TEMPE, AZ-Apache Boulevard was the main street of Tempe during the 1950s and 1960s. More than 50 years and $40 million later, the thoroughfare is entering its second life as a pedestrian-oriented place that’s attracting developers.

The 2.25-mile strip of road runs from Mill Avenue to the west and State Highway 101 to the east. It was once US Hwy. 60, but the highway designation moved south, driving Apache Boulevard into decay. “The city had to step in to do something,” says Neil Calfee, Tempe’s deputy community development manager. “It’s a street adjacent to a university. It had a lot of potential. It had a lot of unique ethnic restaurants. But, it was really becoming a major drain on city resources and a problem for us.”

During the 1980s and 1990s, the city cleaned up the corridor, developing streetscapes and adding a police substation and adding infrastructure, specifically widening streets, which is continuing yet today. Eventually, the “bread-and-butter redevelopment” came in, Calfee says. More redevelopment has followed, encouraged by a soon-to-open, 1.75-mile Valley Metro light-rail line along Apache Boulevard.

“We’re getting at least three student housing projects going up in that area, thanks to the combination of rail and the market,” Calfee tells GlobeSt.com. “ASU is woefully under-housed and private developers are picking up on that.”

In addition, Phoenix-based Gray Development Group has started construction on a $75-million Equinox, with 408 residential units, 18,000 sf of retail and a 300-space for park-and-ride lot for light-rail commuters. The development is going up at Apache’s intersection with McClintock Drive.

Calfee says another developer is looking at a site that will offer for-sale and rental units to low-income senior citizens. “The developers looked at sites throughout the Valley and selected this area on the east end instead of Mesa because of its proximity to the light rail,” Calfee says.

Charlotte Christian, senior vice president in Colliers International’s Phoenix office, says the city’s efforts have made land along Apache Boulevard and the light rail in Tempe more attractive to developers. Christian is working with Australian developers on Lumina Tempe, a 220-room hotel and 245-unit condominium project at College and 5th streets near the rail. She’s also selling other light-rail parcels. “This whole experience has been a good demonstration of getting people to live and do well in urban developments,” she says.

Although the coming of the light rail might have helped attract development, Calfee says it alone wasn’t the magic bullet–the city needed to get involved in the clean-up process. “This is a good example of how cities can approach redevelopment by cleaning up an area, tackling crime and understanding these issues need to be addressed before new development will come in,” Calfee says. “With the rail coming in, developers have a place where they can feel comfortable and where they can see how their investment will pay off.”

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