The city of Tempe is making progress on two developments that would drive tourism in the downtown area—including an adaptive reuse project at one of the city’s most historic locations and a $1.8 billion development set to span 15 years alongside Tempe Town Lake.

The Hayden Flour Mill and South Pier projects both made significant moves forward in February. The city of Tempe approved the South Pier project and entered into negotiations with the developer for the Hayden Flour Mill. Hayden Flour Mill is one of the city’s oldest buildings featuring buildings and silos dating back a hundred years. Several developers have proposed projects at the site over the last decade, but all have fallen through, according to the city.

The South Pier project will take an undeveloped parcel of land on Tempe Town Lake and transform it into a space with residential, commercial and retail uses as well as a pedestrian bridge and a Ferris wheel.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said both Mill Avenue and Tempe Town Lake are in a state of evolution, and the two upcoming projects signify a new era of growth.

“The two projects are different,” Woods said. “One is about preserving Tempe’s history and finding a way to still make the space useful, and the other is a high-end luxury project. But both are providing public benefits that show innovation.”

Donna Kennedy, economic development director for the city of Tempe, said both projects will change the face of downtown Tempe when completed.

“Mill Avenue in itself is in a refresh period,” Kennedy said. “We are noticing the growth and the dynamics change there, and the Hayden Flour Mill project will only add to that. For Tempe Town Lake, the South Pier project will bring use to an undeveloped piece of land and kind of change the face of that portion of the lake.”

Kate Borders, executive director and president of the Downtown Tempe Authority, said both projects stand to heavily impact the downtown area.

“It’s community-building, what these projects seem to be,” Borders said. “That’s what I hope comes to fruition.”

Hayden Flour Mill development

Lorenzo Perez, principal and co-founder of Venue Projects, the developer behind the Hayden Flour Mill project, said the proposed plan is aimed at preserving the history of the mill and creating useful and revenue-generating space within and around it.

“The mill has always been a backdrop in my life,” Perez said. “I went to [Arizona State University] and was a design student, and the mill is a famous site for design students. Everyone had a dream or vision for what you would do with the mill. Now here I am.”

Perez said he is modeling the project around other adaptive reuse projects across the country like the Magnolia Silos in Waco, Texas, and the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, North Carolina.

“We are going to take a lighter-touch approach,” Perez said. “... It represents the foundation of the city and is a gateway to all the progress the city has made on Mill Avenue and Tempe Town Lake. We want this place to tell a story and be a place to tell stories.”

The ultimate goal, Perez said, is to make the Hayden Flour Mill a destination for people.

“We want to create a vehicle to tell the story of Tempe and be intentional about bringing that information into the mill and creating an environment that preserves history but at the same time is more urban and gives people an experience,” he said.

Perez said that while other projects have been proposed at the site over the years, now is the best time for the mill to be developed.

“Tempe has gone through a major revolution,” he said. “The area has evolved into a more mature version of itself.”

The redevelopment and adaptive reuse project is still in the early stages of development and negotiations with the city. A cost of the project was not available as of press time. Perez said the process of bringing the project to life will involve the Tempe community in a series of listening sessions and public tours to get input.

For now, developers are looking at a commercial-mixed-use development preserving the 1918 mill structure and 1950’s silos.

The development will feature local-oriented dining, specialty retail, creative office and cultural experiences in an indoor and outdoor setting.

Kennedy said the project is really a gateway corner into Mill Avenue and Tempe Town Lake as well as the Rio Salado employment corridor.

“Those silos are visual reminders of Tempe’s history and innovation and can-do spirit,” Kennedy said. “We have that element of the past, and then we have all the growth, businesses and development along that lake corridor. It is a visual reminder of our roots and also shows how far the city has come.”

South Pier development

Just about a mile and a half from the mill project, Loren Cohen, founder and managing director of McBride-Cohen Management Group, LLC, the developer behind the South Pier project at Tempe Town Lake, said he views this project as a magnet that will attract people to the area.

“We want to make it a destination; our tenants and merchants are the glue that brings it all together,” Cohen said. “We also want to deliver that wheel in the first phase of the project.”

The Ferris wheel overlooking Town Lake—and a pedestrian bridge—are the focal points to draw in residents and tourists, Cohen said. The development will also feature 600,000 square feet of Class A office space, 2,300 for-rent apartment units, 160 for-sale condo units, 111,000 square feet of retail and 520 hotel rooms.

The $1.8 billion South Pier project is expected to get underway this year and will take about 15 years to complete in multiple phases, Cohen said. The development deal also featured $10 million from the developer to go to the city of Tempe for affordable housing and another $12.5 million for transit.

Kennedy called it one of the most innovative deals the city of Tempe has ever done.

“The city is getting major benefits,” Kennedy said.

Updates on Hayden Flour Mill and South Pier are expected later this year. South Pier will likely break ground within 2022.

“It doesn’t take anyone with real special eyesight to see how vibrant and exciting Tempe Town Lake is,” Cohen said. “We feel so fortunate to build on past successes and be a part of turning Tempe into a pretty enviable spot.”•