The developer of the 30-story Centerpoint Condominiums is planning to put its mark on one of downtown Tempe’s most important pieces of history, the Hayden Flour Mill.
Avenue Communities LLC will likely take over redevelopment efforts on a Valley landmark that has sat idle for the past decade.
Len Losch, Avenue Communities principal, said the company plans to renovate the historic mill and build shops nearby within two years.
The proposal, if acted upon, would bring closure to a decadelong effort to revitalize the gateway to downtown Tempe and spruce up an iconic building that has fallen into disrepair and become the subject of a legal dispute.
Tempe recently settled a lawsuit with MCW Holdings, another prominent downtown developer that failed to meet city deadlines to start construction at the mill site. The settlement let MCW continue with the project, but the company instead chose to sell it to Avenue Communities for an undisclosed sum.
Some downtown merchants and city officials hope that the company will move quickly. It has already developed several high-end condo projects and built apartments under the name Trillium Residential.
“Avenue Communities has demonstrated across the Valley that it has the capacity and skill to develop this project,” Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said.
The City Council will decide whether to approve the deal at its Thursday meeting. Avenue must abide by the lawsuit settlement agreement with MCW, including the key provision that the city will become the owner of the property if Avenue doesn’t meet a series of construction deadlines.
The deal would greatly expand Avenue’s presence downtown. The company recently bought McDuffy’s sports bar at Fifth and Ash avenues and will temporarily move its corporate offices there by year’s end. It’s now in the Camelback Corridor in Phoenix.
Avenue Communities also plans to one day build two high-rise condo towers at the McDuffy’s site. The idea is preliminary, Losch said, adding that he couldn’t say how tall the buildings would be or when they would be built.
The company will move its offices to the mill after its reconstruction.
“We want to move our employees down there because we want to give them an authentic sense of place,” Losch said.
At the same time, Losch expects to complete new buildings for retail around the mill. Other phases will come later. Losch said he’ll reveal details about the development’s first phase within weeks.
Merchants and city officials hope the company can make something happen at the mill soon because it’s been a source of community embarrassment in recent years. It needs paint, in part because of black fire marks from when transients broke in and started a blaze.
“The mill is the icon, so it’s got to be resuscitated as soon as possible,” said Michael Monti, owner of Monti’s La Casa Vieja restaurant.
Monti’s is across the street from the mill. The properties are key to Tempe history — both were developed in the early 1870s by Charles Trumbull Hayden. Hayden’s son, Carl, was a congressman and U.S. senator from 1912 to 1969 and is considered one of the most influential Arizonans.
Redeveloping the mill would fulfill a decadeslong goal of continuous development on Mill Avenue to Tempe Town Lake.
Avenue Communities expects to scrap MCW’s plans and come up with its own. Monti said he’s familiar with some of the plans, and that the development would bring excitement to the area.
“They’re not just putting a box on the corner,” he said. “They’re providing glamor and sizzle to get people in the box.”