By Patty Talahongva
After the late-2013 announcement of a new restaurant tenant for the Sunbrite Corner strip center, located at the northwest corner of 16th Street and Bethany Home Road, construction is stalled and questions are being asked about the delay.
The tenant in question was to be Baby Kay’s, which late last year closed its doors at the Town & Country Shopping Center. The Cajun-style eatery was to fill the vacant space left after restaurant icon Richardson’s Cuisine of New Mexico burnt down—however, initial plans indicated the new building would be two stories in what otherwise is a single-story center.
That announcement left other Sunbrite Corner tenants worried, given that parking is already stretched thin at the busy shopping center that also houses Luci’s Healthy Marketplace, Dick’s Hideaway, The Garage, CJ’s Talley’s Pub, and non-food businesses like The Bookshop, Barry’s Koller True Value Hardware, Poor Little Rich Girl resale boutique, and Delete Tattoo Removal & Laser Salon.
The owner of the property is MPB Realty Services, and Michael Buekers Sr., one of the partners, says they are not ready to comment about the delay. He described the situation as being in a “state of flux.”
According to Alan Stephenson, acting planning and development director for the city of Phoenix, MPB has hired an independent parking contractor to assess the parking situation at the site.
“They are approved to do the interior modifications but they have stopped right now, as far as we know,” says Stephenson. “They are trying to work out the parking issues that deal with overflow.”
Stephenson says part of the problem is that part of the back parking area is being used for storage by an adjacent pool company. “The parking spaces for Baby Kay’s will be met if they do the re-striping and remove the storage stuff. Physically, they have to go out and make the improvements, to show they meet the plan we have approved.”
Still, parking may be an issue in the tight corner. “The city prescribes the minimum amount necessary … but the practical parking need may be greater than the required,” explains Stephenson. He says MPB also is looking at overflow parking remedies, such as leasing nearby space for valet parking, during evening hours to ease the parking concerns.
Construction permits for the current approved site plan are good for one year from the time they were issued last November.
“We’re anxiously awaiting this as well,” Stephenson says. “There are a lot of great things happening in that area. But it comes with great responsibility of the owners and leaders.”
The owners of the center have invested quite of bit of money and effort into making it attractive for both tenants and shoppers. In 2009 the aging center was refreshed with a new color scheme with metal accents and additional brickwork reminiscent of the original center. It was rebranded as Sunbrite Corner, inspired by the community grocery store, Sunbrite Market, which decades ago sat in the corner where the Luci’s now resides.