New Square phase one nears completion The Chandler Arizonan

New Square phase one nears completion

New Square phase one nears completion
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By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

The first phase of Chandler’s New Square development is nearing its completion, but developers will have to wait to celebrate this milestone.

Built upon a 4.7-acre lot near Arizona Avenue and Chicago Street, the New Square project features a collection of modern buildings capable of housing several new businesses.

A steakhouse, honky-tonk bar and Hilton Hotel are some of the tenants already committed to occupy sections of New Square and more are still in negotiations with the project’s developers.

City leaders were planning to hold a ceremony on March 25 to commemorate the project’s progression, but the coronavirus pandemic forced its postponement to a later date.

But New Square’s developers are still excited about what this project will bring to the city.

Spike Lawrence, one of those developers, said he wants New Square to have a fun, festive vibe further enhancing the growing vibrancy of downtown Chandler.

“I want it to be a gathering place, just another reason to come to downtown Chandler – to shop, to work, to play,” Lawrence said.

Aside from retail, the new project will offer a courtyard area hosting live entertainment throughout the year.

Downtown Chandler has already become a magnet for local musicians and artists, Lawrence said, so the developers wanted to provide another venue where visitors can be entertained.

The completion of New Square marks another addition to the regional redevelopment taking place in downtown Chandler over the last few years.

At the start of this century, downtown Chandler was known more for its vacant lots and empty buildings before city planners tried sprucing it up by redeveloping the region as an entertainment district.

When the Overstreet Chandler project broke ground in 2017 on the corner of Chandler Boulevard and Arizona Avenue, city officials described it as a “game-changer” for re-energizing this area of Chandler.

Overstreet’s attracted a movie theatre, several upscale restaurants, and plenty of office tenants. Now, the arrival of New Square further expands this multi-use concept by offering a hospitality component.

The inclusion of a 110-room Hilton Garden Inn within the New Square site provides one of the few large-scale hotels in this part of Chandler.

A new hotel hasn’t been constructed in the downtown region since the historic San Marcos Resort first opened more than a century ago.

Job growth is off the charts in Chandler, Lawrence said, so there’s going to be demand for more hotels to accommodate all the business travelers coming to the city.

HCW, a real estate development company, helped Lawrence to bring the Hilton Inn to downtown Chandler.   

“When we were approached by Spike Lawrence ventures to develop the Downtown Chandler Hilton Garden and New Square office park and retail buildings,” said HCW President Rick Huffman, “we recognized the tremendous growth and the redevelopment of downtown made a great location for new rooms in the area.”

Some of New Square’s other confirmed tenants include Great Western Bank, WellSky, DC Steak House and The Stillery.

The Stillery, a country-western concept owned by a Chandler couple who have two restaurants by the name in Nashville, Tennessee, is their first outside of the city.

DC Steak House is relocating from a few blocks away and owners Dean and Lorie LaPlant were scheduled to open a much larger venue on March 27. It’s unclear if the date has been delayed given the virus crisis.

In 2017, the city put out a request for proposals to develop a piece of vacant land down the street from City Hall. Lawrence and his partners had their proposal picked from a pool of at least three submissions.

The entertainment aspect of their proposal likely made it more appealing to the city, Lawrence said, since everybody’s looking for innovative ways to get people out of their homes and into businesses.

“You’ve got to be creative and create a destination for people,” Lawrence said.

The city and Lawrence entered into an agreement in 2018, allowing him to buy the property for $6.50 per square foot. As part of the deal, the city agreed to build a new parking garage along Oregon Street.

The city spent up to $1.5 million designing and building the 293,000-square-foot, five-level garage and finished the project last October.

Lawrence, a Chandler resident, has a long history of developing projects around the East Valley. He’s been buying up properties since graduating from Arizona State University and has played a part in designing Chandler’s modern retail aesthetic.

His firm was responsible for completing the Downtown Ocotillo development near Queen Creek and Dobson roads in 2015, which is home to several trendy restaurants and salons.

Phase two of the New Square project will include a six-story building at the southwest corner of Chicago Street and Arizona Avenue. Lawrence said the building will be home to a variety of tenants and construction should start later this year.

There’s so much energy pulsating around downtown Chandler, Lawrence added, and New Square will hopefully enhance this energy.

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