Gilbert is primed to get an upscale, open-air, Main Streetstyle shopping center, bigger than the hugely successful Kierland Commons and oriented to a younger, more family-focused market.
The 52-acre retail project will be built at the southeast corner of Val Vista Drive and Pecos Road, creating a town center-like focus for The Spectrum at Val Vista, a 1,470-acre master planned community. It is pegged to be completed in 2006, about the same time that the Santan Freeway slices through the area, said Buzz Gosnell, Woodbine Southwest president.
Woodbine developed Kierland Commons on the north Scottsdale-Phoenix border to mimic the downtown shopping districts of a half-century ago and filled the 38 acres with fountains, lush landscaping, a park, and shops of national retailers such as Chico’s, Tommy Bahama, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware along with several one-of-akind boutiques.
Dotted among the shops are about a dozen eateries, including the always-packed Cheesecake Factory and the super-pricey Morton’s steak house.
Several Kierland Commons merchants have asked to be included in the next Woodbine project, Gosnell said, but the Gilbert shopping center is in the design phase and not ready to commit space. While some tenants likely will locate in both, Woodbine will seek new shops for Gilbert that will appeal to a younger shopper.
"We don’t want to replicate Kierland Commons, but we want the project to have the same feel," Gosnell said. "Gilbert is a different place. The average age is younger, and there are more families. We might want to go after a younger demographic with the tenant mix. We have a list of tenants in mind."
The company could opt to woo Kierland Commons merchant Anthropologie’s sibling Urban Outfitters for Gilbert, for example, although Gosnell would not confirm whether either are targeted tenants for the project.
Gosnell said Woodbine, along with Spectrum master developer Canyon Oaks Val Vista will be meeting with Gilbert officials and residents to find out what merchants they want to see included and how they would like the project to look.
"Architecturally it won’t look the same (as Kierland Commons)," he said. "We’re not a formula developer. But we want it to be a place where everyone wants to go — a gathering place."
Kierland Commons has loft office space above many of the shops and residential condos on the drawing board. Gosnell said either or both of those options also could be added to the Gilbert shopping center plans.
"Woodbine and Canyon Oaks are committed to making this the finest retail center in the south East Valley," said Bill Lund, managing member of Canyon Oaks.
"We looked at the emerging demographics, and we feel confident this is a great location for this type of development."
Canyon Oaks has already sold all the residential land to builders who will construct 3,500 to 4,000 housing units, Lund said. The project also features a 100-acre medical campus, including a 120-bed hospital, which has already broken ground. A 140-acre auto mall, designed to house 12 to 15 dealers, is expected to break ground later this year, he said.
"We’re getting tremendous interest in that," he said. "The first dealers could be open by the end of 2005."
Lund and partners decided to opt for an upscale retail center because of the highincome households surrounding the property.
"Look at the market — 190,000 people live within five miles of the site, and the average household income is more than $71,000," Lund said. "The forecast is that by 2008, it will be $89,000."
Getting Woodbine Southwest on board is a big step forward, said Greg Tilque, Gilbert economic development director.
"It’s a great project that will fit the demographics of Gilbert and the south East Valley," he said.
"The concept is great, and it lends credibility to have people of the known quality of Kierland Commons developers."
Since the developers have not come to the town with a formal proposal, Tilque did not know if they will be asking for incentives such as a sales tax rebate.
Gilbert is poised to become a sudden retail haven, with several other large projects following the freeway to the town.
Westcor’s Gilbert 101 power center is slated to kick into high gear with the opening of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in January.
Two Vestar power centers featuring Arizona’s first two SuperTargets are expected to open a couple of months later.
Tilque said all the new retailers will help keep Gilbert sales tax from leaking to neighboring cities.
"In the next year we will see tremendous (retail) growth," he said.
"The freeway has been a big factor, and adding 10,000 to 12,000 people a year helps."