Apr 23, 2024 - News

Surprise City Center project has big plans to transform the area

An aerial view of a mostly empty square mile of land surrounded by development.

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

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.

  • The population was only about 31,000 in the 2000 Census.
  • Despite that 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 new city center.

Yes, but: Planners had to wait until Surprise was populous enough to create the demand for the project, West said.

  • It was also, however, long delayed by proposed changes, litigation and city council disagreements.

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 will make it a unique concept within 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.
  • Jerkovic said the project will have unique "only in Surprise" businesses that will help make it a fun downtown where people are "proud to take a selfie at."

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

  • Bullard, which runs between the city center area and Surprise's spring training facilities, will be like the city's new main street, Jerkovic said.

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.

  • The Bullard corridor will probably take about five years, Jerkovic said.
  • In the long run, the project could span decades.
  • "It's like talking about an art project. It may never be fully finished because once you finish it, you're going to be reimagining," she said.

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