These 3 outdoor malls are under construction across metro Phoenix, with 2 more planned
The owner of Desert Ridge Marketplace and Tempe Marketplace is betting that large-scale retail isn’t dead, it has just moved outdoors.
Phoenix-based Vestar has three open-air shopping centers under construction around theValley, with two large-scale centers, planned to be similar to their flagship properties, in the works.
“For the first time in 10 years, we have three projects under construction and two to four in pre-development, breaking ground in the next three or so years,” said Jeff Axtell, executive vice president for Vestar.
During the past 10 years, over 1 million people have moved to the Phoenix area with almost no significant new retail development, he said. Retailers have looked to Phoenix for new store locations, unlike many markets across the country.
What’s under construction in metro Phoenix
The new centers under construction are in suburban areas, with two in Queen Creek and one in Peoria.
The first in Queen Creek, called Queen Creek Crossing, already has some stores open, including a much-anticipated Costco , which opened in January. Other stores at the center will include:
- Hobby Lobby
- Ashley Furniture
- Black Rifle Coffee
- Desert Financial Credit Union
The center will total about 295,000 square feet near Ellsworth Road and Fulton Parkway,and the remaining shops are expected to open by the end of 2023.
Vineyard Towne Center, which is under construction near Gantzel and Combs roads inQueen Creek, will include:
- Ono Hawaiian BBQ
- Nekter Juice Bar
- Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shop
- Couture Nail Bar
- Pacific Dental
The Sprouts store is planned to open in June, and the Target is expected to open in late 2024or early 2025, along with the rest of the center, Axtell said.
The third development under construction is an addition to the Shops at Lake Pleasant inPeoria. The addition is scheduled to be completed in spring 2024.
Shops will include:
- In-N-Out Burger
- Raising Cane’s
- Handel’s Ice Cream
- Over Easy
- European Wax
- Honor Health
- Christian Brothers Automotive
Two larger projects planned in Laveen, Verrado
Vestar also is planning larger centers, with offerings similar to Tempe Marketplace andDesert Ridge Marketplace, Axtell said. Both centers will have less than half the footprint ofDesert Ridge, which totals 1.2 million square feet.
One center is slated for the south Phoenix area of Laveen and the other in Buckeye’s Verrado development.
Laveen Towne Center near 59th Avenue and Dobbins Road will include about 400,000square feet of buildings. The site previously was a farm and has an old farmhouse and haybarn still standing, which will convert into a wine bar or restaurant, Axtell said.
Vestar has not announced tenants at the center, but Axtell said a large department store will serve as an anchor, along with a movie theater and various other shops and restaurants. The center is expected to open in spring 2026.
In Buckeye, Verrado Marketplace is planned to open in fall 2025, and will bring about500,000 square feet of shops and restaurants to the northeast corner of Verrado Way andInterstate 10. That development, Axtell said, will be “a smaller version of Desert Ridge,” with similar stores and amenities.
Seeking more sites in Pinal County, East Valley and Phoenix
Beyond the developments Vestar has announced or started building, the company continues to seek new locations for even more development, Axtell said.
Vestar is looking at sites around the metro area but would like to do a big project in Maricopa and is looking at north Phoenix near the Taiwan Semiconductor ManufacturingCo. plant. Vestar also is seeking sites in the East Valley like Mesa and even more in QueenCreek.
Surviving as retail evolves, with alcohol to go
While retail consumption habits have changed, leading to major changes in how brick-and-mortar stores operate, Axtell said Vestar’s large properties in Arizona have seen both visitor numbers and sales increase.
Year-over-year sales at Tempe Marketplace increased 34% in 2022 compared with 2021, and sales at Desert Ridge Marketplace increased 12% in the same period. In the first quarter of2023, sales and visitor counts at both properties were up by over 20% over the same period in 2022, Axtell said.
“Both Desert Ridge and Tempe Marketplace have undergone significant remodeling and refreshing in their main spaces,” Axtell said. “They are brand new, fresh and fun-looking.”
Each property hosts about 300 events per year, he said, like outdoor yoga or live music,which could not happen at a traditional, enclosed mall.
“Retail changes, and if you don’t change, you’ll fall behind,” Axtell said.
Both malls have a “sip and stroll” program, which allows patrons to buy an alcohol drinkfrom a bar or restaurant at the mall and take it with them while walking around the commonareas. The law allowing the program took effect in January, Rachel Forman, vice president ofmarketing for Vestar, said.
The centers are likely the only ones in the country with a program specific to shoppingcenters, and are the first in Arizona to take advantage of the change in the law. Some states and cities allow open containers in public or in certain spaces.