Tempe looks to expand Mill Avenue District

Tempe and ASU are looking to strengthen the Mill Avenue District in the coming months.

ASU and Tempe have struggled for years to attract businesses to College Avenue. However, with the $54 million College Avenue Commons set to finish construction in July, it appears businesses are beginning to show more interest in the area.

ASU Real Estate Development Director Neil Calfee said in an email that the planned construction should help all businesses and tenants on the street.



"We hope that the businesses on College will all benefit from the improvements, and there’s nothing in our plans about replacing any existing businesses," Calfee said.

Postino Winecafe will join the efforts to draw more foot traffic and businesses to College Avenue. Last month, real estate firm Wetta Ventures announced that Postino will lease space in ASU's Art Annex, which stands across from College Avenue Commons and next to the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center, for its fourth location and first in Tempe.

David Wetta, founder of Wetta Ventures, said in an email that the College Avenue development is a unique opportunity.

We are thrilled to partner with ASU on the transformation of College Avenue and to help bring to life the shared vision of creating a one-of-a-kind dining destination in Tempe,” Wetta said.

Tempe also has some unique plans for College Avenue itself. City of Tempe Architect Mark Vinson said a new plaza is also in the works.

The immediate project involves reconstruction of College between 6thand 7thstreets to create a plaza, linking ASU’s soon-to-be-completed College Avenue Commons Building with the soon-to-be-rehabilitated ASU Art Annex," he said.

There are also some plans in the works for University Drive.

CBRE Group's Phoenix office announced Feb. 12 that it had sold a vacant lot on the corner of Ash Avenue and University Drive in Tempe. CBRE Group Inc. is the world's largest real estate and investment firm.

The buyer is Alberta Development, a company that owns properties across the western U.S. The company specializes in mixed residential and commercial projects, which appears to be the plan for the Ash and University site. It plans to spend more than $80 million to construct a mid- or high-rise apartment complex on the site, with a grocery store occupying the lower levels.

The project would serve several purposes within the community. For the city and businesses along University Drive, the building would increase foot traffic off of Mill Avenue. It would also serve to increase the availability of high-density housing, which has been in high demand in central Tempe in recent years, as well as provide a much closer grocery store for residents of the area surrounding the University.

Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at the W. P. Carey School of Business, said in an email that these types of businesses are the result of ASU's and Tempe's growth.

"(The businesses) are signs of the economic importance that ASU brings to the East Valley and Tempe in particular," he said.

Reach the reporter at dhignutt@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @davidhignutt

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