SKYE TEMPE Mixed-Use Development Approved by Tempe City Council
By Isabelle Marceles, ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism
Tempe City Council approved a new 27-story mixed-use development northeast of Mill and University at their Sept. 7 meeting, reflecting the General Plan 2040 that pushed for a higher-density downtown and a more diverse population beyond college students.
The development plan for SKYE TEMPE included 281 market-rate units consisting of primarily studio, one, and two-bedroom apartments, according to Nick Wood, a partner of Snell & Wilmer Law.
This is just one of several mixed-use developments that the council introduced or adopted during the meeting.
The council is planning for a downtown Tempe that relies on alternative modes of transportation and draws in a wealthier crowd of residents. These mixed-use developments are meant to operate like urban hubs that allow people to live, work, and relax all within a short distance, according to the General Plan 2040 policy outline.
“This is going to make the downtown area even more unique,” Councilmember Joel Navarro said.
General Plan 2040 stated that new Tempe residents were choosing to live in areas close to employment, transit options, eateries, and shopping.
Councilmember Randy Keating said that these higher-end developments will help encourage young professionals to remain in Tempe after graduating college, something the council wanted.
He stated that business professionals and families with more expendable income will be a “huge economic driver” for the city.
However, multiple councilmembers said that mixed-use developments pose an overcrowding issue with an influx of people and their need to travel throughout the city on already busy streets.
As these developments were meant to create a higher density of people living within the downtown area, traffic control and parking became a primary concern for council members Arlene Chin and Doreen Garlid, who both pushed to remove parking spaces within multiple buildings.
“We need some way to say, ‘We’re right next to the light rail,’” Garlid said. She stated that the removal of parking would also allow developers to lower some of the height of the buildings.
The introduction of these developments was meant to encourage residents to rely on alternative modes of transportation, reducing the number of personal vehicles in the downtown area, according to the plan.
With that in mind, the council members did not see the need for so many available parking spaces.
“This is exactly what we need to take advantage of this setting,” Trevor Barger, the chief revenue officer of the developing company ZenniHome, said while emphasizing the proximity of the streetcar and light rail.
“I have no issue with height or density,” Chin said. “Especially in our urban core.” Instead, she mentioned the dangerousness of increased traffic that comes with density and how such tall buildings could block ongoing solar panel projects.
“Just because we can build it that height doesn’t mean that we have to,” she said.
City Council is expected to vote on the development plan reviews of three more mixed-use developments at their next meeting on Sept. 28.
The meeting will be held at the City Council Chambers at 6 p.m.