Apartment tower, Whole Foods planned for downtown Tempe

By:  – Kristena Hansen  Phoenix Business Journal

A failed mixed-use project in downtown Tempe that once promised a condominium high-rise and a Whole Foods grocery store is being revived.

Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Alberta Development Partners LLC paid $6.1 million for less than 2 vacant acres at the northwest corner of University Drive and Ash Avenue in a deal that closed this week, according to a statement from CBRE Inc.Brookfield Asset Management was the seller.

The company plans to spend another $80 million to $100 million erecting a mid-rise or high-rise apartment tower there with a ground-level grocery store over the next several years.

Nearly a decade ago, the 1.86-acre parcel was slated for a similar project dubbed Mosaic that called for a high-rise condo tower and ground-level Whole Foods. The developer at the time, KML Development, never got the project off the ground due to the downfall of its lender, the now-defunct Mortgages Ltd.

The announcement of this new project comes at a time when commercial development, especially high-end multifamily, has been exploding in Tempe’s urban core. It would also fill a void for the downtown area’s growing number of residents, who currently do not have a nearby grocery store.

Don Provost, founder and principal of Alberta Development, declined to name the grocer, but sources close to the deal who did not want to be named said Whole Foods has signed letter of intent to occupy the space.


“We announce our new store locations quarterly — just announced two yesterday,” said Whole Foods spokeswoman Marci Frumkin. “This (the proposed Tempe location) is not one of them and we have nothing on our dockets for now with regard to a Tempe site.”


Frumkin did not specifically comment on the letter of intent.


Provost also declined to say how large the retail space would be and whether the grocer would occupy the entire space, so it is unclear whether there will be enough space for a full-scale Whole Foods like those in Scottsdale and Chandler. A smaller Whole Foods in Tempe is about four miles from the new project.


Parking for the grocery store will be underground, while residents will have their own garage stacked in between the ground-level retail and the high-end apartments, he said.


Provost said many details — such as the tower’s height and whether the apartments will be self-managed — are still up in the air, noting the deal happened in a brisk 30 days.


Thus, more time is needed to examine the area, particularly the constant growth of the adjacent Arizona State University main campus and other non-university related developments nearby such as USA Place and State Farm Insurance’s regional headquarters.


“There’s a lot of dynamics in that market right now … it’s a unique opportunity,” Provost said.

Construction on the project — a first in the Phoenix area for Alberta Development — could start this fall and wrap up within two years, he said.


“The property at University and Ash is one of the single most sought-after vacant land parcels in the metro area,” Barry Gabel, a CBRE broker who helped represent the seller, said in a statement. “The site’s downtown Tempe location, adjacency to Arizona State University, current entitlements and frontage along both University Drive and Ash Avenue make it an ideal location for future development.”

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  1. is it just too hard to imagine a Fresh and Easy or Trader Joes or Bashas being wildly successful there? don’t want to hammer Tempe Farmers Market, want them to continue to be successful, but they can adapt, like synergy. It’s been over a decade since there was a grocery in this part of Tempe. I know many Tempeans that travel to Fry’s at 44th st and Thomas simply because it’s so fast, about the same time as Safeway at Broadway and Rural. That’s tax dollars going to Phx! What exactly is the draw for Whole Foods, really expensive cheese?

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