GM Proving Grounds

(Submitted photo)

A large part of southeast Mesa’s economic explosion has centered on the 5,000 acres that formerly served as the General Motors Desert Proving Grounds for over 50 years.

GM used the land to test vehicles and components in hot weather conditions.

In the early 2000s, this land became more valuable as real estate than for testing Cadillacs, so the company started selling its acreage to developers before finally vacating it and moving to Yuma in 2009.

Ironically, the portion of the Proving Grounds sold first by GM has become the last to be developed.

But these holdouts of land are starting to see recent planning activity, and the future for the last bits of the Desert Proving Grounds is coming into focus.

Phoenix businessman William Levine’s company Pacific Proving LLC bought 1,800 acres from GM in 2004, two years before Scottsdale-based DMB Proving Grounds bought the upper portion.

As DMB’s acreage saw the Eastmark developments spring up, and big industrial campuses attract the likes of Apple and Facebook, the land owned by Pacific Proving south of SR 24 remained vacant.

In satellite views of the land, between Pecos Road and the new Bell Bank Park sports complex, vehicle trackways are still visible.

Given the intensity of industrial warehouse activity in southeast Mesa, it may not be surprising that this strip of land appears destined to be a row of mega warehouses.

In late April, Pacific Proving LLC sold a large tract of this land to Phoenix-based Mesa BA Land LLC, and shortly thereafter, on May 10, the Mesa Design Review Board looked at plans for two industrial parks totaling 1,268,000 square feet spread across four buildings.

On May 25, the Mesa Planning and Zoning board approved a zoning case for the 644,000 square foot Legacy Industrial Park.

According to the project narrative the industrial park “will be capable of supporting a variety of light industrial and employment-type uses, such as manufacturing and processing, wholesaling, research, warehousing, e-commerce, data centers and distribution activities.”

It will have 108 loading docks.

If built, the Legacy Industrial Park and Legacy Business Park would join another large industrial project in the works for this strip of land. In December of 2021, Mesa City Council approved Amazon’s Project Cork, a 700,000 square foot industrial building on 71 acres to the east of the Legacy projects.

Between these three industrial projects and the opening of the Bell Bank Park, not much of the former GM Proving Grounds remains unplanned.

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