It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s actually just a supersized idea — and a vague one at that. Mesa officials took a skeptical approach this week to a proposal that would pave the way for a mall the size of 130 football fields at the northwest corner of Loop 202 and Elliot Road.
City planners said the package lacked evidence that such a large shopping center would be the best fit for east Mesa, which already has the 146-shop Superstition Springs Center on Southern Avenue.
Wayne Balmer, a Mesa project manager for the area, said the supporting material lacked any evidence that the applicant had consulted an architect. He added that the proposal didn’t include a list of potential mall tenants.
“It was a compendium of documents that showed all the growth in east Mesa,” he said. “But there was nothing specific to (the mall) site.”
But the applicant, Jim Stewart — who owns the land — said he thought the material in his proposal presented a strong argument in favor of a zoning change that would allow a mall to go up at the site. He said the details could be worked out later.
“There’s A through Z,” he said. “I’m only on part A.”
Stewart said it was unfair for Mesa officials to criticize the project in its early stages. He said it could someday bring other economic benefits, such as retail outlets, offices and a hotel.
Even though Stewart’s project is only in the conceptual stages, he has already trumpeted the 170-acre “Gateway Super Regional Mall” online at www.superregionalcommercial.com.
Stewart has requested that Mesa rezone half of the parcel to allow commercial development.
It’s now zoned to support mixed-use developments such as offices or warehouses.
Balmer said the site could eventually draw high-end jobs that the area needs to continue growing. He said the city also has considered the possibility of a water park on the land.
“It might be a great site for a regional draw,” Balmer said.
Ralph Pew, a zoning attorney who represents Stewart, said his client was only looking for feedback from the city.
“We simply sought, through the preapplication process, staff’s initial review and comments,” he said.
The comments they received were mostly that the city would need more details.
Dorothy Chimel, the principal planner for Mesa Planning and Zoning, wrote in an e-mail to planning director John Wesley that the application was missing information.
“I hope we tell the applicants that we need a specific site plan,” she wrote.
Wesley said Friday that “there needs to be a lot of review and discussion” before taking any steps toward the Gateway Super Regional Mall.
“We need some information specific to the site,” he said.
Stewart said the documents included in his proposal show clearly that the area needs an attraction such as the Gateway Super Regional Mall. He added that he already owns the property, and might just hold out until Mesa sees things his way.
“I guess it will be a parking lot for the next decade,” he said. “Maybe someday after I’m dead and gone somebody will come by and build that Burger King they want.”