Sunday, March 3, 2013

NY firm drives major mixed-use project in Gilbert

The New York-based Rockefeller Group is moving forward with a major mixed-use development at Recker and Warner roads in Gilbert that will start with apartments and could later include more than 1 million square feet of office and industrial space.
Company executives joined town officials earlier this month at a ceremonial groundbreaking for the first phase of the 156-acre project that may bring hundreds of residents and new jobs to a vacant corner near Morrison Ranch.
Construction on the 402-unit Liv Northgate apartment complex will begin in March, and the first tenants are expected to move in by spring 2014, said Mark Singerman, regional director for Rockefeller.
The 80-year-old company picked Gilbert for the project in part because it sees the community as one of the strongest residential markets in the state, Singerman said.
“It (Gilbert) has pulled more building permits than the city of Phoenix consistently for the last two years,” Singerman said. “On top of that, they have an extremely strong sense of community, great schools, great amenities. It really is an ideal location for a very upscale apartment complex like this.”
Rockefeller, the developer of the famous Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, describes the Liv Northgate apartments as garden-style, luxury units in two- and three-story buildings. The complex will include a clubhouse, two heated swimming pools and other recreational amenities.
The complex will be built by Phoenix-based construction firm MC Clark Wayland, which has built thousands of apartments around metro Phoenix.
Liv Northgate is designed by Phoenix-based architects Whitneybell Perry Inc., the company that designed Page Commons in Gilbert’s Heritage District.
The new complex is part of a much larger mixed-use plan called North Gateway. Eventually, Rockefeller expects to add 120 acres of business-park and light-industrial development and 12 acres of community commercial, which can include smaller shops and services.
“We believe activity breeds activity,” Singerman said. “We think that this will help attract other users to the site.”
The company is looking for a manufacturer or distribution-type company to locate on the site, giving employees the opportunity to live within walking distance of their workplace, Singerman said.
Gilbert Mayor John Lewis, who along with Vice Mayor Ben Cooper attended this month’s groundbreaking, said the development will be a key part of the town’s plan to attract 10,000 new jobs in the next five years. Rockefeller is a company with a “tremendous reputation” for building high-quality projects, Lewis said.
The company didn’t always find such a willing partner in Gilbert and faced “significant headwinds” from the Town Council when the project was unveiled, Singerman said. That changed, however, with the election of a new mayor in spring  2009, he said.
“A new sheriff came to town, and that was John Lewis,” Singerman said. “I can’t tell you what a change came to the attitude and political climate after that. Were it not for John Lewis becoming mayor at that point, we would not be standing here today.”
A major General Plan amendment to make way for North Gateway was unanimously approved by the Gilbert Town Council in November 2009 after winning a recommendation from the Planning Commission.
Rockefeller CEO Kevin Hackett said his company has a strong commitment to developing in Arizona in addition to other projects across the U.S. and in Europe.
“As a business matter we have included Arizona at the top of our list and are actively seeking ways to expand our business here,” Hackett said.
The company’s development strategy can be summarized in part by drawing a “smile” across the country, starting in Boston, dipping into the Southeast, over to Phoenix and ending in Seattle, Hackett said.
“Arizona is in the sweet spot, right in the middle of that smile,” Hackett said. “We feel that’s where a lot of 21st-century industry is going to be located, and we want to take advantage of that activity.”
In Seattle, Rockefeller last month announced plans for nearly 2.4 million square feet of commercial space in downtown Bellevue, Wash., a project that would be the largest ever in that community’s downtown area, according to a report from the Puget Sound Business Journal.
The company’s portfolio also includes “Class A” office space in major cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Rockefeller has a second site in Gilbert, a 45-acre parcel near Gilbert and Germann roads, where the developer envisions six office or “flex” buildings for nearly 500,000 square feet of employment space.
Other Rockefeller projects in Arizona include the partially developed Chandler Corporate Center and a partially developed distribution center in Tucson.
“The Rockefeller Group is committed to Arizona, is committed to Gilbert, and we’ll be back soon,” Hackett said.

NY firm drives major mixed-use project in Gilbert

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