gFrom The Arizona Republic / AZCentral.com
"The Price (Road) Corridor is technology and employment stretching from Chandler through Tempe," Tempe Development Director David Nakagawara said. "It's a hot spot."
Jim Wentworth, co-owner of Wentworth Property Company, said that investors are choosing the corridor over sites in Phoenix and Scottsdale because of the region's dense population and recreational, cultural and retail amenities. Wentworth Property is building a 136-acre business campus on the corridor at Elliot and Price roads in Tempe.
The construction of freeways in the Southeast Valley facilitated access among employment hubs for people who live in the suburbs and has boosted investors' interest in the corridor.
"What corporate America wants today is nice Class A office space near freeways and plenty of amenities," Wentworth said.
On each end of the corridor are major shopping centers — Tempe Marketplace and Chandler Fashion Center. ASU in Tempe offers an education resource for employees and employers.
"In that region of the Southeast Valley you're close to one of the largest universities in the nation and you're close to Intel, which really put technology on the map for the area with all those engineers working there," Wentworth said. "The area had a magnetic pull with that mass of highly-educated employment, and I think it will continue to build momentum."
Corporations are drawn to the diverse and abundant labor force.
"Our demographics show there's 1 million people within a 10-mile radius of that site," Wentworth said. "That market down there is one of the most desirable labor markets for corporate users because of the access … to the gamut of workforce from the lower-skilled all the way up to the highly-educated workforce."
Discovery Business Campus, the 136-acre mixed-use development at Elliot and Price roads, is the city's largest project under way on the corridor, Nakagawara said.
Last year, Scottsdale-based GoDaddy broke ground on a new technology and customer-service center in the ASU Research Park. The site is expected to add about 300 employees to the Web host's existing workforce.
"Discovery Research … brings some economic diversity, some high-quality jobs and a great synergy with our partner, Arizona State University in Tempe," Nakagawara said.
Wentworth said hotels, retail and restaurants planned for the Discovery Business Campus will serve the growing workforce and visiting entrepreneurs and researchers tied to the new corporations moving into the corridor. Wentworth Property purchased the land, across the street from ASU Research Park, in 2011 from Freescale Semiconductor, which remained on site. Early this year, State Farm opened an office at the campus in an existing building.
Plans for Discovery Business Campus include one two-story office/industrial building, four office buildings ranging from four to eight stories, two six-story hotels with a total of 400 rooms, space for restaurants and stores and a three-level parking structure.
The first new building, which will house two restaurants, is under construction and expected to be completed within two months. By this time next year, three more restaurants will open in buildings planned for the next wave of construction, Wentworth said.
Shutterfly, an Internet photo-storage company, will move into a 200,000-square-foot building that will break ground in the summer on the far northwestern end of the campus, he said.
Wentworth said his company feels so strongly about the looming opportunities that they are building a three-story, 158,000-square-foot building despite not having secured tenants for the space.
"Our feeling is we're going to have a high-profile building with a large chunk of contiguous space that will have a high parking ratio — that kind of space is short in supply and high in demand," he said.
Wentworth expects the surge in development along the corridor to create demand for future hotels.
"We envision one limited-service hotel and one extended-stay hotel to just feed off all the opportunities in the area," he said.
The timing finally could be right for the Continuum business park in Chandler's Price Road Corridor.
Southwest Value Partners, the real-estate investment firm co-founded by Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver, purchased the 152-acre development for $51.75 million in February. The combination of new ownership, enthusiastic backing by Chandler development officials and a hot market for office space in the Southeast Valley could help the technology park take off.
In 2011, CyrusOne Data Center purchased a portion of the land. In 2012, an office building on the site underwent a $4 million renovation. In 2013, Nationstar Mortgage and OnTrac Shipping moved into the building.
Justin Merritt, with Southwest Value Partners, said the company was interested in Continuum for years and jumped at the chance to purchase it.
"The Chandler submarket, and Price Road Corridor specifically, is one of the top office markets in the Valley right now," Merritt said. "They're seeing a tremendous amount of activity. We felt this project, where it stood today in terms of infrastructure and redevelopment of the project, made for the perfect acquisition."
Chandler offered incentives that required a more tangible investment in the project long before the most recent sale. Chandler Economic Development Director Christine Mackay said city planners believed as far back as 2008 that they need a technology park in that area and took steps.
The city pumped $10 million in infrastructure improvements into the area. The money provided new roads, water and sewer systems, along with landscaping and water features. Those decorative landscaping touches make a big difference in helping Chandler compete, Mackay said.
"We don't lose often, but when we do, we debrief with those companies to ask what it was about Chandler they didn't like," Mackay said. "What didn't they find here? What we were hearing was we didn't have a site with a sense of place."
Mackay said high-tech employers wanted an area with a campus-like feel to rival Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, Legacy Business Park in Texas or even ASU's Research Park in Tempe. They wanted a place where employees would feel comfortable spending time indoors or outdoors and could feel connected to the site.
"We've gotten tremendous feedback from our citizens who feel like they've gotten another park out of it," Mackay said. "They ride their bikes through there. They hike through there and they take their dogs for walks. It's really connected."
What is Discovery Business Campus?
A 136-acre business park at Elliot and Price roads.
Nearly 800,000 square feet of existing buildings.
Up to 1.6 million square feet of additional space for office, hotel and retail development.