After neighbor input received at an Aug. 21 meeting, the developer of The Central Park will bring the proposed grocery store to a more prominent place along Central Avenue at Monterosa Street (rendering courtesy of Pivotal Group).

At its Sept. 11 meeting, the Encanto Village Planning Committee (EVPC) approved by a 9 to 4 vote the developer’s request to modify or remove stipulations that bound The Central Park to a 2019 plan, putting the development of the last large parcel along a mile stretch of Central Avenue that much closer to realization. For better or worse, barring any challenges by City Council members, the future growth of Central Avenue from Indian School Road to Camelback Road may soon be in the hands of developers.

The Petree Properties project (on the northwest corner of Central and Glenrosa avenues) and the Forty600 project (on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Coolidge Street) were approved by Council Sept. 6. However, there are still some hurdles for other Central Avenue projects. An appeal was filed on PHO-1-23—Z-27-15-4, the project located on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Pierson Street known as Omninet East, and will be heard by the Planning Commission Oct. 5. The Planning Hearing Officer (PHO) heard the case for The Central Park (PHO-1-23—Z-9-19-4) Sept. 20, and continued the project to Oct. 18, citing a lack of adequate time to review an updated site plan and a pending meeting between the developer and the Parks & Recreation Department that may have ramifications on the site plan, among other issues.

At issue is a request to modify or delete seven stipulations — which the 2019 rezoning approval was contingent upon. The project, as proposed and approved by Phoenix City Council in July 2019, featured a total of 600 residential units, a 200-room hotel, 760,000 square feet of commercial space, and 170,000 square feet of ground-level retail and restaurants. At the same time, the Phoenix Indian School Specific Plan (Plan) was repealed on the basis that its primary goals had been met (the development of Steele Indian School Park and expansion of the Veterans hospital), and that The Central Park development, as presented and approved in 2019, “will address the outstanding goals and policies” of the Plan. Adopted in December 1991, the Plan’s Land Use Concept included minimums of 1,200 housing units and 100,000 square feet of retail development, and a number of items focusing on open space and walkability, including a 100-foot diagonal view corridor from Central Avenue and Indian School Road that focused on the historic cafeteria tower and the distant Piestewa Peak.

When a “reimagined” project came back to the city in July 2023, the developer/owner of the property, Pivotal Group, had a brand-new design that stripped away much of the openness of the 2019 approved plan and the stipulations they wanted to get rid of spoke directly to many of the goals within the Plan their project was approved to meet.

At two August meetings, the developer’s requests were continued to September by both the EVPC and the Planning Hearing Officer, with the caveat from the EVPC that developers meet with neighbors in the meantime, which they did on Aug. 21.

At the Aug. 21 meeting, 30 or so neighbors showed up to express their concerns to the developer’s representatives, Jason Morris and Benjamin Tate of Withey Morris Baugh, PLC. At the subsequent Sept. 11 EVPC meeting, Morris indicated that, in response to neighbor input, the developer would remove all on-street parking on the east/west thoroughfare and add other pedestrian- and bike-friendly updates and presented an updated “market” space that would be situated directly on Central Avenue at Monterosa Street to create frontage retail access. Some of these items were added as stipulations, some were just updated design features.

Residents have found some positives in the July 2023 reimagined project. It is one of the few true mixed-use projects that has been proposed along Central Avenue, and residents are encouraged that the project is finally moving again after seeing no visible progress since 2019. The project offers an interior public gathering space and while it has significantly reduced the amount of retail and housing (to 78,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space, to include a market/grocer space and 1,450 housing units, a portion of which will be for purchase), it is far more than the Petree development that sits on close to the same acreage and offers no ownership options. The Central Park also includes 245,000 square feet of office space; Petree has none.

Area residents were ready to pursue an appeal on The Central Park if the PHO had recommended approving the developer’s latest request.

“The Central Park (TCP) 17.8-acre Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project at Steele Indian School Park Version 1.0 was nothing more than football’s version of a ‘pump fake,’ a ruse utilized to get the city council to fall for repealing the overriding, and visionary Phoenix Indian School Park Specific Plan,” said Ken Waters, an outspoken area resident who has appealed many Central Avenue projects that lack walkability and mixed-use components. He added, “Version 1.0’s stipulation language complied with the visionary Plan, and TCP 2.0 does not. Let’s obviously stick with the original visionary Plan stipulations.”

Residents in the Carnation neighborhood have been working towards more symbiotic walkable development in the area since Reinvent PHX was established in 2015 with one main goal: To create walkable, opportunity-rich communities. Implemented to guide future development along mass transit corridors, the policy plan came with a new Walkable Urban (WU) Code, and the establishment of TOD Districts. Residents say that many of the developments that they have seen come to their Uptown District in recent years have fallen short of the vision.

Cliff Valenti, chair of the Carnation Association of Neighbors development committee goes further.

“The system in Phoenix is broken when a conditional up zoning is granted and subsequently all the agreed-upon conditions are disregarded,” Valenti said in advance of the Sept. 20 PHO meeting. “The Encanto Village Planning Committee is failing at their role of scrutinizing development and supporting local residents who are supposed to have a voice in this process. Additionally, the Planning Commission leans heavily towards favoring developers, making it an uphill battle to make any meaningful progress without the active participation of the EVPC.”

Valenti added, “Nonetheless, we are considering an appeal to the Planning Commission if the Planning Hearing Officer fails us, too.”

Information on all upcoming City of Phoenix public meetings and hearings can be found at

Editor’s note: Read our previous coverage on The Central Park here and here.


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