Five months and more than $100,000 later, Sandra Kapilovic’s dream was over.
The owner of Too Divine! Coffee, Tea and Sweets in the Gilbert Town Square retail and entertainment center opened in January after a sixfigure investment, but a lack of customers forced her to close in June.
She is not alone.
A jewelry store has closed, and others appear to be struggling near Gilbert’s only multiscreen movie complex, set back more than a quarter-mile from the street with poor visibility. And the newest tenants are not the anticipated shops and cafes that coexist with a movie theater, but rather a real estate firm and title agency.
Gilbert Town Square "was supposed to be a three-year project," Kapilovic said. "That’s the story everyone got."
A number of projects at Gilbert Town Square haven’t left the drawing board since owner Triple 5 Arizona Development Corp. signed an agreement with the town in 1999. The developer has yet to begin work on eight urban-style buildings designed to create a boutique shopping area that links businesses along Gilbert Road to the movie theaters. A planned office complex and hotel may be years away.
The majority of the 66-acre project southwest of Gilbert and Warner roads
remains dirt lots.
Mike Clements, vice president of development for Gilbert Town Square, blamed the slow pace on three things: The project faces stiffer competition than anticipated, waits longer for town approval than expected and suffers from not being at a major intersection.
"Are we disappointed? Not really," Clements said. "We’re still very focused on this site."
Gilbert economic development director Greg Tilque remains optimistic.
"We thought there’d be a little more, but the economy certainly had an impact," Tilque said.
Gilbert Town Square was designed to be a town center across Gilbert Road from government offices. And the town was willing to pay for it.
According to the 1999 agreement, the developers will be reimbursed half of collected sales tax revenue for 10 years, or until it gets $5 million.
Like other East Valley municipalities, Gilbert is working to redevelop its downtown area. But unlike other communities, Gilbert moved its government center two miles from downtown and is creating a new community core.
Some progress is taking place despite delays. The first two of eight buildings expected to attract boutique shops are scheduled to be built by March 2004. Clements said a major office developer is interested in buying about 5 acres for an office complex that would start with a 20,000-squarefoot building. And chain restaurants are popping up along Gilbert Road.
One of these is Chipotle, a burrito and taco restaurant. Manager Jim Zickefoose, who described business as "OK" since opening in August 2002, has some of the same concerns.
"Last summer, when we were getting ready, I thought by the same time this year it would all be here by now," Zickefoose said. "And that’s not helping anybody."