Car parking lot viewed from above, Aerial view. Top view

Customers might need to cross Main Street and add about a minute to their trip as Mesa seeks to accommodate downtown businesses during the construction of a seven-story sustainable apartment complex.

After a glowing series of comments by Mayor John Giles and city council members, the Mesa City Council approved the Eco Mesa apartment complex last week.

At the request of Councilwoman Jen Duff  and downtown businesses, the city unveiled the parking plan to be used during the two-year construction at Robson and Pepper Place.

The two operative colors are purple and orange, with spaces now reserved for customers of stores on the north side of Main Street moving to a lot on the south side of Main.

Jeff McVay, Mesa’s downtown transformation manager, admitted that the plan still doesn’t please everyone. He said the city received about 30 comments in support of Eco Mesa, but some businesses are not as enthusiastic.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a letter of opposition, but there are some concerns,’’ McVay said. 

“Anyone who has a permanent parking space today in the purple parking lot will have one in another lot, the orange lot,” he said. “The walking time would be about I minute more.’’

Downtown lots are sometimes overlooked because they straddle Main Street but are not visible from Main.

Duff said more walking is not a bad thing, noting that it may serve as an opportunity to give more exposure to other downtown businesses and generate sales.

“I am very supportive of this development,’’ Duff said, adding that it will likely attract higher-income renters, also improving the business climate.

The largest obstacle to the project is the need to replace an electrical line and a duct bank at a cost of $620,000. 

But officials noted that the electrical line would need replacement anyway to create more capacity as downtown gets redeveloped.

The cost will be offset by developer Eco Habitat, paying the $325,000 appraised value to buy land where the purple lot is located and another $320,000 in construction sales taxes.

Eco Mesa will loom over the present parking lot but the present 76 open-air spaces will be deeded back to the city as covered parking. Another 130 spaces will be reserved for tenants and 3,400 square feet of ground floor for commercial space.

The entire deal is contingent on a tax-incentive plan that Giles considers a non-issue because Mesa has been deriving no income from the lot anyway. 

The developer needed to hit deadlines to pull off the Opportunity Zone investment, where capital gains taxes are delayed or forgiven if money is invested in slum and blighted areas for up to 10 years.

The timeline calls for all zoning approvals to be secured by Sept. 15, the tax-incentive plan to be completed in October, construction on the $30 million building to begin in June 2021, and completion scheduled for January 2023.

Mesa considers Eco Mesa a high-end project because it will be 85 percent sustainable, with a solar array on the roof and a catchment system for rainwater that will be stored and used to water the landscaping.

“I think for a long time, we have known the main ingredient missing in downtown is people,’’ Giles said. “We are putting property back on the tax rolls.’’

He said the construction period will create some “growing pains’’ for downtown businesses but that the project will pay off by adding more customers.

“The infrastructure is old. If we want to continue to redevelop, we need to increase capacity,’’ Giles said.

Vice Mayor Mark Freeman noted an uplifting trend for downtown with the addition of The Groves, The Grid and now Eco Mesa – three high quality projects that will add significant housing and to the city’s limited skyline.

The Groves is a major project near the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple at Mesa Drive and Main Street while The Grid is a unique mixed-use project that wraps around the little-used Pomeroy Street garage, north of the Mesa courthouse.

“Finally, we have some density coming to downtown Mesa,’’ Freeman said.

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