Construction on Gilbert's Forum may resume - East Valley Tribune: News

Construction on Gilbert's Forum may resume

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Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 3:02 pm | Updated: 2:19 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

An unfinished office and retail project on a high-profile corner in Gilbert appears frozen in time, but the site may soon buzz again with construction activity.

Work at The Forum, a 120,000-square-foot development at Val Vista Drive and Williams Field Road, sputtered about six months ago after federal regulators declared its lender, First National Bank of Arizona, insolvent and named the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as its receiver.

Scottsdale-based VP Commercial may be within weeks of obtaining the funds to continue work, said Rommie Mojahed, a broker with Sperry Van Ness, who has been hired to market the property.

VP Commercial didn't return phone calls. Dan Henderson, Gilbert's business development manager, said the company hasn't kept him abreast of its situation.

"That's typical when one of those projects experience finance issues," he said.

The center, one of the many victims of the banking crisis precipitated by the collapse of the housing market, has been in a state of partial completion for six months.

Depending on their vantage point, passers-by may get conflicting impressions of the center's progress.

"You look to the west (from Val Vista Drive), all you see is construction," said Cliff Coen, owner of Casa Fuma Fine Cigars.

Motorists on Val Vista Drive also see scattered debris left by workers and even missing windows and doors in some of the buildings.

The view from Williams Field Road, however, is far different with a number of stores already open, including Casa Fuma, Gelato Fantastico and Blue 32 Sports Bar.

Coen, who opened his store in early March, said customers routinely tell him they were unaware of his store's presence because of the partial completion of the rest of the center.

The town's restrictions on A-frame signs, which limits business owners to one, makes it harder to drive traffic to his store, Coen said. As a result of all this, Coen said he's spent more money on advertising than he originally planned, but added he's still getting a steady stream of cigar aficionados into the store.

"I'm a destination business," he said. "When you hear about a new shop in the Valley, you go check it out."

Mojahed said VP Commercial remains committed to making the project a success.

"They're going to turn lemons into lemonade," he said, adding he didn't know who the new lender would be.

The Forum will have more upscale flourishes than typical office and retail centers. The project will feature underground parking and LCD monument signs similar to those seen at major auto malls. It will also have decorative water features, a contemporary-looking design featuring stone tile veneers on the buildings and music piped throughout the property.

"Once it's completed, it will be a great project," Mojahed said.

About 90,000 square feet of the property consists of offices and stores make up 30,000 square feet.

Mojahed said the remaining work, which includes buildings that lack basics like windows and doors, would take about three months. VP Commercial is planning another pad at the suite as well, which could take a year to finish, Mojahed said.

Other retailers are planning to open soon, including a day spa and a drive-through Dunkin' Donuts coffee shop.

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