The owner of Brown and Brown Chevrolet is considering moving the downtown Mesa dealership to a south East Valley auto mall.
AutoNation, which owns the dealership and 10 others in the East Valley, has had discussions with Chandler and Gilbert auto mall developers preparing to open sites along a future Santan Freeway stretch of Loop 202.
AutoNation spokesman Marc Cannon said any conversation is part of an ongoing process.
"We continue to look at opportunities in every marketplace and we're very excited about the greater Phoenix market," Cannon said. "We continue to explore different avenues that are available."
A relocation could be a big blow to downtown Mesa, taking workers and customers out of the redevelopment area, and costing Mesa sales tax revenue if the dealership leaves the city limits.
It would also leave a vacant site near the Mesa Arts Center that's set to open next year.
"They've been one of the great employers downtown for years," Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker said. "We'd hate to lose them."
Brown and Brown Chevrolet, 145 E. Main Street, opened 75 years ago, according to its Web site.
Gilbert Santan Motorplex developer Bill Lund said he has talked to AutoNation about the downtown Brown and Brown dealership. The Gilbert auto mall is under construction at Val Vista Drive and the Santan Freeway.
Chandler 202 Auto Park spokeswoman Teri Morris, who represents Kimco Developers and De Rito Partners Development, said it was announced earlier this year that AutoNation would occupy 11.7 acres. It's unknown what dealership will occupy the AutoNation site at Gilbert Road and the Santan Freeway.
Sales tax incentives and convenient freeway access await any dealership that chooses Gilbert or Chandler. Both municipalities have agreed to rebate 50 percent of collected sales tax revenue through 2017 to the developers, which have private agreements with the dealers. Gilbert capped its incentive package at $60 million, while Chandler has an uncapped deal the city and developer estimate to be worth $40 million.
AutoNation has not initiated any discussions with Mesa about a possible move out of the downtown area, Mesa senior economic development specialist Harold Decker said. In addition, Mesa has had no written correspondence with AutoNation in the past six months, according to a Tribune records request.
A possible move of a Mesa Chevrolet dealership to a nearby auto mall was reported last month in a Miami (Fla.) Herald article. The article has since been published in other newspapers. The Herald article said that during a meeting in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office of the company's chairman and chief executive officer, a discussion started about the move. There was no further mention or details of a possible relocation.
Cannon said Mesa was one of a handful of examples used during the meeting to highlight AutoNation's method in determining whether to open a dealership.