Chandler seeing boom in new apartments, condos The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler seeing boom in new apartments, condos

November 16th, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Chandler seeing boom in new apartments, condos
City News

By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

A growing demand for multifamily housing is fueling developers’ plans to add more than 1,000 new apartments and condominium units across Chandler in the near future.

The city Planning and Development Department has been reviewing several housing projects that could substantially increase Chandler’s inventory of affordable and luxurious apartments.

While city officials have generally expressed support for adding more housing options around Chandler, some debates have been sparked over where these new apartment complexes should be located.

The projects range from standard three-level apartment buildings to chic single-story homes designed to be shared by multiple families.

All the developments range in size and scope, yet they are all trying to squeeze into some of the last parcels of available land within the city limits.

Planning Administrator Kevin Mayo said Chandler is simply running out of space to build large, expansive subdivisions like Fulton Ranch — projects that dominated the city’s housing market for several decades.

“Those are going away — they’re few and far between now,” Mayo said.

Some plans already came before City Council earlier this month.

Despite some objections from nearby residents, Council on Nov. 5 approved the Village at College Park project, just south of Elliot and Price roads, that will add 40 housing units building eight single-story cottages

During that same meeting, Council approved plans for a 252-unit apartment complex called Uptown Commons on the corner of Arizona Avenue and Elliot Road.

But at the same meeting, Council on a 4-3 vote rejected the 396-unit Evergreen Chandler that had been proposed for a corner at Arizona Avenue and Germann Road.

The project’s close proximity to the Chandler Airport raised concerns about exposing Evergreen’s future tenants to a deluge of continuous flight traffic.

“The property is not located within an airport noise contour and will experience daily overflights from aircraft in the normal traffic pattern,” Airport Administrator Chris Andre wrote in a memo.   

The Chandler Planning and Zoning Commission also had denied Evergreen’s request to rezone the land, citing its incompatibility with nearby developments.

Rick Heumann, the commission’s chairman, specifically objected to taking land away that would be more appropriate for commercial purposes — something he said has happened before in Chandler and that he wants to discourage.

“We took land use away that will never come back to employment and that’s my heartburn with this particular case,” Heumann said.

Councilmembers Matt Orlando, Jeremy McClymonds, and Sam Huang voted for Evergreen with the hope that it would offer some more affordable housing to Chandler residents.

Despite the Evergreen vote, Mayo said the city has shifted to becoming more strategic by carefully assessing which projects get greenlighted and where they get developed.

That strategy seems focused presently on accommodating the multifamily housing market.    

According to housing data tracked by the city, the construction of multi-family housing units has been outpacing single-family homes in Chandler since 2016.

Before the housing market crashed in 2009, Chandler was completing up to 3,500 new single-family homes per year. But that rate of construction has since dropped to about 500 homes. By contrast, the rate of new apartments and condos in Chandler has been increasing steadily since 2010.   

City officials say the lack of single-family homes and a sudden influx of new jobs have created an environment that has allowed for alternative types of housing to thrive.

“The multifamily market is coming in to fill that gap right now especially because we’re running out of large tracts of land,” said Micah Miranda, the city’s economic development director.

Data show Chandler’s vacancy rate is already low for its current stock of affordable apartments and condos, Miranda added, indicating a strong demand for new developments in the immediate future.

But not everyone in Chandler is thrilled about adding a slew of new multi-family housing projects to the city’s landscape.

“We’re not looking forward to seeing this development come in,” said Wendy Yeager, who lives near the just-approved Village at College Park project site.

College Park developers describe their project as a “unique” housing product unlike any other found around Chandler. Each of the eight cottages would include five housing units — ranging from one-bedroom studios to three-bedroom apartments — and every unit comes with an attached garage.

“The development team for The Village at College Park is confident that the proposed project will be a great addition to the community as it complements the adjacent developments,” developers wrote in city documents.

But neighbors like Yeager are worried College Park’s designs won’t be aesthetically pleasing nor match well with surrounding neighborhoods.

Yeager also is concerned that the development will interfere with the operation of a nearby horse therapy ranch and add too many new residents to an area that’s already congested by the adjacent freeway.

“This is going to be a huge, huge increase in traffic,” she added.

Grocery store clerks and restaurant workers are increasingly at risk of getting priced out of Chandler’s housing market, Orlando said.

“Because of their wages, some of them can’t live here,” Orlando added, “and I think that’s unfair.”

Mayor Kevin Hartke said he could not approve the Evergreen project because it is situated in a part of Chandler he thinks should be saved for commercial uses.

“If this was any place else, I would be very compelled — it is the location that makes me vote ‘no’ on this,” the mayor said.

The Villages at Chandler, a 108-unit complex looking to build near Gilbert and Riggs roads, is another housing project the council is expected to review next month.

The development would consist of several duplexes and triplexes on a 9-acre parcel of land that’s surrounded by housing subdivisions. Described as a “pocket neighborhood,” the Villages is being pitched by its developers as an intimate community where residents can easily become friends due to their closeness to each other.

“The community design will allow for spontaneity, encourage connections, and lay the foundation for lasting friendships,” the project’s plans state.

Some nearby residents have objected to the construction of a multi-family development in a part of Chandler that’s starved for more retail and commercial projects.

“Once this is approved — we’ll never have the opportunity for retail,” said Christie Brown, who lives near the Villages project site.

Deborah Kehl, another neighbor, prefers keeping the Villages’ land zoned commercial so it can host something that can serve all the surrounding communities.

“I want to see what we thought we were going to see when we bought our house a year ago,” Kehl said.

Kehl and her neighbors have started an online petition in an attempt to thwart the city from rezoning the Villages site for housing developments.

As of Nov. 3, more than 1,300 people have signed Kehl’s petition and many of them expressed dissatisfaction with an influx of new residents to their neighborhood.

“I don’t want to have more traffic in this area. More traffic equals more accidents and deaths,” said Anne Martin, one of the residents who signed Kehl’s petition.

Kortney Adelman, another resident, signed the petition because she fears more multi-family housing in this part of Chandler will drive up crime rates.

“We don’t need more apartments in Chandler,” Adelman said. “There are tons of homes being built as it is with tons of rental homes available as well.”

One multifamily project that could benefit residents looking to move into the city’s downtown region is Alta Chandler at the Park, a 293-unit apartment complex that could be built near Alma School Road and Chandler Boulevard.

The site’s owners had originally envisioned developing this site as a 60-acre retail mall full of shops and office buildings.

But the demand for new commercial units in this part of Chandler has dried up in recent years, prompting developers to look for new land uses.

“All of the marketing efforts for additional office development on the site have proven unsuccessful,” city documents state. “The prospects for additional office development on the balance of the site are therefore highly unlikely.”

Developers believe the addition of Alta’s four-story apartment buildings – which come with an onsite dog spa and bike shop – would be a major benefit to the existing businesses located around downtown Chandler.

“Adding a luxury multi-family community in the context of the existing uses would be an enhancement not only to the housing options in the area but would also help support the retail uses in the center,” Alta’s developers wrote in a memo.

Council voted 5-2 earlier this month to approve Alta’s development plans.

Councilman Orlando, who voted against the project, said he had some concerns about Alta’s size.

He described the project’s scope as “intense” and worried the apartment buildings would be too close to other developments.    

“I wish it was a little bit smaller – like three stories – I think that would be a little bit more manageable,” Orlando said.

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