By Cecilia Chan
GSN Managing Editor

Gilbert will sell a 9-acre site downtown for a minimum $5.3 million to a developer who proposes to build offices, a five-story hotel, multi-family housing and two multi-level parking garages.

The land sits behind a Burger King in the Heritage District and served as a temporary downtown parking lot until Hearne Plaza Garage opened in March.

“We’re super excited to be here,” said Charles Huellmantel, representing the developer, at the council meeting May 16.

“One of the things that excites us about working with the town of Gilbert is they worked hard for the vision of downtown,” he said. “It’s cohesive, it’s long-range, it’s an opportunity to really fit in with what the town has already done and to really expand on that.”

Heritage North Partners, LLC, also will pay an additional $350,000 at closing, which the town will used for improvements to the Heritage District, according to the agreement approved unanimously last week by Town Council.

The land deal is expected to close on Feb. 4, 2020, according to staff. The town is expected to go through a process to determine a fair market value of the land, with a minimum $5.3 million selling price.

Phoenix-based Heritage North will fund the entire 500,000-square-foot project, located south of Juniper Avenue near Gilbert Road and the Western Canal.

The conceptual plan is to include 100,000-square-feet of Class A office space, 25,000-square-feet of retail, a 150-room or 75,000-square-foot boutique hotel and 250 units or 302,000 square feet of multifamily residences.

Two garages with a minimum of five floors each to provide parking for office, retail, hotel and the multi-family residence uses also are called for in the project. The garages are expected to provide a total of 1,700 parking spaces, according to Dan Henderson, Economic Development director.

The developer also will build a 15,000-square-foot park called The Commons – which Gilbert can use for public events – construct a car-free paseo for pedestrians and bicyclists and improve the Western Powerline Trail with no less than $150,000 in public art, according to Henderson.

The project will be built in one phase with construction expected to begin in late June 2020 and finished by the fourth quarter of 2021.

The 9.1-acre site is being developed with a variety of uses outlined in the Heritage District Redevelopment Plan, which was updated last year. Since its adoption in 1991, the plan has guided the bulk of development in downtown.

Doralise Machado Liddell, who lives in the Heritage District, voiced concerns with the project.

“I feel this goes against the redevelopment plan,” she said. “Postpone this, reevaluate it. Let the public see it and digest it.”

She said the plan doesn’t call for multi-family housing on that site.

She also said The Commons should be built for taxpayers’ use but instead it’s an amenity owned by the developer for the multi-family units. She said that under the agreement, the developer after 10 years can do whatever it wants and the park could go away.

Huellmantel after the meeting said there was no intention to do away with the park or not to let the town use the space in the future.

Henderson added the Heritage District guidelines allow for residential lofts above ground-floor retail and if the developer were to change the development in the future, it would need to go through a public approval process.

Henderson also said the town has continually engaged community stakeholders such as property owners, residents and business people on the plans for the area since 2015.

“We’ve gone through an exhaustive effort to get to where we are at,” said Councilman Scott Anderson, who added Mesa and Chandler are attempting to do what Gilbert is doing for its downtown. “The developer has a history of some very excellent projects.”

Heritage North Partners was one of nine responders when Gilbert issued a request of qualifications in March 2018 for the purchase and development of the 9.1-acre property called the North Anchor of the Heritage District.

The town eventually whittled the list down and chose Heritage North Partners.

The 9-acre site is identified as one of three key redevelopment areas in the Heritage District.