Car mall could go in Mesa ballfields - East Valley Tribune: News

Car mall could go in Mesa ballfields

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Posted: Monday, September 11, 2006 5:58 am | Updated: 2:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Mesa has fielded offers from an auto mall developer who wants to build at the Riverview Softball Complex located in west Mesa, city officials said.

The 25-acre property, home to the city’s adult softball leagues, has grown increasingly valuable as new businesses crop up at the Mesa Riverview development near the Red Mountain Freeway leg of Loop 202.

If the city moves forward on a deal for the softball fields, the land could become an addition to a nearby auto mall planned by Riverview developers DeRito Partners and Kimco Developers. It would also provide a one-time shot of revenue to the cashstrapped city.

“This sounds like it could be moving to the point of ripeness,” said Claudia Walters, Mesa vice mayor. “I would say (the Mesa Riverview) development is making the city’s land more attractive to people.”

Top city officials quickly point out that discussions about selling the cityowned land are in the early stages. So far, the negotiations have been closed-door talks among “more than one” development group, they said. The city would not say how much money it wants for the land.

City Manager Chris Brady reached out to neighborhood leaders last week to discuss investing in parks in west Mesa if the ballfields are sold.

The city is saying “that if any money is made there, the enhancements should be put into west Mesa parks,” said Dave Richins, executive director of the West Mesa Community Development Corporation. “I thought that was interesting.”

Over the years, the city has received inquiries about the city’s park property. But momentum from the Mesa Riverview development, located near two of the Valley’s busiest freeways, seems to be driving a new group of proposals.

The Mesa Riverview development, approved in a spirited 2005 election, will be anchored by a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, a 16-theater Cinemark complex, a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Bed Bath and Beyond, a Home Depot and an auto mall.

The Mesa Riverview developers have initiated a deal for an auto mall on a 33-acre parcel north of the city’s four softball fields on the west side of Dobson Road, said Joanie Flatt, a spokeswoman for DeRito Partners.

Flatt said DeRito isn’t involved in the discussions for the adjacent city property. In 2005, voters approved a Mesa Riverview project that did not impede on Riverview Park, which includes the city’s ballfields and a small lake stocked with largemouth bass and rainbow trout.

The Riverview auto mall development has spurred similar business interests, Flatt said.

“The trend in auto sales is to locate multiple dealers that are adjacent to each other,’’ Flatt said. “It’s not driven by the developer, but by the manufacturer.”

Another development in the Riverview area could generate quite a bit of money for the city, especially if it expands current plans for an auto mall. Mesa relies heavily on sales tax revenue from large retailers because it doesn’t levy city property taxes.

The Riverview development presents a unique opportunity for Mesa to capitalize on modern trends of auto dealers moving out to freeways. Many of the city’s auto dealerships are now located near the downtown area.

Debbie Dollar, deputy city manager, said any deal would face additional challenges, such as a need to relocate the ballfields. The city’s softball fields were built with federal funds, which means replacing lost parkland would be required in the event of a sale.

“The process is pretty — I don’t want to say cumbersome — but there are many steps that you have to follow,” Dollar said. “We would look to create another amenity in the community.”

Neighborhood leaders would entertain the idea of the idea of park improvements, Richins said. West Mesa has less park land per person than the eastern side of the city, he said.

Pocket parks, trail expansions and improvement of Little League fields at Whittier Elementary School are priorities in that part of the city, he said.

Richins said he’s going to start preparing residents for the possibility that losing the ballfields is just the beginning He said developers would probably be interested in other city-owned land in the area, including the adjacent nine-hole golf course.

“I don’t want to go to the neighbors about the softball fields, then the golf course and then the lake,” he said. “Let’ get it all on the table so the city knows where we stand.”

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