The PHX East Valley region of Arizona continues to experience significant growth fueled by emerging local business and national corporate relocations. Much of the region’s success is attributed to the investment in infrastructure and the accompanying development.
Shea Joachim, senior economic development project manager with the City of Mesa, says the PHX East Valley distinguishes itself from other U.S. regions with its efficient highway infrastructure. Arizona’s major metropolitan destinations are conveniently connected and downtown Phoenix’s business epicenter is a short freeway drive from PHX East Valley cities.
“Transportation is an economic driver, especially in Mesa,” said Joachim. “What really distinguishes the PHX East Valley is how it’s investing in the light rail and the opportunities that come with predictable mass transit.”
The City of Mesa has invested in the extension of Phoenix’s Valley Metro light rail system into downtown Mesa and beyond. With mass transit comes the opportunity for transit-oriented development (TOD), boosting new jobs, housing, shops, restaurants and entertainment.
Mesa’s revitalization will also attract new businesses to locate downtown to take advantage of the accessibility and fresh new appeal of the area. Arizona State University recently announced plans to explore the idea of adding a satellite campus in downtown Mesa. The light rail currently runs alongside ASU’s main campus in Tempe and is used by thousands of students.
Public transportation is attractive to Millennials. A recent poll showed 80 percent of those surveyed consider access to public transportation to be very important. Millennials, the largest generation in the U.S., are less interested in owning a car and want to live within walking distance of the things they need.
“The advent of the light rail will transform downtown Mesa into a more walkable and vibrant community for residents and visitors alike,” said Bill Jabjiniak, City of Mesa economic development director.
Developments along the Valley Metro light rail are “dorm-like,” added Joachim. “Students going to ASU’s Tempe campus now have convenient access to the light rail in Mesa, which can be appealing for people who aren’t interested in living on campus or who want to settle down soon after college. Mesa is a great place to raise a family.”
Since the light rail’s expansion, Mesa’s monthly ridership nearly doubled. According to Mesa Mayor John Giles, Mesa businesses have since added more than 8,000 jobs to the local economy.
The largest office project in Arizona’s history, State Farm’s $600 million regional headquarters in Marina Heights, runs along Tempe Town Lake in the PHX East Valley. The 20-acre, 2 million-square-foot mixed-use project will house up to 10,000 employees and serve as a model for development in other parts of the Valley. Tempe’s public transportation network played a major role in State Farm’s decision to build its massive regional headquarters in the city, planned as one of four main State Farm office hubs across the U.S.
Innovation and robust infrastructure are driving emerging business and helping to revive recovering sectors, like Mesa’s Fiesta District where new employment plazas have taken over vacated retail stores. Real estate near light rail stations has been changing hands throughout the Valley and home prices are rising.
Another 37 miles of light rail transit corridors have already been identified in the Valley, while PHX East Valley city governments are underway with talks for extending the Mesa line into Gilbert and progressing on schedule for 2018 service.