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PHOENIX-One of the largest financial companies in the country has won rights to a 90-acre parcel in north Phoenix, where it could eventually build up to one million sf of office space.

American Express Co. was the successful bidder in an Arizona State Land Department auction for 91 acres at 56th Avenue and Mayo Boulevard in the master-planned community of Desert Ridge.

American Express, which has a 99-year lease on the parcel, can now move forward on development of the first phase of its campus, which calls for three office buildings with a total of 460,000 sf. Construction is expected to begin early next year with occupancy by 2003.

American Express has more than 9,000 employees in Arizona, most of them in 17 office facilities spread throughout metro Phoenix. The company plans to transfer as many as 3,100 employees to the site.

“The Desert Ridge area was an ideal location for American Express, close to Phoenix and Scottsdale where many of its employees reside,” says Steve Reiher, director of public affairs for the company.

The first year’s lease is $251,508.

Loop 101, which is under construction through northern Scottsdale and northern Phoenix, should be completed by the time the first phase of construction on the campus is built. When finished, the final section of Loop 101 will open up the area to the rest of the Valley.

Desert Ridge is a 5,700-acre, master-planned community zoned for 15,000 homes and commercial component along it southern edge. The commercial area currently includes a Mayo Clinic hospital and Sumitomo Sitix silicon-wafer manufacturing facility. Phoenix-based Vestar Development is under construction on a 1.2-million-sf retail project called Desert Ridge Marketplace.

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