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TEMPE, AZ-Early November will bring the opening of the Brickyard on Mill, an $80-million, mixed-use project in Tempe’s CBD. Leasing has been solid and the building should open with about 70% occupancy while all the lofts are long gone.

MCW Holdings, a long-time developer in Tempe, is in the final stages of construction on the 320,000-sf project, which is bounded by Mill and Myrtle avenues and 6th and 7th streets. José Ramirez, MCW Holdings’ project coordinator, says “this is one of the only true downtowns in the Valley and people are looking for that urban lifestyle.”

The three-building Brickyard on Mill consists of the Bank of America Building, a 160,000-sf, six-story structure that fronts Mill Avenue; OrchidHouse, 22,000- sf of retail, 25,000 sf of office and 83 loft-style condos; and Artesian Court, a two-story 17,500-sf retail-office combo.

The Bank of America Building contains 100,000 sf of office space and 60,000 sf of street-level retail. Tenants already include anchor Bank of America as well as a 25,000-sf Border’s Books and Music, Bamboo Club, Alltel Wireless and Urban Angels Clothing. At OrchidHouse, the City of Tempe has signed for the second floor while all the lofts have been hawked. Artesian Court is designed with 7,500 sf of street-level retail and 10,000 sf of second-floor office space. The project also includes a 760-space, two-story underground parking garage.

Downtown Tempe is the most active urban setting in the Valley, attracting students of all ages, professionals and tourists by the millions each year. The CBD abuts the campus of Arizona State University, which has an annual enrollment in excess of 55,000 students. The area has retained much of its character with the preservation of historic buildings and brick sidewalks. On any given night, sidewalks are so packed that the crowd often spills into the street. Approximately 14,000 people pass along Mill Avenue per day, according to Ramirez. Mill Avenue, from the Salt River to University Drive, is lined with restaurant, upscale shops, movie theaters, offices and condominiums.

Ramirez says the most surprising part of the development was the pace of sales for the Brickyard condominiums. Condos, which brought $160,000 to $800,000 each, sold out in weeks. “They sold like hotcakes,” he says. “There was pent-up demand.”

According to Ramirez, Mill Avenue has a number of drawing points beyond its vibrancy. It’s centrally located in the Valley, near major freeways and the airport, close to major employment centers and the university and is adjacent to Tempe Town Lake, a two-mile long lake in the bed of the Salt River.

In the past 12 years, MCW Holdings has developed two other signature buildings along Mill Avenue, the 20,000-sf Gordon Biersch building and the 20,000-sf Laird & Dines building. The Tempe-based development company also is working on two additional mixed-use projects in the downtown area.

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