Chandler puts Tumbleweed project on hold - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Chandler puts Tumbleweed project on hold

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Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009 6:17 pm | Updated: 3:12 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Grand plans for a 22-acre sports entertainment district at Tumbleweed Park, involving a partnership between Chandler and private developers, are being shelved until the economy sees sunnier days.

It's the third time in six years that Chandler has attempted to find a developer for the site, a vacant lot on the southwest corner of Germann and McQueen roads, said Mark Eynatten, the city's community services director. The site is part of the larger, more than 200-acre Tumbleweed Park.

Chandler, Tumbleweed Park, McQueen Rd., Germann Rd., Loop 202, state Route 87, Arizona Ave., Queen Creek Rd., Pecos Rd., Cooper Rd.

Eynatten said ViaWest recently withdrew its proposal to build a "village concept" conglomeration of buildings to house sports-related retail and entertainment businesses, such as an indoor soccer complex or dance studios, because the ongoing economic downturn made potential tenants scarce.

"What we want is somebody to come in and look at commercial types of recreational activities that (city government) would not provide," he said. "With the economy the way it is, the people just aren't there right now."

The City Council Thursday night was expected to go through the formal process of voting to lay the dead deal to rest, said city spokesman Craig Younger.

"It is scheduled to be rejected," Younger said.Gary Linhart, ViaWest managing director, said there aren't many viable financing options in today's economy for new construction.

"There's very little funding available for any kind of development anywhere in the country," he said. "We thought it was prudent to put a pause on it."

The company remains "big fans" of Chandler, however, and could dust off the Tumbleweed Park plan in a few years when the money starts flowing again, he said.

"We like the recreation concept," Linhart said.

Eynatten said an Ernst & Young study which the city commissioned to analyze the proposed development's market viability indicated the plan could be successful, but not without a contribution by Chandler of about $6 million in public funds.

"When the potential for this kind of development is there again, we'll probably test the waters," he said. "It's going to be driven purely by the economy."

The city's discussion with ViaWest included whether the 22 acres of public land should be sold or leased to the company, although the talks never got to the point of an appraisal.

"We would have considered the possibility of selling it," Eynatten said.

The property is unlikely to be developed solely by the city, he said. For the time being, it will continue to be used on occasion for special-events parking.

"It's not on our radar screen as a development project unless we partner with a developer like ViaWest," Eynatten said. "What we were looking for is for things that would contribute to what we have at Tumbleweed Park."

The existing public park includes a 60,000-square-foot community center, the Arizona Railway Museum, a 4-acre playground, open space, multi-purpose athletic fields and a tennis complex. The city has plans to add an additional four ball fields, Eynatten said.

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