Glendale faces a fairly unique issue in the West Valley — it’s getting closer to running out of space. (Wochit)

The city is attempting to strike a healthy balance between commercial and housing developments.

Glendale faces a fairly unique issue in the West Valley — it’s getting closer to running out of space.

The region’s largest city just approved two new housing projects that will fill in more developed areas, and it has open space along two major freeways, but it has no where near the undeveloped land of nearby Surprise or Buckeye.

So far, Glendale has annexed 56 of the 92 square-miles within its planning area.

Although the city could annex the remaining unincorporated land — or a fraction of it — it’s been selective as doing so could stretch public resources such as police, fire and utilities. To compare, Surprise is about 108 square-miles with a 303 square-mile planning area. Buckeye’s geographic size dwarfs both with 392 square-miles of annexed land and 592 square-miles within its planning area.

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Glendale still has some room to grow, largely west of Loop 101 and marching west to Loop 303, and with infill projects within the city’s core. Glendale City Planner Jon Froke estimated 17 square-miles within the city’s boundaries remain vacant. But city leaders must give careful consideration to make the most of each new development, weighing the mix of new homes and new employers.

“We have to really understand that being a high-quality, respected community has nothing to do with the size — the population base,” City Manager Kevin Phelps said.

“Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to continue to grow — it means we need discipline in our growth so that whatever we do does not take away from our goal to continue to offer quality services to our citizens that are already here,” He continued.

Freeways to opportunity

Undeveloped strips of land alongside Loops 101 and 303 are ripe with potential as homes, office space, industrial parks, restaurants — all which benefit from freeway access, city staff said.

The east side of Loop 101 boomed in the early 2000s with the sports and entertainment district, but plans for growth on the freeway’s west side cratered in the Great Recession and has only more recently begun again. A St. Joseph’s Westgate medical office was recently built near Glendale Avenue.

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Kristen Stephenson, a Glendale economic development officer, said the city would like to see more high-end office space and restaurants where employees could dine. Staff say Glendale’s vacancy rate — or the percentage of office buildings available for lease — has dropped from more than 27 percent in 2013 to 20 percent today. City staff believe higher demand for office space will continue, leading to additional construction.

Although further west than Glendale proper, the city’s planning area extends from Camelback Road to Peoria Aveue, along the newly completed Loop 303.

Froke said nearby Luke Air Force Base would impact development there because of jet noise, leading to more industrial and commercial uses.

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North on the 303, further from the base, that could be relaxed and include such developments as homes or hotels.

Maricopa Association of Governments projects that total population along the 303 will increase from 41,869 in 2015 to 64,841 by 2050. MAG expects total employment in the area to see the highest increase, climbing from 13,184 in 2015 to 51,196 in 2050.

More homes on the way

The Maricopa Association of Governments projects Glendale will have a population of 241,100 this year, and expects an additional 21,500 residents in the next 10 years, taking it to 262,600.

Phelps said the city must strike a healthy balance between commercial and housing. Although some people value cities by their population, the revenue from new homes often doesn’t cover the added expenses for services such as police and parks, he said.

“We’ve got a great park system in terms of our physical layout of all of our parks,” Phelps said.”You know, we have parks in virtually every one-mile quarter section in the built-out area of Glendale. Unfortunately, I think most people would agree that we don’t have enough money in our operating budget right now to fully program and maintain those parks to the level that we all would like to see them at.”

Still, the general plan to guide growth that Glendale voters approved last year forecasts roughly 60 percent of the city’s future development will be residential. Phelps said the city would eventually revisit that figure  and consider whether it would be wiser to push more for employment generators.

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“But I think that that’ll be something that, as a city, we really need to sit down and to be a little bit more thoughtful for — especially as we get west of Glendale Airport.” Phelps said.

The airport on Glendale Avenue is just west of Loop 101.

That said, several housing projects are underway. The Glendale City Council approved two residential projects earlier this month. Alice Park, located at 8348 North 61st Ave, will add 187 homes over 38 acres of land. The second residential development, Deer Valley Villas, will have 18 homes within 4.2 acres on 18800 North 51st Ave.

Both projects pale in comparison to StoneHaven, a 383-acre subdivision south of Westgate, where over 1,100 homes are expected to be built. Froke said the city’s negotiating with the developer, John F. Long Properties, which requested adding a couple hundred lots to the subdivision. The Planning Commission will likely vote on a recommendation in May, with Council ultimately deciding the project’s fate in June, according to Froke.

Filling in the vacant space

While land along the two major freeways offers a range of possibilities, city staff says filling in the pockets of vacant lots and buildings is a priority.

Phelps said he and other city staff are thinking of ways to incentivize development on parcels of land that have been vacant for quite some time. Phelps offered a couple reasons why these “infill projects” are a priority:

  • Unlike undeveloped land on the city’s outskirts, many of the vacancies within Glendale have easy access to vital infrastructure. Power and sewer lines are already in place. Police and fire substations ensure response times are adequate. The resources are available, but vacant lots mean they’re under-utilized.
  • Large, vacant lots tarnish an otherwise developed city’s aesthetic. Phelps said successful businesses could line a street, but it only takes a weed-ridden, dust-covered building to ruin the area’s look and feel.

One such project is Glendale’s downtown area, which suffered business closures during the recession. The city discussed transforming its downtown into an entertainment district, which would allow businesses to bypass a state law that prevents alcohol being served within 300 of a school or church. Council should weigh in on that designation soon, although no date has been set.

The city also is looking to contract with downtown manager who would advocate on behalf of downtown businesses about development and other issues.

How will we grow?

Growth depends on market forces, but here’s a look at West Valley city population estimates for 2050 based on city land-use plans:

  • Buckeye: 488,000.
  • Surprise: 452,300.
  • Glendale: 343,800.
  • Peoria: 342,600.
  • Goodyear: 293,100.?

?Here’s a look at employment estimates for 2050 based on city land-use plans:

  • Glendale: 206,900.
  • Buckeye: 143,600.
  • Surprise: 120,300.?
  • Peoria: 118,000.
  • Goodyear: 104,600.

Source: Maricopa Association of Governments.

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