Downtown Chandler is in a near-constant state of evolution. New businesses, new developments and redevelopment projects continue to take root in the city’s oldest and most historic area, creating an ever-changing and dynamic downtown, according to city officials.

Nine businesses are planning 2021 openings in downtown Chandler; a new retail and restaurant development on the corner of Frye Road and Arizona Avenue is expected to open in 2021; and construction is underway at two new multifamily developments downtown, said John Owens, downtown redevelopment specialist with the city of Chandler.

“Downtown Chandler is the heart of our community,” Mayor Kevin Hartke said. “Not only is it where Chandler began, it’s where the community comes together to this day. It is exciting that the development community continues to want to invest in downtown Chandler. They, like us, recognize that downtown Chandler’s combination of history and modernity help make it a unique place in our community. Its growth means that, more than ever, there is something for everyone in downtown Chandler.”

Chandler has seen a 33.77% increase in the number of businesses in downtown Chandler in the last five years, leading to a .5% increase in the number of jobs, according to data from the city’s economic development department.

Owens said development and redevelopment projects are pushing into what city staff have dubbed Downtown South, which encompasses everything from Frye to Pecos roads. The new 9,000-square-foot retail and restaurant development—the Shops on Frye—signals that push into the southern portion of downtown, Owens said.

New and coming soon

Inchin’s Bamboo Garden, Jinya Ramen, The Tipsy Egg, The Uncommon and Kaleidoscope Juice are all coming soon to downtown Chandler to the east of Arizona Avenue.

On the other side of Arizona Avenue, Black Sheep Wine Bar will take over the building DC Steakhouse inhabited before moving into its New Square location. A tenant has been selected but not yet announced for the space previously held by El Zocalo Mexican Cantina, and Murphy’s Law Irish Pub is expanding its business to encompass the space adjacent to it. Pie Snob will occupy the currently vacant spot next to ImprovMANIA.

Nearly all the businesses coming soon, Owens said, are expected to open sometime in 2021.

Gemsetter & Co had a soft opening downtown Jan. 11, taking over the space that once belonged to Yes, I Do Bridal, which closed in 2020. Owner Eric Pettingill said he moved his business from the Chandler Fashion Center area to the city’s downtown area to have more of a “classic downtown” feel.

“I have always loved downtown,” Pettingill said. “I really wanted to get back to a downtown setting, and this space was a great landing spot. I love interacting with people. I just love the energy down here. After being for years and years in strip centers or close to malls, it’s nice to have a home where you can actually walk outside and grab lunch or a cup of coffee. I waited a long time to be somewhere with a ‘Main Street, USA’ feel.”

Pettingill said he has had some difficulty setting up in his new space as COVID-19 has affected the availability of materials he needs to create displays and signage. He said he hopes to be fully set up “as soon as possible.”

“I feel like I’ve been a little bit reborn,” Pettingill said of his new location. “I’ve been in the Valley 25 years, and it’s fantastic to look outside and see people walking around and all the life that’s in downtown Chandler.”

Owens said it is “incredible” how much downtown Chandler has grown during a global pandemic that has gripped the health care system and the economy not only in Arizona, but also nationwide and globally.

“I’m excited about all the restaurants taking advantage of street patios. It’s amazing to see how much attention they attract for these businesses,” Owens said. “It’s not just about creating capacity, but it’s a draw that adds vibrancy to the street and is a draw for people coming in.”

The outdoor extensions were made possible by City Council and city staff relaxing ordinances and allowing an extension of premises.

Additionally, the city’s Dine in the Park program is still in full swing, Owens said. The program allows for people to patronize downtown businesses and bring their meals to Dr. A.J. Chandler Park in the heart of downtown.

“Despite the pandemic, we’ve stayed extremely busy in downtown Chandler—that’s a really good thing,” Owens said. “We’ve done a good job retaining businesses in downtown Chandler.”

More multifamily, retail planned

The Shops on Frye will add 9,000 square feet and three buildings to the corner of Frye Road and Arizona Avenue. Developer Richard Kohan said he expects to finish the project in 2021. A portion of the project is already leased to Black Rock Coffee, Kohan said, which will include a drive-thru.

“With new hotels, offices and residential in downtown, it’s become a mecca of bars and restaurants adding nightlife,” Kohan said. “It’s been incredible watching it change.”

Kohan also developed the adjacent building housing Flo Yoga and Cycle, another project in the more southern portion of Downtown South.

“We know that we are out of space in the heart of downtown,” Kohan said. “Just going a little bit south—I am excited about what is going to happen in the coming years in that area.”

Kohan said he is expecting to announce new tenants in the near future as there is a demand for the coveted downtown Chandler space.

Two new apartment complexes are also under construction. DC Heights at the southwest corner of California Street and Commonwealth Avenue is expected to deliver 157 multifamily units to downtown Chandler, Owens said. Encore at Chandler is expected to deliver 208 units to the southeast corner of Nevada and Commonwealth streets.

“The market fundamentals are really appealing as well as the proximity to multiple major employers,” Encore President Charlie Keels said. “The site is poised to attract young professionals interested in downtown’s vibrant live/work/play community. Inside the historic square, hundreds of local residents attend community events steps from the project, such as the weekly farmers market at Chandler Park and concerts at the downtown stage, an open-air venue hosting Friday Night Live and Live at Lunch, among others.”

Both multifamily developments are in the early stages of construction. DC Heights is expected to be finished in late 2021, according to Owens.

Additionally, redevelopment and adaptive reuse projects finished in late 2020—including The Stanley and The Alexander. The Stanley is an adaptive reuse project of bungalows in downtown Chandler designed for vacation rentals at 158 W. Boston St. The Alexander is the office space located at 25 S. Arizona Place that developer George Oliver redeveloped in late 2020. The building will also house Kaleidoscope Juice when it opens March 1.

Terri Kimble, the president and CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, said she believes despite being a big city, downtown Chandler makes it feel as if Chandler is a small town.

“We have this culture of community in Chandler and specifically in downtown Chandler,” Kimble said. “It’s a very strong, closely knit business community. There’s a camaraderie there, especially during the pandemic. Some of these businesses were sharing best practices and even sharing employees to make it work.”

She said the new developments all have “that Chandler quality” the city is known for.

“That collaboration between developers, business owners and the city is unique,” Kimble said. “We all support one another here; we still have that small-town feel and continue to create that small-town feel.”