Making Waves in Mesa

by RaeAnne Marsh

Cannon Beach

“The key to getting where we are today was having outright stubbornness in not pivoting from the goal of Cannon Beach,” says its developer, Cole S. Cannon, Esq. When COVID hit, not only were there many unknowns but he was getting strong advice to give up on retail/restaurant or even anything that involved crowds. “We stood firm, and resolved to create an experiential park,” he says, “and now, with a building permit, are ready to start delivering on those promises. Had we given in to ‘market forces’ we’d be 18 months behind schedule. We had faith in peoples’ innate need to associate and be active as a force strong enough to overcome any adversity caused by COVID.” 

Cole S. Cannon, Esq., developer of Cannon Beach

Still under construction and with the first attraction slated to open in Mesa next year, Cannon Beach has yet to turn any profit, and Cannon notes that fundraising, in light of COVID, was nearly impossible in the retail/restaurant/entertainment space. “So, we were resigned to look into our own pockets to fund the heart of the project — the Surf Lagoon,” he says, adding, “We are operating from the premise of Field of Dreams: ‘If you build it, they will come.’” He reports their optimism has been justified, as every step of forward progress on the surf lagoon has been met with some positive market reaction, be it a tenant who wants to operate by the beach or a hotel group coming out of the woodwork. 

The Economic Roller Coaster

Scheduling has been highly impacted by supply chain reductions, most notably aluminum and steel, which Cannon reports are backlogged by three to four months, and he notes these are critical components for storm drain and wave tech construction. “The best we can do is try and move short-supplied materials off the critical path list and spend our time on other aspects of the projects while we play the waiting game,” Cannon says.

Despite those roadblocks, Cannon is adamant that he and his team did the right thing by not slowing down their entitlements. “The market rewards risk takers, and we were often the only project on the development agenda for various city and county meetings.” The process involved appearing remotely at planning commission meetings, which was a first for Cannon, who says he is “used to more hand-to-hand combat in public meetings.” 

Observing that things have worked out better than he’d expected, with the City of Mesa “a big cheerleader of the project,” he notes, “We can celebrate only that we have a building permit. Our success heretofore can be measured by that fact. Truth is, though, we have a lot to prove at Cannon Beach in the coming months.” 

Staying Strong and Moving Forward

“We expect the Summer of 2022 to be a big year for Cannon Beach,” Cannon says, referring to the Surf Lagoon at that point, and not yet the surrounding buildings. He expects the attraction will, by its nature, create a whole new class of surfers in Arizona and also provide a local “wave” for the transplants from California who miss the surf. 

Cannon Beach is one segment of the June 2021 cover story “Fun Is Our Business: Survivors of a year that’s been anything but fun.” 

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