As bulldozer wheels begin churning on the slow-motion construction of State Route 24, commercial and residential developers are lining up near the new stretch of highway.
As Economic Development Director William Jabjiniak put it, “There’s a whole bunch of things going on in southeast Mesa.”
The proposed extension of SR24 runs smack through the Cadence at Gateway development, planned for 3,500-plus homes on 465 acres. The developer is asking for a change from commercial zoning to residential in a 20-acre section of the development near Ray and Crimson roads.
Some residents of Cadence at Gateway’s eastern neighbor, the massive Eastmark development on 3,200 acres, are furious over a new request for more homes.
Eastmark developers DMB and Brookfield also want city to allow “the development of significant employment and industrial uses along the Elliot Road corridor as well as along Ellsworth Road.”
Eastmark’s existing plan allows for a mix of residential and commercial development.
If approved, a new amendment would allow “large-scale, campus-type employment uses.” Those large employment hubs would be located in two districts totaling 300 acres off Ellsworth Road, which extends to SR 24.
The Eastmark developer promises the changes will “further solidify the Elliot Road Tech Corridor as a significant employment area.”
The developers are also asking for amendments to its master plan in two other Eastmark districts (5 north and 6 south) to allow for more homes to be built south of Elliot Road and west of Signal Butte Road.
DMB and Brookfield outlined the plans at an online neighborhood meeting Jan. 12.
Many neighbors expressed concerns about what type of employers would be coming and that new homes would make Eastmark too congested.
The developers noted the plan approved by the city in 2008 allows for 15,000 residential units – homes and apartments. There are currently about half that many residential units, with from 2,000 to 6,000 more planned.
Eastmark resident Jennifer Castillo emailed Councilman Kevin Thompson and Mayor John Giles, begging them to reject the developers’ request, which she called “unacceptable.”
“When we moved here, we were told this was going to be the ‘outskirts’ of Eastmark, there would be no other houses to the north of us. We were also told there would be a park behind our house,” she wrote.
“We were also told that the property to the north of us would be businesses specifically a ‘tech corridor’ NOT more houses,” she wrote.
Jeffrey Rank, another Eastmark resident, also emailed Thompson and Giles to protest the plan, insisting the shops and restaurants promised when he moved there in 2017 have not come to fruition.
“What was to be a very dynamic community is nothing but housing with high density housing replacing retail and commercial,” Rank wrote.
An email from Dan Moyes to the city concurred with Rank: “When we chose to buy into Eastmark and Mesa, we did so based on the assurance from the developers and builders that our properties would be part of a community with a ‘small town’ feel … The proposed changes to land use will NOT provide the promised community amenities and a small-town feel.”
Dozens of others emailed similar views, with many concerned about Eastmark developers turning planned open spaces into high-density apartments.
As Christina Zimmerman put it, “After the developer meeting last night I have to add to my previous email. I do not want any more high density housing anywhere in Eastmark.
“All the changes are purely for profit, against the vision of the community and, in fact, a direct opposition to what we want. Eastmark residents want quality shops, boutiques, businesses and some nice eating establishments. No more unhealthy chain restaurants.”
Between Eastmark and the extended SR 24, the city plans to purchase 18 chunks of land — amicably, or, if need be, through legal action — for the Signal Butte Road Improvements Project between Williams Field Road and Germann Road.
According to the agenda for the Feb. 22 Mesa City Council meeting, offers have been made to various property owners.
“However, to avoid construction delays, staff is requesting authorization to acquire certain parcels through eminent domain if necessary,” the agenda states. “Staff intends to continue to meet and negotiate with the property owners with the intent of reaching a settlement.”
Construction on the federally-funded Signal Butte Road project is expected to begin in the fall 2021.
The agenda for Monday’s meeting is very southeast Mesa heavy.
Two neighboring commercial projects are asking for green lights. One is interested in becoming part of the Elliot Road Technology Corridor; the other is asking to opt out of the technology corridor’s zoning restrictions.
Comarch has a tentative development agreement for 3 acres at Ellsworth Road and Prairie Avenue to opt in to the Elliot Road Technology Corridor zoning.
Tech company Comarch hopes to join Apple, Dignity Health, Niagara Bottling, EdgeConneX, Digital Realty and RagingWire in the booming Elliot Road Technology Corridor. Comarch’s opt-in request was approved by the Planning and Zoning Board Jan. 27.
The project that is in the corridor but asking to opt out is Elliott 202, a warehouse/distribution project being developed by Marwest Enterprises of Scottsdale.
Marwest developed and leased Landing 202, several industrial buildings a few miles away on East Ray Road, between the Loop 202 and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
Elliott 202 is on East Elliot Road, between Hawes Road and the Loop 202.
Marwest is requesting a rezoning of 77 acres to allow two industrial buildings totaling 1 million square feet.
As the developer’s summary notes, tech corridor zoning restricts indoor warehousing and storage. “Marwest has therefore elected to “opt-out” of the Elliot Road Technology Corridor and pursue this LI-PAD (light industrial planned area development) application.”
The developer’s plan shows buildings as high as 60 feet tall that will have truck docks and loading bays as well as outdoor storage.
Both the Comarch and Elliot 202 projects would mean more jobs, according to their pitches.
Growth in southeast Mesa “is related to the city’s commitment for infrastructure expansion, the Loop 202, State Route 24, the expansion of services at the Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport and the expanding employee base associated with Eastmark,” according to the Elliot 202 summary.
Also in that area, city council will hear a request for rezoning to allow the building of a Sleep Inn and MainStay Suites “dual-branded” hotel at 5351 South Power Road near Ray Road, just northwest of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
The hotel would have 90 rooms, a fitness center and pool.