. Starbucks was the first business to open, and Chipotle, Jersey Mike’s, Sport Clips and Zoyo Neighborhood Yogurt soon followed, with Freddy’s Frozen Yogurt and Steakburgers completing the project.

“Development is a wonderful thing, but it is not easy,” Price said. “It takes a great deal of cooperation, collaboration and effort between the city and a developer to allow us to build things that will last long after we are all gone.”