The Oro Valley Marketplace, a once-envisioned community hub for the town, has coped with vacant storefronts for years. Now, the development’s luck may be changing.
Town West, a local real estate and development firm, purchased the 100-acre property two weeks ago from former owner Vestar.
According to the marketplace’s website, there are 51 vacant storefronts, with just 22 occupied by retailers and restaurants like Best Buy, Walmart, Olive Garden and In-N-Out Burger.
The company expects new tenants to roll in because of their preliminary plans to turn the marketplace into a mixed-use development that will accommodate more than just retail.
“We don’t have definitive plans, but we would like to develop a residential or multi-family component and a hospitality component and we are interested in exploring the possibility of a lifestyle entertainment center,” said Jim Horvath, chairman and founder of Town West. “That might include some community functions like an outdoor amphitheater or maybe a park.”
JJ Johnston, the Town of Oro Valley’s Community and Economic Development Director, said the town government is very interested in working with Town West on a smooth transition of the property. He points to the town council’s Strategic Leadership Plan, which has an objective to “attract and retain investment” within the Oro Valley Marketplace.
“We’ve expressed our strong collective interest in partnering with them to increase the development’s success, and obviously all of their proposals will need to go through the Planning and Zoning commission and town council so we’ll be working with the developer to set up meetings as they advance those proposals,” Johnston said.
He believes the “blended use” will bring new traffic to the marketplace, and while it’s still early in the process, the town government has an internal team of staff working with Town West to vet opportunities and present them to neighbors, the town’s Planning and Zoning commission and eventually the town council.
The Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce has also been in conversations with Town West to provide information about the surrounding area and make connections with local stakeholders.
“I am so pleased to see local ownership of shopping centers,” said chamber president and CEO Dave Perry. “I think it helps to have people who know the community and care about it, people who understand the market, and who are invested here and want to see this place prosper.”
Perry believes the new vision for a live-work-play environment at the marketplace is a “natural progression” and will fit well with other developments nearby, such as the Oro Valley Innovation Labs and the upcoming University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine campus building.
He said the marketplace’s current tenants, many of whom are chamber members, have expressed excitement about Town West’s arrival and the possibilities that are ahead.
“We keep on hearing how shopping centers are dying and retail is dying, and I don’t subscribe to that specifically, but it’s good for business and it’s good for retail when they see a company of national standing saying ‘That looks like a good place to do business, we’re going to put down some roots there,’” Perry said, referencing Ashley HomeStore.
Horvath and the Town West team believe the marketplace is an “attractive center,” and while it sits at the intersection of major transportation corridors Oracle Road and Tangerine Road to Interstate 10, they’re also interested in seeing how the center can operate as a pedestrian-friendly enterprise.
“Bringing people closer, less driving, being able to walk and bike and enjoy the convenience of a variety of uses in the facility rather than just apartment complexes where you have to get in your car and drive to a restaurant,” Horvath said.
Town West is currently working with several potential tenants and hopes to cut the vacancy substantially. Horvath even mentioned the potential for building additional space for restaurants as time goes on and residential buildings come online.
Any definitive plans made by Town West will have to go through neighborhood meetings and be approved by a majority of the seven-member town council.
“We can’t do the same thing in that center anymore, we have to do something different, and we all have to be open-minded about it,” Perry said.
“We’re impressed by their enthusiasm and the positive energy they’re bringing,” Johnston said of Town West. “It’s a step in the right direction. It beats having an empty building, that’s for sure.”