Nov 27, 2023 - Business

Development at Steele Indian School Park poised to move forward after long delay

An overheard artists rendering of a group of buildings at an intersection next to a park.

An artist rendering of Pivotal Group's proposed "The Central Park" project. Illustration: Courtesy of the Pivotal Group

An ambitious project on a long-vacant parcel of land in one of the Valley's most prime locations could soon be moving forward.

Driving the news: Pivotal Group, a Phoenix-based company that's developing the property, is seeking city approval for The Central Park, a mixed-use development on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Indian School Road.

  • The project would be next to Steele Indian School Park and located along the Central Avenue light rail route.

Details: Central Park would include 1,450 units in five buildings, including a 320-unit senior living development, along with about 245,000 square feet of office space, ground-level retail and restaurants.

  • The plans also include pedestrian access between the complex and the park.

Catch up quick: The project is similar to Pivotal Group's original 2019 plans, which were scuttled by the pandemic. But the new design trades much of the office space for residential use, said attorney Benjamin Tate, who represents the company.

  • Originally, plans called for two high-rises that would have about 750,000 square feet of office and approximately 600 apartment units.
  • That's no longer financially feasible, Tate said, in part because of the post-pandemic reduced demand for office space.
  • The addition of apartments was a response to both the market and the city's desire for more housing.

Why it matters: The project would transform a vacant lot into what Tate said "will be one of the most iconic pieces of real estate in the central corridor."

  • He added it will become a gateway to Steele Indian School Park, which, despite its size, has little street frontage.

State of play: The Encanto Village Planning Committee recommended approval for the project in September, and a planning hearing officer did the same last month, contingent on several changes, most notable of which is the alignment of entrance and exit points with the existing street network.

What's next: A resident appealed the decision, meaning it must first go to the city's Planning Commission for a recommendation before the Phoenix City Council can weigh in.

  • The commission will consider it on Dec. 7, and the tentative date for the council vote is Jan. 3, 2024, planning department spokesperson Teleia Galaviz told Axios Phoenix.
  • Tate said it's "theoretically possible" construction could begin before the end of 2024, but there's a lot to do.

Flashback: The land was originally owned by the federal government and used as the partial site for the Phoenix Indian School.

  • In 1996, the feds negotiated a three-way land swap in which they acquired land in the Florida Everglades, Phoenix got what's now the park, and Barron Collier Co. acquired the Central Park site.
  • The city took the land back years later in a legal dispute with Barron Collier and sold it to Pivotal Group at auction.

The big picture: The area surrounding the western side of Steele Indian School Park likely will look dramatically different in a few years.

  • In addition to the Central Park project, a development with 1,500 apartments and 20,000 square feet of commercial space is slated for a vacant lot on the west side of Central.
  • A 263-unit apartment building is also planned for the other side of Central, just north of the park entrance.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the Central Park project will encompass five apartment buildings, not two, including a 320-unit senior living development.

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