By Jason Stone, Staff Writer
The East Valley’s hot jobs economy is allowing developers in Mesa’s Gateway Airport area to build them as fast as they can fill them.
Low vacancy rates across the Valley – coupled with streamlined government approvals – are changing the landscape in the airport area.
It’s truly proving the old adage if you build it, they will come – and apparently businesses want to be near the growing airport that’s sitting in an untapped desert area on the southeast edge of the city.
“There’s a lot of demand right now,” said Mesa Economic Development Director Bill Jabjiniak. “We’re excited to see that with today’s low vacancy rate in industrial industries.”
The latest addition to the fold is The Landing at PMG, a six-building industrial subdivision, just south of Loop 202 at the southeast corner of Ray and Sossaman roads.
Marwest Enterprises is developing the 281,000-square-foot Class A industrial product that will include six buildings that range in size from 11,945 to 112,748 square feet with 20- to 30-foot ceiling heights. It’s just north of the airport.
At the time of the PMG’s announcement, Mesa Mayor John Giles praised the area as “an active zone with easy freeway and airport access and one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Arizona.”
There was more news last week as the city and developer VIVO Partners unveiled plans to begin building next year Gallery Park, a mammoth office-residential-retail complex near Power Road and the Loop 202 Freeway.
It will include approximately 400,000 square feet of Class A office space, two hotels and 420 luxury apartment units and condos situated above restaurant/retail space and a movie theater, or other entertainment uses.
“At full build-out, it is expected to be home to more than 3,000 employees and residents,” VIVO said in a release.
There’s no doubt the growth is speeding up after a sluggish start. The city forked over millions to extend Ray Road, north of the Airport, a decade ago as part of the Mesa Gateway Strategic Development Plan. But the recession put the brakes on development all across the nation.
That’s not the story now.
“We did that at the bottom of the recession is paying off now,” Jabjiniak said. “We finally have pent up demand.”
The addition of PMG – which stands for Phoenix Mesa Gateway – is the latest example that existing infrastructure and move-in ready buildings are what’s helping attract growing businesses who are looking for quicker and cheaper move-ins.
Jabjiniak said available infrastructure and the speed of getting through the entitlement process are now paramount in a competitive job market.
PMG’s addition will be felt by nearby neighbors soon. Construction already began in late September and work is expected to finish in the first part of 2019. It won’t be long before motorists on the Loop 202 will be able to see the new project.
When it’s done, it will have freeway access from the Power and Hawes exits.
The designation of a so-called “opportunity zone” is helping speed things up. The federal government is in charge in picking the development areas that will be designated. The designation helps investors streamline the process for pushing their developments through, which helps them defer and possibly reduce their capital gains taxes.
Developer David Martens of Marwest said the project was designed to quickly provide the city with the needed space to attract high-quality tenants.
“As a long-term owner in Mesa, we have witnessed the pro-growth/pro-job mentality of the city and look forward to capitalizing on that momentum,” Martens said in a statement.
The airport development, coupled with Mesa’s Elliot Road Technology Corridor, is changing the look of all sides of the airport. The Elliot Road zone, which stretches Elliot between Signal Butte and Hawes roads, has already caught a big fish in Apple for its global operations command center.
Jabjiniak said Apple’s presence has been the best advertising possible to other companies that space is available and access is easy.
“It’s starting to tell the story across the country and across the world,” Jabjiniak said. “I say the world because when Apple sneezes in Mesa, the world knows about it.”
Niagara Bottling was another large company who recently moved into the area, which was officially designated in 2014.
Business travelers now have four hotels within a 15-minute drive from the airport, including a Courtyard by Marriott right by it. The four-story, 99-room hotel at 6907 E. Ray Road is also close to Big League Dreams Park and the Polytechnic Campus of Arizona State University.
“It’s allowing us to compete at a very high level,” Jabjiniak said. “The city invested in a lot of infrastructure when we built that roadway on the north side of the airport.”
The area is most suited for advanced manufacturing and industry tech.
The airport’s unique SkyBridge program is also helping drive development near the airport. SkyBridge is the nation’s first carbo hub to house Mexico and U.S. customs. It has brought more than 10,000 jobs to the area.
“It’s bringing interest in additional investment in the southwest corner of the airport,” Jabjiniak said. “We’re really seeing a lot of interest and activity all around there.
Two private hangars next to the airport are part of that growth. Aviation Performance Solutions LLC and Wetta Ventures LLC have leased land owned by the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority to bring the first private hangars to the area in a decade.
The length of the lease deals are between 25 and 30 years.
Mesa is hoping to keep the good times rolling by developing what could best be described as a spin-off from its 2008 Gateway strategic plan.
City officials are now calling for public input for the Southeast Mesa Land Use and Transportation Plan. Mesa is designing the stand-alone document to guide the area’s future transportation needs to meet demand.
The city held its first public meeting on the plan recently at the Eastmark Visitor and Community Center. Another meeting will be held in early 2019 but won’t be announced until December.
A final report is expected to be finished by next May or June.