Monday, January 3, 2011

Costco at the Bridges and the U of A Biopark A Big Step Closer to Reality!

Thanks to the initial work of  Vice Mayor Richard Fimbres, his staff at the Ward 5 City Council Office, both the Costco at the Bridges Project as well as the University of Arizona Biopark are another big step to becoming a reality for Ward 5, Tucson and Southern Arizona.  In the Sunday edition, business section, of the Arizona Daily Star, this construction projects were featured in an article.  It was the agreement reached for the Bridges, thanks to the negotiating skills and the IGA's approved, thanks to Vice Mayor Richard Fimbres.  What follows is the article.

Tucson's newest Costco will soon start to rise out of the dirt near Kino Parkway and Interstate 10.
The wholesale retailer will anchor a roughly 114-acre shopping center called Tucson Marketplace at the Bridges, which will make up the retail component of a mixed-use development that includes the University of Arizona's planned Bioscience Park.
The shopping center's developers - Retail West Properties LLC, Eastbourne Investments LLC and Genesis Tucson LLC - finished infrastructure improvements and turned the property over to Costco Wholesale Corp. at the beginning of December.
Costco is now aiming for a spring opening, at the end of March or early April, said Mike Dobrota, vice president of Northwest Atlantic, Costco's real estate arm. That means the store could start hiring as soon as February, Dobrota said. It will have about 200 employees.
Costco bought the land for $6.6 million in May, according to sales documents filed with the Pima County Recorder's Office.
There's been little talk about what other tenants will occupy the rest of the roughly 1 million square feet of retail space proposed for shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. But those involved with the project say the arrival of a powerful retailer like Costco will add a strong incentive for other businesses.
The retail center is part of a larger 350-acre project called The Bridges, which is planned to include 700 homes built by KB Home and Lennar and to feature the UA's 3-million-square-foot Bio Park as its centerpiece.
The entire project is bounded by East 36th Street on the north, South Park Avenue on the west, Interstate 10 on the south and South Kino Parkway on the east.
Proponents have grand plans for the Bio Park. A website that describes the overall vision of The Bridges says the park is "destined to solidify Tucson's role as a leader in the global life sciences arena."
But, thus far, notably absent are firm commitments from any science or technology companies to locate at the Bio Park.
"We are in conversations with several prospective tenants," said Bruce Wright, the UA's associate vice president of research parks. "But there are no signed leases."
Wright has told the Star about three potential tenants who have eyed the park for at least the past year.
The park is negotiating with a developer of housing for graduate students who's working on getting loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Wright said he couldn't yet name the developer.
The two other prospective tenants - which also haven't been identified - are health-care providers. One, from the Northeast, is interested in creating a research center for rehabilitative medicine. Another might put administrative support at the park, Wright said.
Once the needed roads and utilities are in place, Wright said he and other representatives will be able to more aggressively market the Bio Park. There are plans to publicize the park, nationally and internationally. That includes, Wright said, a trip to Israel to talk with companies there.
"Our first priority has been to get the infrastructure in and get the park development ready," Wright said.
From there, those making the pitch will tout the park's proximity to downtown, its quick access to the UA and its convenient location along I-10.
But given the slow growth of the economy, Tucsonans will have to wait a bit to see if the city's south side will truly emerge as a bioscience hub. It even faces some competition locally as Oro Valley has already established a healthy bioscience cluster.