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PHOENIX-A Canadian developer plans to build a $70-million condominium project in the heart of Phoenix, the first significant for-sale residential development in the area in more than a decade.

United Properties Group of Companies, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based developer will begin construction in January on Willo Walk, a 303-unit condominium project that will include 17,000 sf of retail space. The project is being built along Central Avenue, the main street in mid-town Phoenix, just north of Encanto Boulevard and tucked into a historic residential neighborhood.

“We think Phoenix is of an age where people are tired of driving an hour to get home,” Eli Setton, United’s COO told Globest.com. “They want to be downtown now. It’s more of a vibrant downtown.”

Most new housing development in the past several years has been pushed to the periphery of the Valley as land closer in has been gobbled up.

United expects to close escrow on the seven-acre parcel this Friday, Setton says, with an approximate purchase price of $4 million.

During the past several years, a number of apartment projects have been developed in the downtown area, but no significant for-sale residential projects have been built in area since the mid-1990s. Demand for those apartments has been strong, but the abundance of units has slowed occupancy at most complexes.

“We feel that there is an untapped demand of people who want to stay in the area, but now want to own property,” Setton says.

United has already taken nearly 20 reservations on the units.

The one- and two-bedroom condos will sell for $150 to $175 per sf and range in size from 850 to 2,500 sf. The ground floor units will be two-story, and those units on the highest floors will have loft space.

A seven-story structure will be built along Central Avenue, with retail space on the bottom floor. United hopes to attract a coffee shop, deli or restaurant into the space. The project will also have a 550-space underground parking garage.

Construction is scheduled to begin in early January on the parking garage and in March on the Central Avenue building, which will have 57 units. The first occupants are expected to move in by February 2002.

United Properties has built nearly 7,000 for-sale condominium units in the United States and Canada. The company is under development on two other for-sale residential projects in the Valley, one in Mesa and another in Chandler.

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