The renewal of downtown Mesa, sparked by such projects as Main Street improvements and the new Mesa Arts Center, may be ready to spill over into the area around the Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At least three projects are planned along Main Street next to the temple grounds and visitor center, 525 E. Main St. If they come to fruition, it would mark the first significant commercial construction around the temple in decades.
The projects contemplated in the area are:
• Mesa Main, an urban condominium project proposed at the northwest corner of Main Street and LeSueur by New Jerseybased K. Hovnanian Homes, the nation’s seventh largest homebuilder;
• Pioneer Plaza Retail Center, a shopping center planned at the northeast corner of Main and Hobson by Pioneer Partners LLC, a group of local business people; and
• An unnamed retail center planned on the south side of Main between LeSueur and Udall on property owned by the Mormon Church and Landmark Land Co.
Also the church has purchased the site of the former Arby’s restaurant at the southeast corner of Main and Hobson and plans to clear the property and put in landscaping and parking, said church spokeswoman Kim Farah.
For the past few years, Landmark Land Co. — led by its president, Dennis Barney, whose ancestors include two founding Mesa families — and the Mormon Church have been purchasing houses in the neighborhood around the temple and refurbishing them as rental units to help improve the area.
“We are concerned about what is happening around the temple,” Barney said. “There had been a lot of decay, and there were good neighbors who were getting frustrated with what was happening.”
City officials and developers say the public and private investments that have taken place in downtown Mesa, as well as contemplated projects such as a branch of Mesa Community College, are spurring interest in the blocks around the 1927 temple, still one of Mesa’s top landmarks. As a result, Shelly Allen, Mesa’s town center development director, said the area around the temple and Pioneer Park across the street could be in the early stages of a redevelopment surge.
“Hopefully, if one thing happens, more will happen,” she said. City Councilman Kyle Jones, whose district includes the temple, said some of the projects could be one or two years away from construction. But he added “the possibilities in the next few years are tremendous for some changes throughout that area.”
The furthest along in the development process is the Pioneer Plaza Retail Center planned for a one-acre site at the northeast corner of Main Street and Hobson. Mesa has approved a building permit for the project, and “we’re ready to start building,” said Stephen Shorr, managing member of Pioneer Partners LLC.
He said construction should begin within a month, and completion is scheduled for the fall. The center will be home to neighborhood businesses such as insurance offices, gift shops and beauty salons, but specific tenants have not been announced.
“It’s a great location across from the temple,” Shorr said. “The (temple’s) visitor center gets 100,000 visitors a year. And its less than a mile from the Mesa Arts Center, which is spectacular. . . . It’s a redevelopment area. We have a lot of faith in it.”
K. Hovnanian Homes is in escrow to purchase a vacant parcel at the northwest corner of Main Street and LeSueur for a luxury condominium project called Mesa Main. The project is not a sure thing. The company still is doing market research to determine if there is sufficient demand to justify the project, said Jim Gifford, area president of K. Hovnanian. So far, the results have been mixed.
“We felt (demand for condos in central Mesa) would be stronger, but we haven’t been totally disappointed,” he said. “I would say the response has been moderate. We want to make sure the market is as deep as we feel like it will be.”
Gifford said the company may decide by midsummer whether to proceed. He admitted the plans may be a little ahead of the market, but he thinks demand will build as central Mesa continues to redevelop.
“I think it would take a crystal ball to know when it will happen, but things are beginning to show up in the planning stages that will get to that tipping point — probably in the next 24 months,” he said. Prices for the 1,800- to 2,200-square-foot units will start from the high 400s, according to an advertisement for the project.
Enhancing the entrance
Landmark Land Co. and the Mormon Church are coordinating plans to redevelop frontage along Main Street between LeSueur and Udall for a retail center. Planning is still in its infancy, but Landmark and the Mormon Church hope to produce “a nice commercial development,” said Dennis Barney, president of Landmark.
Landmark owns the old Schroeder’s Keyboard City building while the church owns the former Harper Electric Motors building and a vacant parking lot at the southwest corner of Main and LeSueur, he said. Initially, the partners will tear down the existing buildings and put in landscaping, he said. Later they will redevelop the site for a commercial project once church officials decide more specifically what they want to do, Barney said. No time frame has been set for construction, but the landscaping portion could be done within a year, he said.
“What we want to do is come up with something that works for everyone,” Barney said. “The temple is such a huge asset to the community, and (church officials) are concerned about doing something that is nice as an entrance way to the temple.”