April 20, 2005
The Riverview at Dobson opposition unveiled a plan Friday that it claims will revitalize west Mesa, a vision the Riverview backers called "meaningless" and a "utopian" plan to benefit the opponents’ major financial donor.
The "No" campaign said Riverview and its estimated $80 million incentive package should be turned down by voters on May 17 and efforts focused on revitalizing the Fiesta Mall area, including bringing Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World there at less cost to the taxpayers.
The alternative plan also calls for a new project on the Riverview property at Dobson Road and Loop 202 without or with fewer incentives, assuring there can be only one Bass Pro Shops store in the Valley, and constructing west Mesa’s new movie theater complex at Fiesta Mall.
The "No" campaign is being primarily funded by Harkins Theatres, which is opening a new theater at Tempe Marketplace, a mile away from Riverview, and has indicated it will expand its presence at Fiesta Mall if Riverview is not built.
"It’s in the best interest of Mesa to have Fiesta Mall revitalized," said "No" campaign spokesman Jason Rose. "The only one who doesn’t win is (Riverview developers) Kimco Developers (and De Rito Partners Development)."
"Yes on Riverview" campaign spokesman Doug Cole said the plan is meaningless because no one on the "No" side owns or controls a lease on the Fiesta Mall or Riverview properties.
"I find it hollow to step in here at the 11th hour and offer a plan that they have no way of executing," said Cole, adding the vision is "the utopian plan to enrich Dan Harkins."
Westcor senior vice president Tracey Gotsis said her company talked with Bass Pro Shops about locating at a number of Arizona sites but not Fiesta Mall, which Westcor bought late last year.
"Obviously they selected their site and it’s hard for us to step in and say where they belong," Gotsis said.
Bass Pro Shops real estate director Mike Dunham said: "When we found the Riverview project in Mesa we decided that’s where we wanted to locate, and then we pursued a deal with the developer."
The Springfield, Mo.-based company has 26 stores with seven more scheduled to open this year. Dunham said Bass Pro Shops has announced more than one store in only one market — Dallas — and would not open a second Valley store if it would cannibalize the existing store.
The "No" side has said throughout the campaign that the Riverview project will hurt Fiesta Mall, citing a March 2004 study paid for by the city. But the Riverview developers said their project will revitalize all of west Mesa including Fiesta Mall.
In the "Revitalization Strategy for the Fiesta Mall Super-Regional Retail District" report, one identified threat to the mall is constant competition from outside the area.
"The proposed 101 and 202 retail developments (Riverview and Marketplace) will likely exacerbate Southern Avenue retail difficulties," the report states.
Gotsis said Westcor is not taking a position in the Riverview election, adding that competing shopping centers are always listed as threats.
"We deal with competition every single day," she said.
Valley Business Owners (And Concerned Citizens) president David Molina — whose group launched the Riverview referendum effort — said he would not rule out supporting incentives to help revitalize Fiesta Mall.
"From a philosophical point of view, tax incentives generally don’t make economic sense," he said. "However that is not to say we should never use it as a tool for economic redevelopment."
Molina said any potential incentive package from the city would have to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. He said the fact Harkins Theatres could benefit from Fiesta Mall incentives would not factor into the group’s decision whether to oppose a deal.
"We’re independentlyminded and just because he is helping us today doesn’t mean we won’t oppose him tomorrow," said Molina, whose campaign has received a reported $138,000 from Harkins.
The "No" campaign’s alternative plan notes that Gilbert, Chandler and Tempe all passed on Bass Pro Shops. Dunham said that wasn’t the case. The three mayors said there was never serious negotiations or a proposed deal, although they acknowledged there were conversations with Bass Pro Shops.