Marina Heights changing Tempe’s economy, skyline

Dianna M. Náñez, The Republic | azcentral.com7:03 a.m. MST May 22, 2014

It has the makings of a blockbuster urban-development story: a 20-acre parking lot in Tempe transformed into the largest office development in Arizona history.

The sky-high cranes that tower over the $600 million Marina Heights project, just north of Sun Devil Stadium at Tempe Town Lake, are a spectacle for passers-by.

Only a year ago, the area was mostly vacant land, housing Arizona State University’s Parking Lot 59, known more fondly as the cheapest parking on campus. The lot would fill with hundreds of cars belonging to students who couldn’t afford the covered, closer-to-campus parking, so they put up with the long walk to class and the stifling heat.

Now, there are 300 construction workers on site building 2 million square feet of development, including 40,000 to 60,000 square feet of retail. By the time construction starts on all five buildings, there will be an estimated 1,500 workers on the project, which is being developed by Ryan Companies and Sunbelt Holdings of Scottsdale.

Last week, Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell and four City Council members toured the site. Most of the city leaders grew up in Tempe and attended ASU. Although they are familiar with the project, and how it is changing the landscape, the skyline and the economy in Tempe, they shook their heads at the scope of development underway in their backyard.

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