As shoppers flock to a bustling shopping center on Tucson’s south side, 240 acres of adjacent land destined to become housing and a tech park sit vacant and will likely remain that way over the next decade.
Tucson Marketplace at The Bridges, off of Interstate 10 and Kino Parkway, has over the last two years become home to Costco, Dave & Buster’s, Walmart, Century Theater and Starbucks.
The undeveloped plot of land to the north is where a University of Arizona Tech Park, hotel, conference center and a housing development were supposed to be built. A document from the Tucson Development Services Department detailing the master plan for the complex, dated February 2007, indicates that the plans are now more than a decade old.
Still, nothing besides Tucson Marketplace has been constructed, despite the installation of streets and utilities.
Richard Fimbres, the city councilman for Ward 5, where The Bridges is located, attributes the lack of development to the 2009 recession. Like many other construction projects, it scattered funds and halted activity for the development.
“Its been slow,” Fimbres said. “We haven’t caught up; we haven’t recovered.”
The future of the housing development — to be built through a partnership between KB Home and Lennar, dubbed 5151 East — is unknown.
“Unfortunately, at this juncture 5151 East, LLC cannot provide a timeline for the Bridges community,” said Craig LeMessurier, a spokesman for KB Home.
As far as the tech park goes, Bruce Wright, the associate vice president for Tech Parks Arizona — developer of the University of Arizona tech parks — is still hopeful it will be developed within the next 10 to 20 years.
Tech Launch Arizona agrees that the recession, played a major role in the development’s delay, but now they are awaiting a corporation to house in the tech park. Once a developer is secured, construction can begin.
The focus, Wright said, is currently on the southern third of the park, known as the “technology precinct.”
From there, Tech Launch Arizona would like to continue developing the remaining three precincts of the park.
The UA’s existing Tech Park at Rita Road has seen success.
Located south of Tucson, it houses over 40 companies and organizations including IBM, Raytheon, and Citi, with 6,000 employees working there. Vail Academy and High School is located on the tech park grounds, and it has a “solar zone,” which generates solar power on 173 acres.
The Western Hills neighborhood association, which has been active in the development of the Tucson Marketplace, has been in contact with University of Arizona President Robert Robbins, who has promised to move the project along quickly, said Association President Willie Blake Jr.
Though progress is a ways away, Blake is pleased with how the area looks now because it was littered with trash before development began.
“When the U of A comes, it’ll put a new face on the whole area,” he said, adding that he’s confident the project will be finished within the next decade.
SUCCESS IS VISIBLE
The delay in the housing and tech park projects is not stopping the Tucson Marketplace from continued growth.
“It’s moving,” Councilman Fimbres said “There’s some things coming that are good.”
A Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Discount Tire are in the works.
Frank Egan, an asset manager for Toronto-based Fullerton Properties, which assisted with the development of much of Tucson Marketplace at The Bridges, also expressed delight at how the shopping complex is coming along, while noting that future development will still take a few years.
“I think the success is visible out there now,” Egan said. “We still have, plus or minus, 40 acres to develop.”
While there are currently no other large stores lined up for construction at Tucson Marketplace, the focus in the meantime is on smaller stores, in addition to medical and service-based businesses, Egan said.
Egan expects that the shopping complex will be entirely leased out within the next two to five years. However, he hopes that more large stores and restaurants are on the horizon.