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Publication: East Valley Tribune; Date: 06/17/2004

Mesa rejects development plan
Golf course-based business, retail center on hold


As Mesa has been trying for years to attract higher-paying jobs to the city, developer Bob McNichols has been trying for years to build a business and retail center around a Mesa golf course.

But progress on the Longbow Business Park, which could bring 7,000 jobs and long-sought shopping and entertainment options to the city?s northeast side, is on hold after the city rejected a major site plan that must be in place before McNichols can begin applying for building permits.

McNichols said he hasn?t lost any potential occupants to the delay, because "we?re being very cautious not to offer the property on the open market when we don?t know what we?re offering."

This spring, the Mesa Planning Department rejected a plan for a 330-acre development at McDowell and Higley roads. McNichols already has partially relocated the Longbow Golf Course so he could use its frontage to attract offices and light manufacturing. Along the northern edge, a section of the Loop 202 is scheduled to open to traffic in 2005.

Earlier this year, McNichols? Daedalus Real Estate Advisors unveiled the plan at two public meetings to which he invited property owners from a three-mile radius, rather than the 300-foot radius required by the city.

He said reaction from the roughly 60 people who attended the meetings was positive, especially to the retail components which he said could draw movie theaters, high-end grocers and bookstores.

"It got the most attention because it was what people wanted the most," he said, pointing to the results of an survey he conducted through a Web site, www.northmesafuture.org.

But in April, city planning staff rejected the application as being incomplete. Principal planner Dorothy Chimel said that "is very common. I would say 99 percent of the time we ask for a resubmittal to staff in order to bring in a complete project."

She also said that in some regards the application was actually too complete with information about utility infrastructure and other aspects the planning department doesn?t handle.

McNichols said he?s still committed to the project, and will probably resubmit master plans for smaller chunks of the overall development as future tenants come on-board. But this approach could give him and the city less control over the end result, he said.

"They want us to bring individual projects as they can be specifically addressed, but that exposes the project to more uncertainties than ever," he said.

Scott Kirchhofer/TRIBUNE

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