Transforming the Williams Gateway area into a major employment hub for the southeast Valley could be key in turning east Mesa from a commuter’s hell into an urban paradise.
For nearly two decades, about 30 percent of new households in the Phoenix area have been constructed in the southeast Valley, while employment centers have lagged far behind, Gadi Kaufmann, a consultant for local developers DMB Associates said Tuesday.
The result: Local commuters are frequently stuck in traffic.
“That’s a fact of life ... it doesn’t need to be that way,” Kaufmann said.
City officials, developers and community leaders from around the East Valley gathered at Mesa’s Marriott hotel to hear a pitch from consultants working with Scottsdale-based DMB.
The local developer, known for high-end master-planned communities, purchased 3,200 acres of the former GM Proving Ground in east Mesa last year for $265 million.
The company has built the highly successful DC Ranch community in Scottsdale, the Verrado community in Buckeye and luxury mixed-use residential urban developments One Scottsdale and Centerpoint on Mill in Tempe.
The company’s vision for east Mesa is a project on a grander scale, with the opportunity to master-plan an “urban core” near Williams Gateway Airport that could include high-end office space, mixeduse residential areas, a resort and executive housing.
The push for residential growth in Pinal County and eastern Maricopa County emphasizes the importance of the East Valley creating a major employment hub, developers said.
The DMB property has good freeway access, with the future Loop 202 extension and the planned Williams Gateway freeway nearby. ASU Polytechnic provides opportunities for a trained work force. The airport could be a major draw for employers looking to base their companies in Arizona.
“The airport is an absolute jewel. It is the key to development in this area,” said John Bradley, DMB general manager for the proving ground project.
The DMB development is not even lines on a map yet. The company plans to go out in the community in the coming months and ask for feedback from Mesa residents and business owners. DMB is leasing the proving ground back to GM until
“We don’t have a plan yet for this property. We’re absorbing and dealing with these things just as you are,” said Grady Gammage, a DMB consultant.
The DMB property is just north of the Pacific Proving LLC project, a major development approved by the city last year. However, city officials trimmed much of the residential space planned from that proposal and moved it away from the airport.
Consultants for DMB said that creating employment centers near the airport ensures that it’s not choked out by runaway housing that has defined growth in the southeast Valley.
Meanwhile, trends show that a younger work force wants to live near where they work, but that they also want amenities like entertainment, fashion, art galleries, restaurants and good schools, said Ioanna Morfessis, a DMB consultant.
DMB is known for weaving entertainment and restaurants into high-end developments like DC Ranch and Verrado. “In the quest for talent, places are more important to people than jobs,” she said. “It’s not only for the sophisticated urbane professional, but for ... families.”