Mesa’s biggest office complex threatens Cubs parking

Mesa Economic Development Bill Jabjiniak spelled out the details of the project to Mesa City Council last week and said he was confident that concerns about spring training parking at Sloan Park could be worked out.

The Union, billed as the largest office complex in Mesa’s history and a source of good jobs, is moving closer to construction despite concerns about its impact on parking for Chicago Cubs games at nearby Sloan Park.

The 1.3-million-square-foot office complex in northwest Mesa features four buildings, ranging in height from four to eight stories, and two large parking garages.

The massive development would replace the soccer fields just north of Riverview Park, at Dobson Road and Rio Salado Parkway, which also double as critical parking lots during frequently sold out Cactus League games.

Although the Cubs and the Mesa HoHoKams, a longtime civic organization that raises money for charity, carefully avoided criticizing The Union, they both expressed reservations about losing parking spaces during the project’s construction.

Mesa economic development officials anticipate the first of four stages to be built over an eight-year period will be under construction during the 2020 Cactus League season in March.

Officials briefed the council on plans for The Union’s buildout last week. The council is scheduled to consider a development agreement tomorrow, July 8, with the complex’s developers, Lincoln Property Co. Commercial Inc. and Harvard Investments, Inc., which has secured funding from Goldman Sachs.

Documents attached to the council’s agenda show the city projects that it eventually will receive at least $11.3 million for the 28-acre site, although $5.1 million alone would be the city’s share of building the west parking garage.

In the west garage, Mesa would retain control of the bottom floor, an estimated 430 spaces, which would be dedicated for use by  Cactus League game attendees. In all, The Union would be required to provide 1,750 spaces for the use of fans after the office complex is completed.

In addition, visitors would be allowed to use all floors in the garage after 7 p.m. on weekdays and all weekend while attending events or using nearby Riverview Park and the bicycle path.

A series of progression charts in one exhibit shows a fluctuating number of spaces available for fans during the project’s construction, with field parking gradually disappearing and being replaced by garage slots.

When Phase A starts, the Cubs would have 1,619 spaces of surface parking with 1,600 on the soccer fields. The number of spaces shrinks to 1,500 during other phases and eventually grows to 1,750 when the project is completed.

Sloan Park has been a home run since it opened in 2014 as the Cactus League’s largest stadium. The Cubs, the league’s meal ticket, routinely draw sellout crowds of 15,000 or more per game, many of whome come from the Midwest and generate considerable revenue.

Every spring, members of the Mesa Hohokams perform a rite of spring by handling the parking at Sloan Park.

 Justin Piper, the Cubs’ general manager of Sloan Park, made a rare appearance before the council last week, saying that while the Cubs support The Union project, Mesa must ensure that adequate parking is available during the huge complex’s construction.

“To preserve the overwhelming success of Sloan Park, we must provide adequate and convenient parking solutions for all of our guests,’’ Piper said. “We want to ensure the fan experience does not suffer.’’

Piper said he is especially concerned about potential confusion caused by the Cubs selling parking, through the HoHoKams, and The Union selling parking in one of the new garages.

The council report addresses that issue, saying the city would make every effort to have the same entity manage the parking at The Union and at Sloan Park. It says the city can charge for parking and revenues would be split 50/50 with the Cubs.

Tim Baughman, president of the HoHoKams, said the main two entrances and exits to the soccer fields on Dobson Road would be lost immediately.

He estimated about a third to a half of the parking on the soccer fields would no longer be available during Phase A of construction. 

“The traffic is already an issue. That would be exacerbated,’’ Baughman said. “Mesa is not known for a whole lot nationally. One thing we are known for is our commitment to spring training baseball.’’

He acknowledged the parking issue is only relevant for 16 days a year and the city needs to develop economically year-round.

“The HoHoKams are very supportive of The Union and its potential for economic development in Mesa. This will be a great showcase,’’ Baughman said. “We have concerns about the unknown. We park a lot of cars.’’

Vice Mayor Mark Freeman, who was chairing the meeting because Mayor John Giles was out of town, said the city would work things out for the Cubs.

“We’ve had an open dialogue with the Cubs for decades,’’ Freeman said. “I know there’s a little more work on the development agreement, but I know in the end, it’s going to be positive for you.’’

Bill Jabjiniak, the city’s Economic Development director, said he anticipates that Phase A of The Union, in the northeast corner of the 28.2-acre site, will be under construction during the 2020 Cactus League season. The cost of 9.12 acres is $3.9 million.

He said the rest of the site, closer to a Sheraton hotel and Sloan Park, will remain available for parking. The first phase features a four-story, 225,000-square-foot office building and a parking garage.

The last phase features the largest building, up to eight stories tall with a matching parking garage. The city would retain ownership of the land for the west parking garage and lease it back to developers on a long-term lease, Jabjiniak said.

A facilities-use agreement signed the Cubs and city, as part of a long-term lease on Sloan Park, requires the city to provide at least 2,500 parking spaces.

A count during the 2018 Cactus League season found that the maximum number of cars parked was 3,876, according to the presentation.

The city is replacing the soccer fields at a new complex being planned at Center Street and Thomas roads, part of the bond issue approved by Mesa voters last fall. The new recreational facility is scheduled to open in fall 2021.

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