Longtime local auto salesman Henry Brown, who has been buying up space in the Santan Motorplex, has landed another brand to hawk at the 130-acre Gilbert auto mall.
Brown and his business partners said Tuesday they will build Henry Brown Subaru next to Henry Brown Pontiac Buick GMC, using a combined 15 or 16 acres of the 28 the group has staked out.
Brown Automotive Group will start construction of the two showrooms in October and open them mid-2006, said Richard Cvijanovich, one of Brown’s partners in the venture. Cvijanovich, who previously ran Pitre Subaru — later Power Subaru — will run the Santan Subaru operation. Empire Caterpillar CEO Jeff Whiteman and Empire chief operating officer Chris Zaharis are the other two investment partners.
Santan Motorplex, which stretches along the west side of Val Vista Drive from Pecos Road to the planned Loop 202, is part of the 1,400-acre Spectrum at Val Vista project, which also will include more than 5,000 homes, a 200-bed hospital and Main Street Commons, an open-air shopping center patterned after Kierland Commons in the north East Valley.
Besides Brown, another well-known East Valley carselling family, the Earnhardts, snagged an eight-acre parcel for an as-yet-unnamed car brand.
New Mexico-based Richardson and Partners, which owned Pioneer Ford in Phoenix for 18 years before selling to UnitedAuto in the late 1990s, has snapped up 15.5 acres to build Santan Ford. It is the largest, so far, showroom planned for the project.
The Santan Motorplex also has commitments for a sixacre Suzuki dealership to be built by Robert Horne, who owns several Arizona showrooms, and an eight-acre Saturn dealership by the Martin Automotive Group, which also owns Saturn of Tempe.
So far, local car selling giants have snapped up 80 acres of the 130, according to Staubach Automotive Group, which is developing the auto complex.
Brown expects to have brands named and showrooms under construction on the other 15 acres within two years, Cvijanovich said. "Henry is really bullish on this location, " he said. "We’re talking to several manufacturers. We’re not in the business of land development. We’re in the business of selling cars."
Cvijanovich points to the explosion of auto sales and other retail developments that followed Loop 101 to north Scottsdale.
"The boom was astronomical, and Scottsdale has about 225,000 people," he said. "There are nearly 1 million people in Mesa, Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert. The (Santan Freeway) will do the same for the south East Valley. It will be a hot area for car sales for many years to come."
Brown sold his Mesa-based family operation Brown & Brown Chevrolet to AutoNation in 1997. Last year he began his foray back into the car business by purchasing Sun Pontiac-GMC from Art Piccinati and the Mesa Buick franchise from Tony M. Coury. Brown plans to close his Mesa location when the Gilbert showroom is completed.