The acquisition of the former Metrocenter Mall, including the Dillard’s and U-Haul buildings, was finalized Jan. 23 of this year. In mid-February, chain-link fencing sprung up around a staging site on the northeast side of the property and construction equipment began to roll in. The demolition of an iconic piece of North Phoenix history is imminent. It is the end of an era that will segue into the rebirth of this expansive property.
The development group, Concord Wilshire Capital and TLG Investment Partners in partnership with Carl DeSantis’ CDS International Holdings Inc., formed a strategic alliance with international real estate firm Hines to redevelop the property into what they described in a press release as a “community-driven walkable village that will be home to a variety of residential apartment options including ownership and rental, curated boutiques, popular retail stores, restaurants, bars, a town-center park, and other commercial and entertainment venues.”
According to the release, the village, which is adjacent to the under-construction Northwest Extension Light Rail Station, will include more than 2,600 multifamily units, 150,000 square feet of commercial with essential and service retail and 4,100 surface and garage-deck parking spaces. Total construction costs are expected to exceed $850 million.
Existing amenities that will remain include the Walmart Supercenter and Harkin’s Theaters, as well as the adjacent Cholla Library, part of the Phoenix Public Library system and the Castles ‘N Coasters amusement park.
But before the wrecking ball swings, a community-building effort is already underway with the goal of bringing a sense of safety and security to Metro and the surrounding area — something that had been lacking even before the venerable mall closed its doors in June 2020. That sense of safety is where the Metro District Community Collaboration is hoping to make a positive impact, and the city of Phoenix is investing in the program.
“The Metro District Collaboration is funded equally by the city and Concord Wilshire, the new owners of the former Metrocenter Mall,” said Jeff Stapleton a program manager with the city’s Community and Economic Development Department. “The city is pleased that Concord Wilshire, even prior to becoming the official owner of the mall, was willing to commit financially to an initiative designed to engage and improve not just the mall, but the surrounding area as well.”
The city’s goal, Stapleton says, is to seed a self-sufficient community organization that raises the capacity of the district’s residents, businesses and property owners to advocate and provide for its interests.
“The district has some shared concerns that impact everyone equally such as crime, blight, attracting customers and visitors, creating a strong brand, etc.” Stapleton added. “The collaboration creates a platform for the district to work together on these issues.”
The Metro District, which runs from Dunlap Avenue to Peoria Avenue, I-17 to 31st Avenue, is led by Shannon McBride, who founded the 19North Community Alliance and helped create the Northern Avenue Public Safety Collaboration. The Metro District Collaboration is an expansion of the work the 19North nonprofit began.
McBride cited a 31 percent decrease in calls for service to police since the inception of the Northern Avenue Safety Collaboration in 2022, which covered the area along Northern Avenue from I-17 to17th Drive. Plans are in the works to expand that program to the broader 19North area.
“Do we still have problems? Yes. We’re in the middle of a fentanyl crisis,” McBride said. “This isn’t the solution. This is an effective layer of deterrent. One layer. But police are still doing their thing. The city is still doing their thing. Neighborhood groups are still doing their thing. Everything still has to keep going. This isn’t in place of, this is on top of.”
She also wants residents to know that the safety programs are not just about patrolling the area. Some of the benefits that the Metro District is touting is a larger footprint of crime suppression, offering regular addiction resources and outreach, weekly bulk trash pick-up, support for property improvements, all in addition to 24/7 privately hired patrol service and a dispatch phone number for participating property owners to receive immediate support when calls to the Phoenix Police Department may not be warranted.
At the end of the day, though, it is all about collaboration, McBride says, and she is eager to team up with those who have been putting in the hard work in the area for years.
“We have, throughout the city of Phoenix, some amazing neighborhood leaders, and I think often they don’t get recognized. And I want to recognize them.
“This is a layer of deterrent that is behind the scenes. They’re volunteering their time often to call in the blight, to call police when it’s needed, to organize their neighborhoods for picking up trash. That’s what I hope this does: work beside them and support what they’re already doing.”
Residents who would like to get involved with the Metro District’s efforts are invited to participate in a community clean-up event, scheduled for Friday, March 3, from 10 a.m. to noon. Neighbors should meet at the organization’s office, 9610 Metro Parkway West, Suite A4. Gloves, bags and trash pickers will be provided. For more information, send an email to email@example.com or visit www.metrodistrictcollaboration.com.