Study: Tempe land values increasing near light rail

Published On:
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
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The city of Tempe has experienced the highest increase in the Valley in land value surrounding the light rail route, according to a study conducted by ASU doctoral student Katherine Kittrell released Friday.

Mixed-use buildings that incorporate residential, retail and office space are the type of transit-oriented developments that led to increased land value, she said.

“The research concludes that one of the best ways to get people to incorporate a different lifestyle is to get them to live in transit-oriented developments,” she said, referring to buildings that offer convenience for public-transit riders.

Land value appreciation was the highest along Apache Boulevard in Tempe, as well as in downtown Phoenix, she said.

However, many light rail stations near downtown Phoenix did not show increases in value, while the value around every station in Tempe has grown.

The study also compared the light rail stations to other desirable intersections not along the light rail route.

Retail businesses at the intersection of North Scottsdale Boulevard and East Camelback Road in Scottsdale and North 24th Street and East Camelback Road, for example, have been among the most successful in Phoenix for the last 20 years, according to the study.

The average increase for all sales transactions near Tempe stations was up 429 percent this year.

This increase is because of Tempe’s updated zoning codes, which allow for larger buildings that are in line with public transit-oriented development, according to the report.

These codes and related services, such as Web site accessibility and development services have enabled Tempe to become successful in attracting new developers to the city, Kittrell said.

“Apache Boulevard is on the map now,” she said. “It’s a big feather in the cap of Tempe.”

Scott White, manager of the Pita Jungle at 1250 E. Apache Blvd. near South Dorsey Lane said that when the light rail initially opened, he had new customers from Phoenix coming into his store.

White said he is seeing more regular customers, and attributes that to his close proximity to the light rail station.

“I do notice a lot more people than I have noticed before, and I’m guessing that they’re from the light rail,” he said.

Two areas that have seen a decrease in land value are around the South Sycamore and West Main Street station in Mesa and the North 44th Street and East Washington Street in Phoenix, according to the study.

Kittrell said she was shocked at these findings.

“It’s really obvious that what Tempe is doing is working,” she said.

The loss in value was because of Mesa’s outdated zoning codes, which prohibit mixed-use developments, she said.

Much like Mesa, the area surrounding the 44th Street station in Phoenix does not allow buildings such as high rises or structures with built-in parking, which are typically more convenient for public-transit passengers, Kittrell said.

Kittrell said this is because of a “lack of vision from the city of Phoenix.”

Darin Sender, a Tempe-based attorney and associate faculty member at ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, was a part a 2003 citizen-led committee to research options for Tempe’s new zoning ordinance.

An entire rewrite of the zoning ordinance was completed in 2005 in anticipation for the light rail, Sender said, adding that this is part of the reason why Tempe light rail stations have been so successful.

“We looked at what other cities had done near their light rail corridors … the type of land uses that worked and the type of land uses that didn’t work,” she said.

Most cities need to completely rewrite zoning ordinances periodically in order to keep up with new developments, she said.

Kittrell said he thinks that in order for Mesa to compete with Tempe for new business from developers, the city must adjust its zoning codes around the light rail area.

“If Mesa wants to get it right, they should copy Tempe,” Kittrell said. “At least as a start.”

Reach the reporter at anatwood@asu.edu.