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Flagstaff Sees a Boom In Construction

Originally Published in the Arizona Daily Sun, October 24, 2016

Historic downtown area of Flagstaff along Route 66, with San Francisco Peaks in distance, Flagstaff, Arizona, AGPix_0400

Historic downtown area of Flagstaff along Route 66, with San Francisco Peaks in distance, Flagstaff, Arizona

The biggest single player in town, Vintage Partners, is involved in three large projects around the city, including one multi-step development that will involve relocating existing businesses and government services and creating new business locations and student housing.

West of Milton, there are two new apartment complexes on the rise, and downtown, a Marriott Hotel is on the rise.

Outside the city, a major shopping and housing complex is planned for the Twins Arrows Casino Resort complex, while in Bellemont, nearly 250 mobile homes are on the drawing boards.

Fill in the list with projects that have been approved but not yet built (see list), and the number of residential and hotel units alone in the region could grow by close to 6,000.

TAX BREAK SOUGHT

On the east side of Flagstaff, Vintage, a Phoenix-based company, is in the middle of a project near Country Club Drive and Soliere Avenue, south of Interstate 40. Construction has already begun on two hotels, and plans for the site include a grocery store, restaurants, retail space and open space.

As part of that project, Vintage will realign Soliere Avenue, creating more space between it and Country Club Drive, as well as widen some portions of the road. It also plans improvements to Fanning Wash to improve drainage in the area and reduce flooding risk.

To help with public improvements, Vintage requested a tax rebate from the city. The rebate would offset half of the cost of road improvements, not to exceed $2.5 million, by the city giving some of the new sales tax from the development back to Vintage. David Scholl, one of the company’s partners, suggested the rebate be given over a period of 10 to 12 years.

The city council will decide to grant the tax incentive at an upcoming meeting.

Vintage Partners is also involved with the relocation of Harkins Theatres to a new cineplex behind the Flagstaff Mall. The new complex is expected to open in November, and Vintage will be in charge of converting the existing Harkins building on Woodlands Village Boulevard to a new Motor Vehicle Division office.

After the new MVD office is open, Vintage Partners will tear down the existing office on Milton Road and University Avenue to create a retail front with a student housing complex behind the shops. Vintage will work with Core Campus, the developer of The Hub, on the student housing component.

1,300 HOMES

Father west on Route 66, the Planning and Zoning Commission sent a recommendation to the Flagstaff City Council for zoning changes and annexation for a development called Timber Sky.

Timber Sky will have 1,300 housing units, including single-family homes, condominiums and townhomes. Due to its proximity to the Naval Observatory, Vintage has worked with the city and the observatory to create requirements for lighting that are even more stringent than required by the underlying lighting zone. Lighting brightness as well as motion-activated lights will be restricted.

Vintage Partners has voluntarily offered 100 units as affordable housing, which is below the city’s threshold of 10 percent of total units to qualify for any incentives, such as higher density. Walter Crutchfield, one of the partners at Vintage, said the firm will have its mechanism for qualifying and delivering the affordable homes ready for discussion on October 26, adding that the company will be ready to work out details about affordability after that date.

The annexation and zoning changes will come before the city council for the first time on November 1.

DOWNTOWN

In the downtown area, the Marriott Residence Inn is coming together at the intersection of Humphreys Street and Aspen Avenue. Steven Shumway, the CEO for the developer, FMH Enterprises, said the project has stayed close to the proposed schedule and expects the hotel to be open for business in June.

Shumway said he and his brother and business partner, Shane, “are Arizona boys through and through,” and that is why they decided to bring their business to Flagstaff.

“Flagstaff is a great, growing market with high demand for hospitality,” Shumway said. “There will always be a few who don’t want to see that project or a development in that location, but we are grateful that most of our interactions have been positive.”

Shumway said the hotel, which will have 110 suite-style rooms, will be unique because of its location and proximity to downtown bars, restaurants and accessibility to Snowbowl.

WOODLANDS VILLAGE

On the west side of Milton Road, two apartment complexes are nearing completion, with more planned to be built soon. Developers, many from out of town or even from across the country, said a shortage of housing options in the city combined with solid growth has made Flagstaff a prime spot for real estate and rental development.

Jeff Birtch, the CEO of New York- based Chason Affinity Companies, the developer of two west side apartment projects, said neither of his company’s projects will be geared toward student tenants.

One Chason project, called Mountain Trail Apartments, located on Forest Meadows Street and Highland Mesa Road, is expected to be nearly halfway completed in December, Birtch said. The completed project is expected around March, but the company will begin leasing the units already completed in January, Birtch said.

“We are happy about where we are in the development,” Birtch said. “We should be fully paved by next week.”

Birtch said the design of the complex incorporates a variety of textures and colors, and it backs up to a hill, which made the area a good location for the building.

Chason’s second project, called Trailside Apartments, will be built on University Heights Drive and Beulah Boulevard. Birtch said construction is scheduled to begin in March or April and expects the complex to be open for renters by September of 2018.

Birtch said the company had already bought the parcel for Trailside before developing Mountain Trail. He said the land for Mountain Trail was “begging” to be developed. He said they chose the location because of nice views, a walkable neighborhood and said the apartments are a higher-end design.

“It’s not just a box,” he said.

MORE STUDENT HOUSING

Less than half a mile away down Forest Meadows, Capstone Collegiate Communities, an Alabama-based company, is erecting a 230-unit complex geared toward NAU students.

According to John Acken, the executive vice president for Capstone, the development, across the street from Kohl’s, will offer flats and townhomes, with apartments ranging from one to four bedrooms and townhouses containing four to five bedrooms. The development was originally called the Lofts of Flagstaff, but Acken said the company has since decided on the name Fremont Station.

Acken said the company has already started leasing for fall of 2017 and expects construction to be finished over the summer. Acken said the complex is designed for students, though the leases will be for 12 months, not nine, which corresponds to the school year.

Fremont Station will also have about 1,200 square feet of retail space on the first level, and the parking garage, which is visible on the site, will have parking for both residents and retail patrons.

Acken said Capstone decided to come to Flagstaff because of its growing market and need for student housing.

“We have had a very good working relationship with the city,”Acken said. “We are very pleased with how it’s going.”

Acken said the company does not have plans for more projects in Flagstaff, but the company is always looking for opportunities.

OUTSIDE THE CITY

Located adjacent to Twin Arrows Casino Resort, the Outlook at Glittering Mountain project will cover 70 acres. Restaurants, stores, offices, an entertainment pavilion, a cultural center and potentially hundreds of homes are part of the project design, which is aimed at serving casino employees while also drawing more tourists, interstate travelers and local residents to the area.

The four-phase development plan allows for between 77 and 376 housing units and between 240,000 and 400,000 square feet of non-residential development. That commercial square footage could rival the Flagstaff Mall, said Jay Christelman, the county’s community development director. Water would be supplied by Twin Arrows.

Coconino County supervisors approved a development agreement a year ago that allowed the Outlook project to move forward, but so far not much progress has occurred, said Nathan Begay, CEO of Navajo Nation Shopping Centers, a tribally chartered corporation that is developing the project.

When reached by phone Thursday, Begay said work has largely been on hold until the corporation’s board meeting next month.

In Doney Park, builders are just getting started on infrastructure for a 61-lot subdivision on 115 acres in the Timberline-Fernwood area. Located on the corner of U.S. Highway 89 and Cinder Lake Landfill Road, Johnson Ranch will feature single-family homes on 1-acre to 2.5-acre lots and a 40-acre section of open space. Phase One will include 20 homes starting in the $350,000 range, according to the developer’s website.

The proposed manufactured home park called Pine Valley will be located on 30 acres west of Flagstaff Meadows in Bellemont. A proposal handed out in June 2015 includes 284 manufactured homes and a 45,000-square-foot clubhouse. A representative with project engineer SWI said homes would be in the $85,000 to $200,000 price range and no RVs would be allowed. Active retirees would be the target market, SWI’s Guillermo Cortes said.

In a voicemail on Thursday, Cortes said the project is still in the design process with the possibility for construction to start next spring.

It was 2011 when the Coconino County Board of Supervisors gave the initial go-ahead for Kachina Village North, a 130-lot subdivision adjacent to Kachina Village. Then in January, the county board of supervisors approved an extension of a zoning change because the developer had not yet moved forward with the project. Bob Short with the county’s community development department said he has not heard anything further about the project’s progress.

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