Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Town West Unveils Plan To Get The Oro Valley Village Center Going...Eliminates Risk To Town

Plan requires a "scaled down" entertainment center
Last night, the owner of the Oro Valley Marketplace, Town West, unveiled a plan to allow them to begin transforming the Oro Valley Marketplace into the Oro Valley Village Center. That transformation includes construction of one hotel and two apartment complexes. The plan hinges on the Town Council granting approval for a modification in the development of the Entertainment Center.

Town West plans to create a downsized version of the entertainment center in what they call “Phase 1” [See panel right] such they it can meet recreational space prerequisites for the already approved apartment buildings. They collaborated with town staff to devise this proposal and the Town Staff has recommended its approval.

Change needed because Town Council rejected EDA
The requested change stems from the Town of Oro Valley's Council refusal to assume responsibility for undergrounding the wash that runs through the entertainment center area. According to the Town West, that cost would have been paid by the construction sales taxes that the town will earn from the project. The Town Council was repeatedly informed that the complete entertainment center couldn't be constructed without the town participating in what Town West refers to as a "private:public" partnership.

The town staff with the assistance of Town Outside Attorney Jonathan Rothschild had previously negotiated a deal with the developer under the direction of former town manager Mary Jacobs, but the Town Council rejected it in an executive session earlier in the summer. Keri Silvyn of Lazarus and Silvyn PC, representing Town West, stated, "We were informed over the summer that the Town Council was not interested in an EDA." As a result, they collaborated with staff to develop an alternative plan for the entertainment center, allowing them to proceed with construction. 

Phased approach eliminates financial risk to town
The phased approach to building the entertainment center eliminates the risk to the town presented by the original plan. Town West will build the two apartment complexes and a hotel without any Town involvement. If, after that, the town sees success in the project, the council can decide if it wants to underground the wash to accommodate the addition of another hotel and food court-type concepts in the entertainment district.

Phased approach in no way changes council mandated stipulations
The Town Council made twenty-three stipulations for the construction of the facilities in the Oro Valley Village Center when it approved the project last year. The proposed phased approach to building the entertainment center in no way impacts any of those stipulations. Thus, the project will be built in exactly the manner the town approved.

Center is simply not viable as it is
James Horvath, Managing Partner of Town West, expressed deep concerns about the viability of the center in its current state. He said that most businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Only Olive Garden is performing adequately, while the rest of the businesses are facing difficulties. The owner of Tuk Tuk Thai, an Oro Valley resident, has contemplated reducing operating days due to poor business performance.

Planning and Zoning Commission approves change but...
We acknowledge the dedication of those who serve on town commissions and boards. However, it's worth noting that some commission members spent an excessive amount of time attempting to redesign a project they were supposed to vote on. Their primary decision was whether to allow the entertainment center to be built in phases, which, after a lengthy discussion with some members admitting their lack of knowledge about the project, received a 6-0 vote in favor of the change, with one abstention.

Phasing not the only change requested
Another decision the council needs to make concerns the requirement that the entertainment center include a couple of restaurants around the same time as the construction of the apartments. The details are not entirely clear, but the Planning and Zoning Commission decided to waive this requirement.

No guarantee of when construction will begin even if change is approved by council
If the Town Council approves this change at the upcoming regular council meeting next week, construction can commence on the center. Nevertheless, even with that approval, there is no certainty of immediate progress due to the current economic climate and prevailing high interest rates. The project owner informed the Town of Oro Valley planning and zoning commission last night that they cannot guarantee a specific construction timeline. They emphasized the urgency of progressing since they are currently paying taxes on a property generating no revenue. Town West General Manager James Horvath underscored, "We cannot commit to any timeframe.”

Development of the entertainment center beyond phase 1 is unlikely without town financial support
Town Staff and the applicant made it clear at the meeting that development of the entertainment center beyond phase 1 is highly unlikely... unless the town agrees to undergroud the wash... which, perhaps a future council will do.

More to follow next week when the Town Council hears this matter
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