A vacant building in downtown Mesa will become the East Valley's hub for state services that have been scattered across many locations for years.
An unusually divided City Council narrowly approved the deal Monday, which involves Mesa charging the building's new owner drastically reduced rates for 100 parking spaces on city-owned land. The building, at 120 W. First Avenue, is the former location of the East Valley Tribune, now with offices in downtown Mesa and Tempe.
Phoenix-based Harrison Properties will lease 70,000 square feet in the building to state agencies that provide unemployment benefits and job assistance. Other agencies include the Attorney General's Office, Child Protective Services and the Department of Development Disabilities.
Councilwoman Dina Higgins argued the building's new use doesn't match the city's downtown vision and said it wasn't worth a parking discount that could exceed $1 million over 22 years.
Mayor Scott Smith and others argued the building was likely to sit idle for years because the mostly windowless structure's odd configuration and deteriorating state make it one of downtown's more difficult properties to redevelop. Smith said the new use for the site isn't ideal, but is preferable to a vacant building that projects a lifeless image of downtown.
The City Council voted 4-3.
Between 300 and 400 employees will work at the site. Harrison, which is the top landlord providing office space to the state, expects to invest $1.5 million in renovations.
The building has been vacant since March 2011. Harrison bought the building from the Tribune's former owner, California-based Freedom Communications, which retained property ownership when selling the newspaper in 2010.