Another nostalgic property that harkened back to Mesa’s frontier past is fading into memory.
The Rockin’ R Ranch, and Old West themed dinner theater, has been torn down and will be replaced by Zen on Baseline, a trendy gated townhouse community.
Rockin’ R Ranch, which closed in December after a 35-year-run, has been leveled so that Pacific Rim Properties can complete a cultural and aesthetic transformation at the 6.9-acre site on Baseline Road, east of Recker Road.
But first the developers must obtain a zoning change from commercial to multi-family residential, with the Mesa City Council scheduled to vote on whether to introduce an ordinance at Monday’s meeting.
The actual decision on the zoning approval would likely occur about two weeks later.
Zen on Baseline would be similar to a new apartment complex in East Phoenix, Zen on 50, and would feature 90 two-story, upscale townhouses with a deck on top of the garage for enjoying views of the Superstition Mountains, or at least Superstition Springs Golf Course.
“It provides the outdoor living concept,’’ said East Valley zoning attorney Ralph Pew. “It really makes it a meaningful spot.’’
He said city planners are often critical of neighborhoods dominated by curbside views of hundreds of garages. The Zen on Baseline plan gives the garage rooftop a new purpose, creating a perfect location for a patio with a view.
Pew said the commercial zoning is likely something created for Rockin’ R Ranch.
“I don’t think anyone would say that’s a good spot for retail,’’ he said
A zoning change from general commercial to residential multiple dwellings has been recommended by the Mesa Planning and Zoning Board.
The Zen on Baseline project falls within the flight path of Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport, with a staff report saying that it is within five miles of the airport.
Pew said the market will determine if Zen on Baseline becomes an owner-occupied development or a rental development. He said residential makes more sense in the area because there are many nearby job opportunities, including A.T Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Banner Gateway Medical Center and businesses locating near the airport.
The Phoenix complex, at 2015 N. 50th St., bills itself as “hip urban townhouse living within minutes of the best Metro Phoenix has to offer.’’ Two-bedroom apartments rent for $1,650 per month and three bedrooms from $1,950 a month, according to the complex’s website.
The developer would be required to tell future owners about the proximity to the airport and to post a 4x4 foot sign in front of the sales office telling potential buyers that the property falls within the flight overlay district. Developers also would be required to record an aviation easement before a building permit is issued.
The developer would further need to use sound reduction measures, recommended by an acoustic engineer.
Rockin’ R Ranch, operated by Joe Robson, a descendant of a Mesa pioneer family, was a popular entertainment venue in East Mesa for decades.
Robson estimated in a December East Valley Tribune story that his family had performed for three-or-four million theater goers over the years.
But he also conceded that crowds had dwindled toward the end of Rockin’ R’s lifespan and said he was planning to enter the cryptocurrency business.
Zen on Baseline appears to represent a major cultural shift from Rockin’ R Ranch. It features 17 townhouse buildings, with each ranging from four to eight units, according to a city council report prepared by the Planning and Zoning officials.
The triangular shaped property is bordered by the Roosevelt Water Conservation District on the north, the golf course on the east and a small industrial park to the west. A. T. Still is located a short distance to the west.
The site is valued at more than $3 million, according to the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office website. Future amenities include a large pool, spa, a pit lounge and a “zen garden.’’
Although it will take months to submit drawings and obtain building permits, it made sense to demolish Rockin’ R Ranch as soon as possible to save money on rising construction costs, Pew said.