Apr 23, 2024 - News

1 big thing: Transforming Surprise


The future site of Surprise City Center, looking southeast from the Bullard Avenue and Bell Road intersection. Photo: Jim Todd/Courtesy of Surprise Center Development Co.

The initial construction phase of Surprise City Center could be the first step toward transforming the northwest Valley city from a quiet suburb into a vibrant regional hub.

The big picture: Surprise City Hall, which opened about 15 years ago, is in the middle of a square mile of almost completely undeveloped land.

  • The city center project calls for the long-term development of a downtown area around City Hall that would include retail, restaurants, higher education, medical facilities and apartments.

Why it matters: With a population of over 150,000, Surprise is Arizona's 10th largest city.

  • Despite massive growth, Surprise doesn't really have a downtown, economic development director Jeanine Jerkovic noted to Axios.

Catch up quick: The vision for the city center began in 1995, when developer Rick West and Surprise's city manager identified the land between Bell Road to the north, Greenway Road to the south, Bullard Avenue to the west and Litchfield Road to the east as their proposed site for a city center.

Zoom out: The goal of Surprise City Center is to create a downtown with an urban rather than suburban feel, with tall buildings and entryways right up against sidewalks, which West said would make it a unique concept in the Valley.

  • "We've always felt that (Surprise) should be the regional center for the northwest Valley. And that's how we're positioning it," he said.

The latest: The project's first three buildings, containing retail and restaurants, are set to finish construction later this summer.

Future phases are expected to include more residential and retail, along with a resort, medical complexes, a significantly expanded Ottawa University (which already has a presence in the area), additional civil court facilities and possibly a county government office.

  • The plans ultimately call for more than 30,000 housing units.

What's next: It'll be many years before Surprise City Center is complete.

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