Six high-rise towers may soon replace a long-vacant plot of land at the northeast corner of Indian School Road and Central Avenue in Phoenix — a project that supporters call a first of its kind in Arizona.
The planned development, dubbed “The Central Park,” calls for more than 2 million square feet of development on the 15-acre lot that borders Steele Indian School Park. It will feature apartments, condominiums, office space, a retirement community and 170,000 square feet of retail.
A Phoenix-based developer, Pivotal Group, purchased the land a few years ago and plans to build public walking pathways surrounding the buildings to connect the community to Steele Indian School Park, which is currently hidden from the intersection.
The Phoenix City Council approved zoning changes in early July that will allow Pivotal Group to move forward with the project. Zoning attorney Jason Morris said the developer hopes to begin construction within 24 months.
“It’s going to rival anything we have in the state of Arizona,” Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio said at a July 3 council meeting.
What $1 billion in investment could bring
Morris said Pivotal Group’s project will include just shy of $1 billion in development when completed.
The six towers, ranging from 165 feet to 355 feet tall, will house the following:
- 250 market-rate apartments.
- 150 condominiums.
- 200 senior-housing units.
- 760,000 square feet of commercial office space, split between two towers.
- 200-room hotel.
The project will also include parking garages and retail on the buildings’ ground floors. Preliminary plans call for a grocery store and movie theater.
In addition to the public walkway that would connect to Steele Indian School Park, the project calls for three outdoor public plazas that could host events like concerts, farmers markets, art shows, outdoor galas and fashion shows.
Land has long history
The land, on a prominent corner next to the light rail, has never seen development — in part because of its complicated ownership history.
The federal government acquired 190 acres of land at what is now Indian School Road and Central Avenue, including this piece of property, in the 1800s.
It was used as the Phoenix Indian School, which from 1891 to 1990 housed and educated Native American children — initially by forced removal from their reservations.
The federal government closed the school in 1990 but maintained ownership of the land.
In 1996, the feds wanted 100,000 acres of environmentally-sensitive land in Florida the Baron Collier Company owned. The federal government orchestrated a trade — the Indian School property for the Florida land.
But Phoenix interjected, saying it wanted to build a park on the land. The city then worked out a deal to trade the Indian School land for two city-owned pieces of property in downtown Phoenix — the land where the Collier Center stands now and the land where Block 23 is under construction.
However, the Baron Collier Company maintained ownership of the 15-acre sliver on Central Avenue and Indian School Road until a few years ago when the federal government took it back in a legal dispute and auctioned it off to Pivotal Group.
Morris said Pivotal Group decided to take the premiere piece of property and do something very different from most recent projects in downtown and midtown Phoenix.
“They came up with a completely ambitious, innovative, really self-contained, multi-use gateway to the park,” he said.
‘A catalyst and a linchpin’
Morris said there’s been a “hiatus” in development in midtown. He said he believes this project will spur other development in the area and connect midtown to booming downtown and uptown Phoenix.
“It’s both a catalyst and a linchpin,” he said.
Local community leaders agreed.
Rebecca Wininger, who sits on Phoenix’s Encanto Village Planning Committee, told the council that the project could be a game-changer for midtown.
“I think this has the ability to be an architectural anchor for Phoenix not just in the years to come, but perhaps the decades,” she said.
Margaret Dietrich of the Midtown Neighborhood Association said midtown has seen significant investment at the former Park Central Mall, but the area is ready to take “the next step.”
“This project is way beyond a little step,” she said.
The Phoenix City Council voted unanimously to approve the zoning changes to allow “The Central Park” to move forward.
“From my perspective this is an enormously exciting project,” Mayor Kate Gallego said.
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