Officials in Chandler want to merge two existing city programs to help reduce the number of older, mostly vacant retail centers and replace them with other types of development such as high-density residential or office buildings.
The Chandler Infill Incentive Plan would combine the city's commercial reinvestment program and its residential infill program. The city would be able to establish financial incentive districts in areas with a heavy concentration of older, ailing strip malls. It would then provide financial assistance to encourage specific types of redevelopment in those areas, said Chandler planner David DeLa Torre.
The Chandler City Council could consider the proposal next month.
Currently, the commercial reinvestment program offers financial incentives for property owners to improve the exteriors of existing commercial centers, DeLa Torre said.
"The city realized that maybe that's not the best thing to do on all of the commercial centers," he said. "If there's a commercial center that has a lot of vacancies, and all the other commercial centers in the same area have a high amount of vacancies, just fixing up the facade won't really do anything. The fundamental problem is really land use and having a sustainable balance of land uses."
The proposal would include providing either partial or full funding to demolish old centers, and either partial or full reimbursement of fees associated with redevelopment.
The city is concerned about four-cornered intersections that are "over-retailed," said Christine Mackay, Chandler's economic development director.
"The Loop 101 and Loop 202 took a lot more traffic off these arterial streets than even we thought they would," she said. "In some areas maybe it's not best to do a renovation of those centers and continue keeping them in the retail base where ... there's just not enough need for that much competition. We've actually identified maybe 10 to 15 sites that this could potentially be a good fit."
Three targeted areas would be along Arizona Avenue, Alma School and Dobson roads, Mackay said.
East Valley strip mall mogul Michael Pollack serves on the Chandler Economic Development Advisory Board and supports the proposal.
"We need to go with high-density residential, especially more so in infill locations," he said. "There are many buildings that have been vacant for a long time and there are more coming. Figuring out a way to creatively reinvent these sites is probably one of the most important issues facing our cities, not just in the East Valley, but throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area over the next two years."