The concrete structure called Elevation Chandler was intended to be a luxury hotel and would have provided the Chandler Fashion Center located next door a steady stream of consumers. It now sits vacant and exposed on an empty dirt plot and serves as a stark juxtaposition to the prosperous shopping center.
However Houston-based international real estate firm, Hines Interests Limited Partnership, is interested in purchasing the land for roughly $20 million and replacing the six-story frame with Chandler Viridian — a $150 million mixed use development consisting of office buildings, a hotel, retail commercial property, multi-family residential units and a foot path that winds through the property.
What is Chandler Elevation?
The abandoned project sits on a 26-acre parcel of land at the corner of the Loop 101 Freeway and Frye Road. More than 10.5 acres have been empty since 2006; the original developer, Jeff Cline, abandoned the project when his company experienced financial difficulties. Price & Frye Investments LLC, owned by Point Center, currently holds the property.
Hines is also interested in purchasing the 15-acre plot adjacent to the Frye property, which is owned by John Propstra of Propcor Associates and the Macerich Co.
“The time line to close on that is this summer and that’s in concert with our entitlement. It’s tracking directly with that so there’s no hold ups other than city approval and council,” said Brandon Dillingham, director of Arizona development for Hines.
Dillingham anticipates construction on the retail, hotel site and first phase of the office building to begin in the second quarter of 2015. Construction on the apartment site may begin as early as the fourth quarter of 2014, but will most likely commence during the first quarter of 2015.
If all goes as planned, Dillingham anticipates the demolition of the former Elevation Chandler in the first quarter of 2015.
“I think it’s a big win for everybody,” he said, “I know everyone still feels like seeing is believing and you know, we feel that way too, but we’ve picked up a lot of positive traction with the councilpersons, planning department. We’ve worked with them almost hand in cloth to try and get to a great plan that everybody feels good about.”
In its place
City Planner Erik Swanson said city officials are excited to see the structure replaced with commercial properties, which would increase surrounding property values and the area’s general attractiveness.
“It’s been in a state of non-attractiveness and so any sort of development in that regards, is getting the old skeleton down,” he said.
The former Elevation Chandler stretches its skeleton frame up from the bordering chain-link fence, exposed pipes bristling, and looms over the freeway entrance. The structure offers a sharp contrast with the neighboring Chandler Fashion Center and the nearby Price Corridor that is home to tech giants like eBay, PayPal, Intel and Orbital Sciences Corporation, among other businesses.
In a 2013 interview with East Valley Tribune, Chandler City Councilmember Rick Heumann described the structure as an “ugly shell,” while Chandler Economic Development Director Christine Mackay said the building has been “the bane of our existence for many years.”
“Someday I’m going to take a bottle of champagne to the top of the Hilton and watch that thing fall,” Mackay said.
The property is amenity-based and is unique in its relation to the mall, surrounding shopping areas and two freeways. The property may be the most concentrated regional mix in Arizona, so Hines sees it as a valuable parcel, Dillingham said.
Swanson finds the commercial and residential developments to be appropriate for the location as high-density living and commercial structures are in demand in the area.
“One thing we’ve been very upfront with the city about is not just stating that it’s going to be mixed-use, but really trying to have it function and operate as mixed-use, which I don’t think has been as successfully delivered, there’s some other projects throughout the Valley,” Dillingham said, “I think we want to differentiate our project from those and really show that it can be done well. I think that’s what we’re really proud of with this design and what we’re really looking forward to in materializing.”
Chandler City Councilmember Jeff Weninger said he likes the new plan, particularly the walking paths, and hopes to see the Elevation structure come down before his term ends in January 2015. He said the Chandler Viridian would, “ignite the surrounding area,” as the residential units would supply the area with a stream of consumers.
Hines first attempted to purchase the property in 2013. However, Weninger said a series of legal disputes between the parcel’s trustees delayed the acquisition. Dillingham said the proceedings included a bankruptcy filed in California, and the trustees successfully filed to take ownership of the management agreement.
The project resumed recently when Hines submitted a zoning application earlier this year.
“Hines has been really patient in pursuing the site for almost a year,” Dillingham said.
With total assets valued at $28.2 billion, Hines manages properties in more than 115 cities around the world and has operated for more than 57 years. The company currently provides third-party property management for the 160,000-square-foot office building, Papago Spectrum in Tempe.
Previous Hines projects include Renaissance Square in Phoenix, which will be the office headquarters of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, and the Glendale Multi-Purpose Arena.
The city of Chandler Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to review Hines’ rezoning request on June 18, while the Chandler City Council will discuss the property’s development on July 10 in the City Council Chambers, 88 E. Chicago St.
• Sam Gauvain is a junior at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is an intern with the Tribune this semester. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.