Fred Gieszl was just out of high school in the 1970s when he bought 12 acres at the northeast corner of Recker and Williams Field roads for farming.
Nearly 50 years later, Gieszl is ready to grow rental housing and a shopping center on the site within the master-planned 738-acre Cooley Station community.
“We’re pretty excited about this project,” said Greg Davis, president of IPlan Consulting, representing the family. “We think it will be successful moving forward.”
Davis and Jason Barney of Circle G Property Development held a virtual neighborhood meeting recently with Frank and Carolyn Gieszle attending to present Traditions at Cooley Station for feedback. It’s the first step before a formal submittal to the Town for a minor General Plan amendment, which is expected to occur in the coming weeks.
The land is currently zoned Gateway Village Center, which allows for commercial and multi-family housing up to 50 dwelling units per acre and as tall as six stories.
In the early 2000s, the Town’s vision was to create a village center with intense commercial and residential development at the intersection – much like Mills Avenue in Tempe, Davis said.
But over the years, the market has changed and that level of density is not in demand, he added.
The new dialed-down proposal calls for 93 individual homes and duplexes gated on 8 acres and 20,000 square feet of commercial such as boutique retail and personal services on 4 acres.
Single and two-story residential units are proposed, ranging from 800 to 1,500 square feet with one-, two- and three-bedroom plans, according to the pre-application documents.
The multi-family units would be comparable with existing homes in the area, Davis said, adding that rent would be at market rate.
The residential units would have private yards and boast a modern farmhouse design.
The perimeter homes would front the streets and the main entry would be off Williams Field Road, with no vehicle access onto Haskell Street.
A pedestrian path would cut through the project outside of the gate allowing residents to get to the proposed shopping center without having to walk on Recker or Williams Field, Davis said.
Plans are to incorporate outdoor patios and gathering places in the commercial portion of the project. The developer anticipates three commercial buildings that can either be standalone or split into tenant suites.
The proposed shopping center was getting interest from typical commercial tenants like nail salons, coffee shops and restaurants, Davis said.
He added that because the project was one, maybe two years away from construction, he could not say for sure who the end-users would be.
Over 20 nearby residents who tuned into the meeting voiced concerns about more traffic congestion and losing the small-town appeal. And a few wanted all commercial and no residential development on the site.
Some, such as D’Ann Marble, didn’t want to see more multi-family built.
“Many of us are concerned and frustrated at the number of apartments already going up in the immediate area,” she said. “We would love to see businesses and restaurants that cater to the long-term residents and not the apartments.”
Adjacent to the site to the east is the Springs at Cooley Station, a 276-unit apartment complex on 15 acres that’s almost completed; south of Recker Road is Verde at Cooley – a multi-family project of 248 units scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2022.
Marble added that she appreciated seeing the drop in residential units and suggested 8 acres of retail and 4 acres of housing instead.
Matt Sander added, “I would also like to see the density dropped even more.”
One man noted he liked seeing the reduction of units proposed and the keeping of viable retail areas with pedestrians in mind.
Barney said the new proposal significantly reduces the number of 300-400 residential units allowed, saying it reduces density and traffic congestion in the area.
Davis added they will be required to do a traffic study for the project.
And putting just retail/commercial on the site was not feasible.
“What drives retail is traffic,” Barney said, adding that Recker and Williams are not high-traffic roadways.
The intersection has a unique challenge in that Recker Road dead ends to the north at Loop 202 and to the south at Pecos Road. Williams Road has the same dilemma, dead ending at a freeway and at an airport, he said.
That means less traffic.
“We don’t want to build more retail than it can bear or it turns into blight,” he said.
It’ll take about a year for the project to make its way through the approval process, which includes Planning Commission and Town Council public hearings.
Should the Council give its blessing, construction would begin, which was expected to take eight to 12 months to complete.
The Gieszl family is partnering with Circle G Property Development on the project and does not plan to sell the land. The farming family has been in Gilbert since 1902.
The Gieszls wants to own the land long-term,” said Barney, who added; “this is a legacy project for the family.”
Housing and commercial aren’t the only offerings at Cooley Station.
Two stops are planned in Gilbert for a proposed commuter rail with a transit center located at Cooley Station. The design and construction of the project proposed south of Williams Field Road, west of Recker Road is one of the recommended projects in the Town’s $515-million bond Nov. 2.