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Peoria Looking To Build Up Entertainment District

(Courtesy of City of Peoria)
A rendering of what the P83 Entertainment District could eventually look like.

Peoria residents will have a chance on Monday to weigh in on proposed development in the city’s P83 entertainment district, at 83rd Avenue and Bell. The first phase, mainly streetscape and pedestrian improvements, is expected to start this summer.

Scott Whyte, Director of Peoria’s Economic Development Services Department, and says the area already has a lot going for it – including the Peoria Sports Complex, movie theaters, restaurants and Arizona Broadway Theater – not to mention the people who live nearby.

"The Bell Road corridor has a phenomenal demographic, economic demographic, in terms of household income, discretionary income levels and households with incomes above $100,000," Whyte said. "That’s why you see the whole stretch of retail that stretches from Loop 101 all the way eastward."         

I’ve met Whyte in the parking lot of the sports complex. With our backs to the ticket window, we see 17 acres of blacktop and white lines. But Whyte sees potential.

"If you were to just visually imagine looking across this surface parking lot, to my right would be a six-story parking structure," he said.

Maybe not the most exciting thing, but Whyte says it’ll be needed because the development will consume most of the existing parking spots.

In fact, that garage, and another smaller one, represent Peoria’s contributions to the project. Whyte says the city will spend no more than $30 million on them.

He envisions specialty retail, entertainment, a boutique hotel with a rooftop bar and restaurants to add to what’s already there. The plan also envisions a pedestrian concourse, to connect the area near the stadium to the existing shopping, dining and entertainment.

Whyte says the P83 district is successful, but could be ten times more successful.

"I think this type of new investment, public and private, in the entertainment district, sends a message not only to Peoria, but the West Valley and the Valley as a whole,  that we do view this as important," Whyte said.

He said right now the entertainment and auto district comprise about 50 percent of the city's general fund.

Whyte says part of the project will also include more branding of the P83 area. He says people sometimes think they’re in Glendale, since the city line isn’t far away. He wants to avoid that confusion, and generally any comparison to development projects around sports venues in that city.

"When we first looked at this opportunity, we knew we had to approach this a different way. And it is a different execution, because we already have a successful, vibrant entertainment district, with very successful anchor tenants. So, we’re not building new out of a cotton field, we’re taking a real, successful area, and we’re looking to add it to the next level. So, that’s one," Whyte said.

"Two, what we’re not looking to do is just add something that has a lot of community use during game day, but that has something to offer every day. The other difference is we’re not looking to build our parking structures for this project until we know that the tenants have executed leases, that the construction financing is 100 percent assembled, that the equity financing needed for this project is 100 percent assembled, and that the city has approved of the retail developer – we have approval rights on that," Whyte said. "So, we kept enough rights in the development agreement to make sure that we know what we’re getting, when we’re getting it, and are we getting what we want."

Whyte also said the types of shops, restaurants, other entertainment at P83 be vastly different from what's in the Glendale Westgate area.

"We’ve never, from day one, sought to compete with Westgate. Nor have we sought to compete with Arrowhead Town Center. What we’re looking for is really experience-based," he said.

Whyte said if everything goes exactly as planned, the entire project could be done by the summer of 2016. If not, the following summer.

Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.