A proposal is in the works to bring luxury, highrise condos to downtown Mesa, replacing an embattled halfway house and two other longtime businesses.
This marks the first developer interest in downtown urban living since the Mesa Arts Center opened last year and continues the momentum for such projects that to date have been more commonly linked with downtown Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix.
Tucson-based Indevco Partners is in escrow to buy Transitional Living Communities, Lamb’s Shoe Repair and Mesa Typewriter Exchange on the west side of Macdonald, just south of Main Street.
The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, also includes the historic Alhambra Hotel across the street, which TLC owns and rents to released sex offenders.
Also in escrow is the purchase of the Rodeway Inn at 951 W. Main St., between Alma School Road and Country Club Drive, as a prospective new home for TLC, which would need a council-approved permit to operate there.
No proposals have been submitted to the city, and Andy Briefer, Indevco Partners president, said it’s still early in the process and he is conducting a feasibility study. He said it’s too early to know how many floors or units would be built or if retail shops would be included on the first floor. Briefer said the intent is to have owner-occupied condos. Sale prices have not been set.
“If everything comes together, it would be nice to do a residential use on that property,” Briefer said. “Downtown Mesa needs residential (units) and it’s a use we’d like to bring in.”
The condos would have to include an adjacent parking garage on a city-owned lot, meaning Mesa may be asked to contribute financially to garage construction. To date, no request for incentives has been made, said Briefer, whose company is also building the Southwest Ambulance corporate headquarters in Mesa.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” said Mesa Councilman Mike Whalen, who is pushing for the project. Whalen was told the project could include about 200 units in a five- to six-story building. “I think it’s a heck of a deal.”
If the project goes forward, it could represent a huge step toward attracting residents to downtown, which officials believe, in turn, could spark further private investment and bring the desired restaurants and nightlife to complement the $98 million arts center.
Jay Butler, director of Arizona Real Estate Center at Arizona State University Polytechnic in Mesa, said the condos could be a key component to revitalize downtown Mesa, but even with the arts center, Mesa does not have the sports venues of Phoenix or the urban lifestyle of Tempe.
“A lot won’t happen in downtown Mesa until you get residents downtown, but you won’t get a lot of residents until things are happening downtown,” Butler said.
Saltmine Studios owner Don Salter, whose recording studio is down the street from TLC and is a real estate broker in the deal, said relocation of TLC, which serves recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, could have a major impact on new development.
“People feel the downtown area will be continuously shunned if we don’t do something about it,” Salter said.
Mesa has tried to remove TLC before, but owner John Schwary successfully sued to remain downtown. Most recently, Schwary said 11 building safety and fire code criminal violations slapped on him in November were another attempt to drive him out. The nine building safety violations have since been dropped.
Lamb’s Shoe Repair owner Fabian De la Rosa said he has asked to be relocated on the same street, while Mesa Typewriter Exchange owner Bill Wahl said he will not decide until the deal closes whether to relocate or close the store. Lamb’s was founded in 1953 and Mesa Typewriter has been in business since 1949. Both plan to stay if the developer backs out.
“I enjoy downtown Mesa but at this point, I’m not afraid of change,” Wahl said.