274-unit apartment

Modera Gilbert would bring 274 apartments and ground-floor retail to the southwest corner of Higley and Ray roads. (Town of Gilbert)

Planning commissioners last week got their first official look at a proposed mixed-used project with ground-floor retail and 274 apartment units at the southwest corner of Higley and Ray roads.

Mill Creek Residential is requesting a minor General Plan amendment and rezone of 15.39 acres currently classified for shopping center use.

“I just commend the applicant for the effort towards delivering a quality project while maintaining the town’s vision,” Commission David Blaser said at the Sept. 7 study session. “So, I think it’s a great project.”

Modera Gilbert proposes two three-story buildings with apartments and two four-story buildings along Ray Road with ground-floor retail and three stories of residential units with 78 underground parking spaces.

Residential parking spaces total 505.

Former Mayor Jenn Daniels, who is now a lobbyist, has been working with the developer to do public outreach for the project.

Planner Josh Rogers said Modera Gilbert would be similar to the mix-used development Epicenter at Agritopia across the street from the site.

Rogers said the developer is asking for deviations, including raising the building height to 55 feet from the 45-foot limit and reducing the front landscape setback along Ray Road.

The building deviation is needed due to the increase in ceiling height required for the ground-floor commercial, according to Rogers.

“It’s not to add additional residential units in those loft-above areas but just to accommodate that,” he said.

Rogers said three neighborhood meetings were held on the project and after hearing residents’ concerns with losing commercial space at the October meeting, the developer reworked the project.

Instead of just building multifamily residences on the site, Mill Creek changed the project to a vertical mixed-use multifamily and general commercial.

Rogers said there were still concerns from residents with traffic and with the number of apartments already in the area.

Commissioner Anthony Bianchi said the project dropped from the original proposal of 300 apartment units to 274 but still exceeded the limit for the zoning with slightly over 26 dwelling units per acre.

Rogers said staff was working with the developer to drop that to under 25 dwelling units per acre.

“We are trying to figure out how to do it,” he said.

Commissioner Brian Johns asked if staff was in support of the proposal or was it too soon to say.

“It is too early,” Rogers said. “But I will say that through all the iterations that we have gone through, this is more in line with the goal and vision of the Gateway Character Area at this time.”

Commissioner Brian Johns said he had no problems with the deviations and called the project “amazing.”

Chairman Jan Simons said his only concern was that there would be enough parking to sustain both the residential and commercial uses.

That said, he added, “I do recall this corner being proposed to us … that just looked like it was thrown together.

“So, I really appreciate the distance we have gone on this. I think this will complement the other side with Epicenter I think it would be great.”

Following the study session, the Commission in its regular meeting voted unanimously to recommend the Council approve the minor General Plan amendment and rezone on 14.47 acres for Traditions at Fred’s Place.

Currently the land at the northeast corner of Recker and Williams Field roads in the Cooley Station master-planned community is zoned Village Center but under the proposal, 4.95 acres would be used for a shopping center and 9.52 acres for multi-family.

The developer proposes to build 93 single and two-story standalone and semi-detached rental units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

Planner Keith Newman said about 20 people attended a neighborhood meeting last September and raised a number of concerns, including the number of apartments already being built in the immediate area, increased traffic congestion and density.

“Since the neighborhood meeting, staff has not head from any property owners,” Newman told the Commission.

But Bob Bauer, who said he lives 700 feet north of the site, raised concerns at the meeting about whether there was enough parking for the commercial uses and with the residential density.

Applicant Greg Davis of Iplan Consulting Corp. told commissioners the project exceeded the commercial parking required under Town code and also met the residential parking requirement.

He also addressed Bauer’s concern with density.

“The comment on density we hear it a lot in almost every project,” Davis said. “This project is so much less dense, so much less intense than it would be under the current zoning. The current zoning allows anywhere from 300 to 700 units. We are at 93.”

He added that the proposed commercial component also would be a less intense use than under the current zoning.

The land is the last remaining acreage of the Gieszl Family farmstead. The family is partnering with Circle G Property Development on the project and does not plan to sell the land.