In southeast Mesa, Eastmark and Cadence developers have successfully turned cactus fields into thousands of high-end homes.
But many who moved into the new neighborhoods complain they are stuck in a “restaurant desert.”
Ask Peter Martens, an Eastmark resident since moving from Gilbert six months ago.
It would be nice to have these types of amenities closer instead of driving into Gilbert or Queen Creek,” he said.
When told about plans for the East Gate Plaza, which promises to bring a half-dozen restaurants to Elliot and Ellsworth roads, Martens was thrilled – adding that, it’s really a no-brainer.
“This area is booming so I’m surprised it’s taking this long to have these types of developments,” Martens said.
For months, every time construction of a new section of homes is announced, or a big company begins the process of opening a new warehouse or data center, southeast Mesa residents have demanded of Councilman Kevin Thompson and others: “What about nice restaurants?”
If you’re looking for a job, this area has plenty of big employers: A mammoth Apple data center needs techies, Dignity Health Arizona General Hospital needs nurses and pharmacy techs, Niagara Bottling needs warehouse workers and drivers.
But what about the residents?
The locals have consistently complained that, save for fast food, they have to drive south for date-night and family meals.
Enter East Gate Plaza, a planned production from Diversified Partners – an “A-list” developer with projects on both sides of the Valley.
On the northeast corner of Ellsworth and Elliot roads, across the street from Dignity Health, Diversified Partners says it has “multiple deals in process that include restaurants, retail, convenience store/gas station, coffee, dessert, nail salon and dental/orthodontic users, to name a few.”
If that sounds good to you, thank “Team JJ.”
Diversified Partners’ Julie Harris and Jennifer Hill are the self-described “Team JJ” working on developing this barren corner into a bustling marketplace.
The clever name of East Gate Plaza comes from “marrying Eastmark and the Gateway Airport,” Hill noted.
Hill lives in northeast Mesa, making plenty of trips down to the southeast corner of the city to make sure what she saw on Google maps was legit.
“My first phone call was in January 2019; I just called the owner,” she recalled. “It wasn’t even on the market.
“But I thought, ‘Someday, this is going to be the epicenter with the 60 and the 202 and the 24 expansion and what’s happening at Eastmark and the Elliot Technology Corridor.’ So I called the owner, a sweet woman up in Washington, and she put me in touch with her broker … Then I showed it to Walt.”
The big man behind the deal is Walt Brown, founder and CEO of Diversified Partners.
He went all-in on this corner, realizing, as he said in a press release last week, “The explosive commercial growth along both Elliot and Ellsworth, proximity to three freeways, the expanding Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport, new sports complex and thousands of new homes planned and underway.”
Though the purchase of the 17 acres to become East Gate Plaza isn’t quite official yet, Brown, Hill and company are confident this will be a “go.”
“We’ve got at least six restaurants leased or in (negotiations),” Hill said. “They’re national, regional and local.”
Though she said she has to be coy about names at this point, when concerns from residents about too much fast food in the area were shared, Hill grinned. “We’re not talking McDonald’s or Jack in the Box,” she said.
“There will be patios,” she added. “The city’s got their eye on this as it’s the doorstep of the tech corridor; they want walkability, they want community.”
East Gate Plaza will have as many as eight restaurants, Hill said, as well as space for medical offices (“family doctors, orthopedics, dentists”).
Asked if “restaurant desert” is a fair term for the Eastmark/Cadence at Gateway area, Thompson mulled the question.
“Right now, that’s a fair representation,” the District 6 councilman said. “We’re lacking in the amenities you see in other parts of the city, when it comes to nice, sit-down restaurants.”
When he meets with developers, Thompson said he encourages them to “step it up. Let’s not go for the low hanging fruit of McDonald’s and Jack in the Box.”
Thompson’s thoughts on the planned East Gate Plaza?
“Hopefully, they’ll bring in some nice restaurants.”
That’s exactly the plan, say the East Gate developers — even though they don’t even own the property at Ellsworth and Elliot yet.
“We’re going to close on the land next month,” Hill said. “Then we’ll start moving dirt.”
Infrastructure plans include the installation of a traffic signal on Peterson Avenue, the northern boundary of the property.
In the best-case scenario, restaurants, shops and offices will begin opening a little more than a year from now.
Dane Astle, lead architect of the project, promised a striking project in a press release.
“We are creating a destination community, playing off the tech corridor theme, which means there will be lots of glass, angular lines and rich materials such as masonry, rollup doors and exposed steel elements,” Astle vowed.
“We are creating a collaborative environment where people will come to work, take coffee breaks on benches under the trees and stay for the retail and restaurant experiences.”