Rural/Metro Corp., the emergency services company founded in Scottsdale more than half a century ago, will move its corporate headquarters out of the city and into a new office complex next year on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The move is a further signal that new offices being built on reservation land between Pima Road and Loop 101 are poised to compete mightily with Scottsdale office sites.
Developer Opus West Corp. broke ground this week on the first phase of Opus Calendar Stick, a 270,000-square-foot, multibuilding office complex on 25 acres at the southwest corner of Via de Ventura and Loop 101. The first phase includes three office buildings totalling 175,000 square feet. Next year, Rural/Metro will move its headquarters from the southeast corner of Indian School and Granite Reef roads to one of those buildings. The company will maintain its operations center on the northeast corner of the Scottsdale location.
"We were looking for a space that would offer a considerable savings on our lease expenses," said Liz Merritt, corporate spokeswoman. "We are consolidating some of our operating functions and will be moving a large number of our billing employees to the operations center. We’ll have about 1,000 employees who will remain in that space, and we have a smaller corporate administrative staff (about 100 employees) that will move to the new office building."
In May 2003, Scottsdale residents voted to retain Rural/Metro’s contract for fire protection as opposed to starting a city-run department. Later, the company announced it will sever its fire protection contract with the city in July 2005, and has since appointed the longtime president of Southwest Ambulance to oversee its Arizona fire operations.
Scottsdale is going to have a tough time competing with this project and others on Salt River community land because developers will be able to deliver buildings at a lower lease rate, said Jim McDowell, a real estate developer and managing member of Calendar Stick Business Park LLC.
"There’s going to be a major price-point advantage for the entities that are developing product on the Via de Ventura corridor (on Salt River community land)," he said.
Another Scottsdale-based company will move its headquarters to another building in the first phase, but Opus West wouldn’t release the name because the lease hasn’t been finalized yet.
"I think it’s a sign of the quality of the location," said Thomas Roberts, Opus West’s president and CEO. "Two out of three ain’t bad. We broke ground obviously and we will deliver in the first quarter of next year, and then hopefully we will start the second phase . . . as early as the fourth quarter of this year. We’re hoping by the end of 2005 these will all be built out."
Previously, Fender, the popular guitar maker, left the city and moved its headquarters into another corporate center at the northeast corner of Chaparral and Pima Roads, on the reservation adjacent to Loop 101.
Dave Roderique, Scottsdale’s economic development director, said Opus Calendar Stick and other upcoming projects on Salt River community land aren’t a threat to the city’s revenue base.
"Unlike retail, there’s very little direct benefit from having an office facility located in the city," he said. "There’s a small amount of property tax that we would not be getting, but it’s fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things as opposed to retail. We really try to get retail on our side of the line because sales tax is our major revenue source."
All of the acreage is owned by the Jo family, and McDowell began working with the family and the Salt River community nearly five years ago on the lease agreements. Several parties, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, had to sign off on the lease agreements before plans could proceed for development.
"We’re going to be the first private development on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa in some time," McDowell said. "For the first time since the Scottsdale Pavilions were built . . . you’re going to have individual Native American landowners benefitting directly from the lease payments that will be made by the developers."
Ronnie White, a member of the Jo family, said the 13 landowners and the community as a whole will benefit from the development.
"There will be a benefit to the community for more jobs, more opportunities for people to come to the community to work," he said. "There’s going to more projects similar to this development."