A project slated for the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport area has caused a clash among Mesa leaders, with some saying it doesn't fit with nearby urban high-rise designs and others pushing to let the developers do what they do best.
The project, dubbed "Elliot Fiesta," would be built at the northwest corner of Elliot and Ellsworth roads and feature "big-box" stores and office buildings.
The city's economic development office is opposed to the current plan because it does not flow with the urban, high-rise feel of other projects in the area.
The Planning and Zoning Board, however, unanimously approved the project so developer DeRito Partners Development can start recruiting tenants.
"Like my father said, time is money," said Pat Esparza, board vice chairwoman.
The 128-acre power center would house big-box stores on the southern half of the site and office buildings on the northern half. The zoning case is slated for Monday's City Council meeting.
DeRito Partners attorney Mike Withey compared the proposed center to the one at Scottsdale Road and Loop 101, home to the Harkins Cine Capri theater, restaurants such as White Chocolate Grill and several other stores.
"One thing we do understand is how to make those big boxes successful," Withey told the board last week.
And the project already has the support of one of the largest players in the area, Scottsdale-based DMB Associates, which is planning a 5,000-acre project with housing, hotels, golf courses, restaurants, stores and offices.
"You have two developers working together. How often does that happen?" Esparza said.
But the city's economic development office is not convinced.
"This is one of the top 10 sites for development in the Valley," said Scot Rigby, project manager for Gateway-area economic development. "We want to do it right the first time."
Rigby said the project represents traditional big-box development with a sea of parking that would make it hard for people to travel between projects in the area.
William Jabjiniak, Mesa's economic development director, told the Planning and Zoning Board that the developer had not addressed the department's concerns.
"I can't make it clearer that we're not against retail," he said. "But integration of that retail, internally and externally, is extremely important."
Withey said the developer has always been upfront about what he wanted to build.
"We really are surprised," he said. "We never thought we would get opposition from economic development (officials), especially given the current state of the economy."