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How this old Phoenix mall could become a model for urban core infill development

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Metrocenter Mall may be the future face of enclosed mall renaissance and urban infill.

Carlyle Group, owners of the massive central Phoenix mall and local developer Jeff Geyser have eyes on massive changes for the mall itself and a satellite center Geyser just acquired at Dunlap and 29th avenues at the south entrance to the mall.

Warren Fink, Carlyle COO, said the shopping center owner has a lot of activity on the books for the final quarter of 2015. Walmart will break ground on its previously announced 148,000-square-foot store in early December. It’s slated to open in October 2016.

“This is the next generation of urban infill development,” said Fink. “We’re changing Metrocenter from a traditional mall into an urban infill, mixed-use development.”

Plans to convert Metrocenter from a covered mall to its new potential are set to go before the Phoenix City Council in mid-December. Fink said the concept plan has formed into a live-work-play environment.

“We’re planning to add residential and office developments onto the mall grounds,” he said. “The mall itself will extend into an open-air district connecting with restaurants and shops to office towers along (Interstate) 17.”

The big change is the next phase of Metro light rail. The extension from Dunlap and 19th avenues will cross I-17 midway between Peoria and Dunlap avenues, and terminate on the Metrocenter Ring Road.

At the southern gateway to Metrocenter, Geyser acquired the 15.5-acre Metrocenter Market Place. The struggling power center acquisition included 215,000 square feet of retail buildings, but not the 45,000-square-foot Conn’s HomePlus store fronting Dunlap. Geyser said current occupancy in his development stands at around 18 percent.

“We’re going to renovate the building fronting 29th Avenue and hang on to about 50,000 square feet,” said Geyser, who acquired this property separate from his partnership at Lawrence & Geyser Development. “This is going to be redesigned into an urban regional hub.”

CBRE handled both sides of the transaction. Conn’s HomePlus was the seller, offering the acreage with the nearly-empty power center and retaining its own store.

Geyser said he sees his acquisition as the gateway to the south entrance of Metrocenter.

“Let’s face it, Walmart is still essentially a giant grocery store, and with light rail and a city park, this site is perfect for live-work-play,” he said. “We are looking at two or three architects to pick the right one to get the design in place for not only what looks good today, but for its future urban setting.”

Geyser plans to hire a general contractor to handle the renovations.

“I’d like to run out there right now with a bucket and paint brush,” he said of the property’s current condition. “This was sitting in a portfolio of properties, and was turned two or three times in the past few years.”

He’s going to take around 90 days to sort through the options before pressing “go.”

“Our goal is to be open and leased up before the Walmart opens next year,” Geyser said.

Learn more at: http://www.lawrenceandgeyser.com/

Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2015/10/22/exclusive-how-this-old-phoenix-mall-could-become-a.html?s=print