Hayden Harbor rendering

A massive complex of 20-story towers is being proposed along Tempe Town Lake in what is one of the most ambitious new projects contemplated in the East Valley since the recession crippled new development.

And a project representative said to expect plans for even more downtown Tempe buildings soon.

The interest in new development might seem a signal the economy is roaring back. But don’t expect to see many new buildings for a while.

Rather, investors are getting their ducks in a row for when vacant buildings fill up and demand grows for new office, condo and hotel towers.

That could take several years for the just-proposed Hayden Harbor in Tempe, said Manjula Vaz, a zoning attorney who represents the 2 million square-foot development. Hayden Harbor would feature seven towers of up to 278 feet, on the north bank of the lake and west of Scottsdale Road. One tower would house offices, with about 1,400 condos in the others.

The plan comes from a limited liability corporation called El Fenix I and El Fenix II, Vaz said.

“Our goal is to attract other investors and build maybe one building at a time,” Vaz said.

The initial interest in this kind of a project isn’t a surprise to Jay Butler, the longtime director of Arizona State University’s Realty Studies Department. But he’s not sure there’s demand for this type of urban high-rise lifestyle in a place where residents like to enjoy the sun in their own backyards.

The Valley’s first high-rise condo debuted in Phoenix in 1964 and few followed until the boom last decade, he said. Butler doubts the public demanded as many high-rise units as were built and is skeptical investors or homeowners will embrace more urban condos.

“I’m not betting on it.” Butler said. “It just doesn’t seem to be a desired lifestyle unless something drastic comes up, like you can’t have your swimming pools. People are still wanting to have that sort of thing.”

He noted the struggles of the Hayden Ferry Lakeside condos on lake’s south shore development coming to a halt before the Centerpoint Condominiums could be completed in downtown Tempe. Centerpoint will open as 375 upscale apartments this summer called West Sixth.

Regardless of what future homebuyers will want, Butler expects the East Valley will outperform the Valley’s real estate recovery. The region’s higher education institutes, public schools and job centers are important attractions, he said.

“They should be in the lead because they’ve got what people would be looking for,” he said.

Vaz, who represented numerous developers in downtown Tempe during the boom, said interest is high again in Tempe.

“You’ll see we have several projects coming up around downtown and the lake soon,” she said.

Hayden Harbor includes the site of the defunct Club Rio. The current plan is similar to a project Phoenix-based Namwest LLC had pitched before filing for bankruptcy protection in 2008. Namwest paid $40 million for 22 acres in 2005, outbidding developers that included Donald Trump.

(5) comments


Do you guys really think that it's a local governments place to stop overbuilding? So how does that work? When a developer comes in and says that he/she wants to build something, the city just says no? They city already controls density, land use type, building codes, etc. You want to give them power to stop a private land owner that wants to develop their land too?


These people must be smoking some high octane Crack here. In case they haven't looked lately, there are already a bunch of loser projects down there. Empty buildings, bankrupt projects. Forget about it. It's gonna be a long time before it gets to the point where build more of the same is going to make any sense. Go to re-hab, get off the drugs; it's messing with your thinking, Tempe politicians, bureaucrats, land 'developers'.


Building high rises anywhere near the Salt River bed is problematic. Doesn't anyone remember the 1970s when we had 3 one hundred year floods in a single year and nearly all of the Salt River bridges and many buildings were washed downstream? Doesn't anyone remember last year when the town lake dam burst and the entire area was plagued with flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and the odor of rotting fish? The downtown Tempe area is already so overbuilt and overcrowded that it is an unpleasant place to be.


I think high-rise development is inevitable. $6 gasoline will make living in centralized locations more attractive. And, especially near mass transit routes like Light Rail.

Plus, retirees looking for low-maintenance lifestyles were limited to planned communities geared to the elderly. I suspect the availability of low-maintenance condos in a vibrant area will look more attractive than shuffleboard. That demographic contributed to condo development in Miami, Tallahassee, etc.


We ceded our property rights to the government so it could be in some sense regulated. Tempe overbuilt, because the city government didn't hedge, didn't plan ahead carefully. Over development has caused a 30% oversupply of space. This crashes the real estate market on all levels. It is like opening the wallets of every property owner in Tempe and removing the contents. Value is determined by supply and demand. Supply is 30% too big, and we are all paying for that. Had it been properly managed, we'd be leading a recovery, of all real estate markets in the state, the 50% rental space and ASU replenishing the market every year could be raising all boats, but instead the (inappropriate term) second generation morons of the city council allowed over building, and now want to keep it up. This allows two alternatives, allow the politicos to bankrupt every home owner in Tempe, or remove their power to regulate it and let the jungle decide who survives and who doesn't.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.