The San Tan Freeway is still a few years from completing its loop through Gilbert, but national retailers aren’t waiting for the roads to start ringing up sales.
Two mall-sized open-air shopping centers under construction by developer Vestar have filled 90 percent of their available shop space nearly a year before the projects are due to debut, said Craig Esslinger, Vestar project manager.
“It shows the power of this market,” said Greg Tilque, Gilbert’s economic development director.
“The retailers don’t want to miss an opportunity. They want to get established before the competition does.”
Anchored by the Valley’s first Super Targets, the department store-supermarket combo similar to a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Gilbert Gateway Towne Center and the first phase of Crossroads Towne Center have signed leases with dozens of national tenants from Payless ShoeSource to PetsMart to Pier 1 Imports, Esslinger said. Most of the stores will open in March with the two Super Targets, he said.
The rest should open within weeks of the shopping centers’ debut.
Esslinger said retailers’ demand for space in the Gilbert projects snowballed once a few majors signed deals, despite the lack of an existing freeway. “We got the Super Targets, and that helped us get the Ross, Linens-n-Things, Barnes & Noble, and then the others signed up,” Esslinger said. ”They know they are dynamite locations.”
The 80-acre Gilbert Gateway Towne Center sits just south of the planned southern leg of the 202 stretching along the west side of Power Road to south of Ray Road.
For the first phase, 50 acres north of Ray Road, Vestar has landed Super Target, Ross, Linens-n-Things, Michael’s, Cost Plus World Market, PetsMart, Pier 1 Imports, Famous Footwear, Bank of America, Chick-Fil-A, Wendy’s Hamburgers, Sally Beauty Co., Payless, Catherine’s, Subway, Cold Stone Creamery, Ono Hawaiian BBQ, The UPS Store, Sleep America, EB Games, Tony’s LA Nails, Supercuts, Hi-Health and AT&T Wireless stores.
Nine miles east of the Gilbert Gateway site, the Crossroads Towne Center, a planned 1.3 million-square-foot shopping and entertainment project, straddles the Gilbert Road border of Gilbert and Chandler, south of Loop 202.
The first phase, 50 acres on the Gilbert side, will include Barnes & Noble Booksellers, PetsMart, Pier 1 Imports, Famous Footwear, Bank of America, Wendy’s Hamburgers, Red Lobster, Fat Burger, Lane Bryant and Payless.
Vestar has a deal in the making for a movie theater, pegged to be the centerpiece of the 75-acre Chandler portion of the project, Esslinger said, but he won’t give details until the lease is signed. The Chandler piece, expected to emerge as an entertainment, eatery and specialty shops district, is slated to take shape by the end of 2005. The final piece of the L-shaped project — 20 acres south of Germann Road in Gilbert — is expected to be built by mid-2006.
Besides the two Vestar projects, local mall builder Westcor has staked out land for SanTan Village, a huge mall-centered retail mecca similar to — but even bigger than — the company’s complex of indoor-outdoor mall and collection of open-air shopping centers at Chandler Boulevard and Loop 101 in Chandler.
The first two phases of SanTan Village, which do not include the mall, will add 1.2 million square feet of retail space. The first phase — a Wal-Mart Supercenter and Sam’s Club— is slated to open in January,
Just the preliminary phases of the Westcor project along with the two Vestar shopping centers will more than double Gilbert’s retail inventory from 1.6 million square feet to 3.5 million square feet within just a couple of years, Tilque said.
That’s three times the shop space of a typical regional mall.
“It’s just phenomenal how fast retail is coming,” Tilque said.
Besides keeping Gilbert residents from dropping all of their cash — and sales tax — in Mesa and Chandler, the Super Targets should actually attract residents from neighboring cities to Gilbert for shopping trips, he said.
Gilbert projects retail sales tax for the year that ends in June to tote up to $12.5 million, said Marc Skocypec, assistant town manager. Within two years, the annual retail sales tax take is projected to be nearly $23 million, Skocypec said. That includes anticipated revenue from new car dealers and smaller shopping centers along with the portions of the Vestar and Westcor projects expected to be in business during that time, Skocypec said.