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Tempe’s Mill Avenue Making It Through Coronavirus Construction Concerns

777 Tower at Novus near Mill Avenue.
The 777 Tower at Novus is one of many projects under development in downtown Tempe near Mill Avenue.

Construction is an essential business in Arizona so nearly a dozen projects in the Mill Avenue corridor in downtown Tempe have been allowed to continue despite the coronavirus pandemic.

But that's the only buzz in the area, which would normally be hurrying to prepare for the massive Arizona State University graduation on May 11.

“The whole world is in this unfortunate situation, but fortunately, we have not seen construction stop, or even a big slowdown,” City of Tempe Economic Development Program Manager Maria Laughner said. “This location has been such a hot asset for the last six years and it has been a consistent, breakneck pace.”

According to the city of Tempe, since July 2015, 8,540 new jobs have been created in Tempe’s downtown hub and adjacent Tempe Town Lake, which is located north of Mill Avenue from Priest Road east to Rural Road.

In the same time period, $268.7M in capital investment has poured into the neighborhood. 

“We have seen hospitality projects take a breath due to the current situation, but the Westin is still expected to be completed by the end of the year or early 2021, and the Omni hotel project will break ground at Mill Avenue and University Drive at the end of the year,” Laughner said.

Mill Avenue will also soon be home to a new streetcar service in 2021, with testing slated to begin over the summer. The new transit option is being touted as a way to free up Mill Avenue, which is often congested by ASU students, faculty and staff.

“I feel bullish about our market in Tempe compared to the coasts, because we are still a highly affordable market with a strong workforce at one of the largest universities in the country right in our backyard,” Laughman said.

One development using the streetcar is Mirabella at Arizona State University, an intergenerational retirement community that broke ground in February 2018. Located at Mill Avenue and Myrtle Avenue, Mirabella is scheduled to open this fall, with 252 total units, 80% of which will be two-bedroom, two-bathroom units.

“We are already approaching 90% occupancy rate and we have 225 families on the waiting list,” Pacific Retirement Services Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Paul Riepma said.

Atmosphere Tempe at Seventh Avenue and Forest Avenue off Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe
The retail level at Atmosphere Tempe is planned to be attract both Arizona State University students and the general public.

Less than a mile away, on the opposite end of the age demographic, Atmosphere Tempe is still on schedule for its opening in fall 2021.

The 336K SF, 20-story project broke ground in December on Seventh Avenue and Forest Avenue. Another 252-unit project, Atmosphere Tempe offers one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units, along with 5K SF of retail space on the sixth floor.

Just a five-minute walk away, at University Drive and Rural Road, is another major project under development, 777 Tower at Novus.

A six-story, 160K SF office building at an entrance of the ASU campus, it is in the center of the Novus Innovation Corridor. Thus far, ASU has signed on for 80K SF in the building, spread over three floors, while IT company Infosys will take two floors across approximately 60K SF of the building.

The building will have a public urban plaza, a penthouse office space and 8K SF of retail space on the ground floor. To meet Novus’ requirements for LEED certification, the building will have a sustainable facade panel system with solar shading services designed to maximize solar and daylight control.

“Tempe is the healthiest submarket in the valley with the lowest Class-A vacancy and we feel the central location near the airport is a valuable benefit,” Ryan Cos. Southwestern Region Chairman John Strittmatter said. “This is an opportunity for a deeper relationship with Arizona State University and to attract tenants that are focused on high-tech, financials or engineering.”

Related Topics: Corey Woods, Tempe streetcar