Chandler Fashion Center

This tract of desert, the last large lot of developable land near Chandler Fashion Center, is about to undergo a major transformation. 

One of the last big empty pieces of land near Chandler Fashion Center may not be empty much longer.

A family-owned company called VanTrust Real Estate LLC is asking the city for permission to build a large mixed-use complex on the southeast corner of Chandler Boulevard and Price Road, just east of the shopping center. The project is called Chandler 101.

The City Council will consider the rezoning request on Sept. 12.

Since the shopping center opened in 2001, adjacent tracts have filled in with offices, apartments, hotels and retail. But the 20-acre, L-shaped former industrial site to the east has remained vacant since 2006, when a defunct industrial plant there was leveled.

The zoning request currently on the table would refine a plan originally approved under different ownership in 2009, during the depths of a recession that hammered the development industry.

The 2009 zoning allowed for up to 820,000 square feet of office space, 24,400 square feet for retail/restaurant use, a hotel and a conference center.

The biggest change under the new proposal is the addition of 200 apartment units in the southeast corner of the site. The conference center is no longer being considered and some of the other square-footage allowances have been tweaked.

The developers envision a clear separation between the commercial and residential areas. Under their proposal, vehicular access to the apartments will be from Coronado Street on the east and south, rather than from Price Road or Chandler Boulevard. A pedestrian path will link the residential and commercial portions.

In a nod to potential developments in the auto industry, the developers asked the city to allow fewer parking places than normal “due to … the expected long-term impacts of ride-sharing services and the advent of autonomous vehicles.”

And rather than submit a specific site plan, they are asking for entitlements within certain ranges — buildings up to eight stories, for example, and up to 600,000 square feet of office space. Specifics will come later.

Kevin Mayo, Chandler’s planning director, said the project vibes perfectly with what the city envisions for the area.

“This happens to fall within a growth area in our general plan,” he said, “and it furthers that goal by injecting a significant amount of employment into that area.”

“Development of this scale is always significant,” Mayo said. “Any time you have land that is at the intersection of a major arterial like Chandler Boulevard and a freeway, the site is significant.”

Mayo said Chandler expected as far back as two decades ago that the mall would serve as a magnet for development.

 “While the exact users that land on specific parcels aren’t foreseen at the time that those growth areas are put in, the overall context of how the area will evolve is.”

This is likely to be one of the last big mixed-use projects adjacent to the mall. Few other empty nearby tracts remain, and Mayo said vacant land near the mall south of Loop 202 is reserved for large-scale employment uses, with no residential allowed.

Earlier this year, Chandler’s tallest multi-tenant office building opened to complete another complex near the mall.

The six-story Offices at Chandler Viridian tower was the final piece of the complex that sits northwest of the Loop 101 and 202 interchange on W. Frye Road.

The $160-million project signaled a new era for Chandler on the spot of the failed Elevation Chandler development near the Chandler Fashion Center.

At the time of its groundbreaking last year, Chandler City Council member Terry Roe called the plans “completely transforming a key area of our city.”

Tenants have already been settling in that 250,000-square-foot building, including the global engineering firm Stantec and Workuity, a co-working space.

The new office tower features energy-efficient glass that allows natural light into the building. It also includes 10-foot tall ceilings, a tenant lounge on the ground floor and a large public plaza. A three-story garage is also part of the complex.

Hines, the firm that co-developed the site, bought the property in the city’s Price Road Corridor in October 2014 for about $20 million. 

It immediately tore down what was built of Elevation Chandler — an uncompleted hotel and residential development that stalled in 2006 before the Great Recession — to make room for the Viridian mixed-use project.

Other parts of the complex include a 138-room Cambria Hotel with a pool, bar and lounge and conference center; the Broadstone Fashion Center, a high-end apartment complex with 335 units and a pool, clubhouse and fitness center; and nearly 9,000 square feet of restaurant space.

The development also features a pedestrian promenade, a plaza connecting the office building, hotel and restaurants, a wellness trail and even a dog park.

Officials say the office building is expected to bring between 1,250 and 1,500 jobs to Chandler. 

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