Putting on New Faces - Chandler, Owners Share Upgrade Costs
Newspaper: East Valley | Scottsdale Tribune
Location: North Park Plaza
Author: Lynn Ducey
Chandler is helping businesses reinvest and sprucing up the community while they're at it.
Over the past two fiscal years, the city has helped property owners refurbish three retail centers in a key portion of the city by helping offset the costs of renovation and ushering the projects through the permitting process.
Called the Commercial Reinvestment Program, the City Council-approved project has contributed about $218,000 toward the renovation of three centers: North Park Plaza, at the southeast corner of Ivanhoe Street and Arizona; and Plaza Del Arcos at the northwest corner of Galveston Road and Arizona Avenue.
North Park Plaza owned by Michael A. Pollack Real Estate Investments, was a $1 million renovation project that truly transformed the area, said Harry Paxton, a Chandler economic development specialist who supervises the city program.
"That was really the first big-corner commercial retail center ever developed in Chandler. Now, it looks like it was built yesterday. Its amazing when you see the before and after of it," Paxton said.
Redevelopment magnate Michael Pollack said he grabbed the property when it went up for sale after driving by the center on his morning commute for years.
"I just had to buy it. Every day I would pass by it and every day, I hated it. Every day I would say "That is one of the ugliest strip centers I have ever seen,'"Pollack said.
Pollack said his 60,000 square foot center was fully leased when he purchased it. And that didn't make a renovation project a high priority or a whole lot of economic sense.
But Pollack said when he learned about the reinvestment program, he decided to make some upgrades, which then took a life of their own.
In addition to new tile roofing , a brick facade and columns along the center's front, Pollack said he kept going back to the landscaping and ultimately increased that budget by about 300 percent.
But once the building upgraded and the greenery planted, Pollack said he wasn't pleased with the original light poles in the newly paved parking lot. He decided to install new lighting at a whopping cost of $60,000, he said.
"This project kind of became my money pit. I pulled out all the stops.
I've only been off-budget twice. Once on my own building and then on North Park. But I wanted something that was breathtaking and spectacular. Now, it feels like you're in a garden," Pollack said.
LARGE AND SMALL PROJECTS
The city program contributed about $153,000 - or about 17 percent of the project's total cost - toward Pollack's redevelopment project. But the program also aims to help projects on smaller scales, such as the Plaza Del Arcos. The program contributed about $24,000 or about half the cost, toward renovations there.
"The program just added such an incentive. There's so many other older buildings down there and ours was one of them," said Lorenda Hartwell, spokeswoman for Town Lake Enterprises, which owns Plaza Del Arcos.
"We bought that building a couple of years ago and it was in bankruptcy. Nothing had been done to it in many, many years," Hartwell said.
With the help of the city program, crews added trees, shrubs and plants and refurbished the building's facade, Hartwell said.
"We wanted to do something that was visible from the street and sidewalk and we added a tremendous amount of landscaping. That was the first phase of our thinking," Hartwell said. "Then, we got looking around and we liked the fake rock on all the building fronts. So we put that on one of the main cathedral entrances."
Hartwell said that when the firm became owners, the property was about 65 percent vacant. As a result of their ownership and renovations, the center is now about 90 percent full, she said.
"This has really made an improvement in the area and it's really being noticed," Hartwell said. Paxton said that center has transformed itself from a struggling retail area at a half-mile point on Arizona Avenue to a vibrant, professional park.
SPUR ON OTHER INVESTMENT
The program's goal is to not only help the properties and owners who directly benefit from a city award, but to energize older areas and jump start overall renovation, Paxton said.
"We're hoping that other developments on Arizona Avenue also will consider reinvesting. That's part of the idea of this program. That it will act as a catalyst for other reinvestment, over and above what the city itself is able to provide," Paxton said.
City officials have set aside $300,000 for renovation projects within an 18-square mile area in northeastern Chandler during the 2004-05 fiscal year. In addition to local requirements, the program has other guidelines, including a requirement that property owners match the amount of the city grant and put it toward the renovation.
"It is a competitive process and there is often more applications than we have funding for, so not all applications will be approved," Paxton said.
During the program's first year, which encompassed the 2002-03 fiscal year, the city set aside $150,000 for the project, which was increased to $300,000 in the 2003-04 fiscal year. Applications for the upcomming fiscal year are being accepted now through October 1.
Michael A. Pollack is founder and president of Michael A. Pollack Real Estate Investments and the recent winner of the Chandler Business of the Year Award. The views expressed
are those of the author.