West Valley Freeways Pave Way For More Economic Growth

by Ilana Lowery

West Valley Freeway Illustration

The West Valley has become a driving force for economic growth in Arizona, and the region is staying in the fast lane with development along five hot business corridors.

Its proximity to California ports and strategic connections to Mexico and the CANAMEX Corridor historically have provided the West Valley with the ability to attract companies and workforce talent — but now, those opportunities are booming as significant freeway development and advanced industry corridors circle the western suburbs. 

According to Sintra Hoffman, president and CEO of WESTMARC, there is more than 11 million square feet of approved square footage for office, entertainment, healthcare and retail and other advanced industries along freeway frontage in the West Valley. 

These key commerce corridors, Hoffman says, highlight diverse and industry-specific uses, such as healthcare, advanced business services, information technology, manufacturing, engineering and aerospace, and logistics and supply-chain management.

The region serves as a major transportation hub and access point via roughly 200 miles of freeway frontage along the Loops 101, 202 and 303 and Interstates 10 and 17.

Rick Buss, economic development director for the city of Peoria, agrees that transportation is a key component to long-term economic and social prosperity of the West Valley. “The West Valley is home to the I-10, I-17, 101, 202 and the 303 — connecting residents and businesses efficiently,” he says. “When locating a business to Peoria, we are able to talk about the benefits of the quick and easy access to anywhere in the Valley, as well as key distribution destinations for regional, national and international trade.”

Loop 202 Technology Corridor

The South Mountain Freeway has long been part of the region’s transportation plans. It was funded in part by Proposition 400, a dedicated sales tax approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004.

The state’s largest freeway construction project, which opened in December 2019, adds 22 miles of freeway to the existing Phoenix metro transportation system and freeway-connects the East and West Valley, while providing much needed relief to existing freeway corridors and local streets. The new portion of the 202 also provides improved access to Tucson and southern Arizona’s trade opportunities.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the $1.7-billion project took more than three years to construct. The new section of Loop 202 branches off Interstate 10 in west Phoenix, heading south across Van Buren, Buckeye, Baseline and other surface streets all the way to Elliot Road, where it bends to the east between the Gila River Indian Reservation and South Mountain. It then turns directly east to Chandler, where it again intersects the I-10.

This was Arizona’s first highway project built using a public-private partnership, which combined design, construction and maintenance in a single contract. Connect 202 Partners, the developer, will maintain the South Mountain Freeway for the next 30 years.

ADOT estimates that 117,000 vehicles a day will travel the new loop, compared with about 300,000 a day that travel the I-10 through downtown Phoenix.

“The Loop 202 South Mountain Technology Corridor is emerging as an ideal location for high-tech manufacturing and other advanced industries,” WESTMARC’s Hoffman says. “Phoenix continues to focus business-attraction efforts on acquiring industry that will provide knowledge-intensive, high-value jobs, such as corporate campus users, Class A office settings and light industrial parks.”

Most commercial development along the 202 corridor is industrial, with some retail inventory. Economic development leaders in both Phoenix and the West Valley eventually want to see a diverse development mix built along the corridor with a focus on employment opportunities. Much of the land adjacent to the new freeway is zoned for big-box warehouse and distribution businesses. 

More than 9 million square feet of retail, office and light industrial is planned in the West Valley along Loop 202. The goal is to create a high-jobs-generating corridor along the loop, much like the Price Road Corridor in Chandler near Loop 101, which includes tech giant Intel and other companies. 

“The new 202 Freeway offers a rare opportunity in a vast new employment corridor,” says Christine Mackay, director of Phoenix Community and Economic Development. “We created the South Mountain Technology Corridor as an area of modern business campuses for advanced manufacturing, business services and emerging industries.”

Additionally, Phoenix officials say the new Loop 202 freeway has allowed the city to market greenfield areas that previously were not easily accessible. It also has facilitated development opportunities that have attracted more retail and services for area residents.

Along the 202 Corridor, the City of Phoenix recently landed the U.S. headquarters for APEL Extrusions (apelextrusions.com) at 59th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road. The company is building a 350,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that will add more than 300 jobs. In addition, an e-commerce consignment company, TheRealReal, is adding 1,500 jobs to the region. 

“With the approval of the Laveen Spectrum PUD and continued build-out of Laveen Park Place, the Loop 202 South Mountain Technology Corridor has transformed the intersection of 59th Avenue and Baseline Road into Phoenix’s next dominant retail intersection,” says Martin Perez, program manager of advanced manufacturing for the City of Phoenix. 

Loop 303

Although planned commercial uses for Loop 303 focus on industrial, advanced manufacturing, distribution, retail, manufacturing and logistics, the 303 Corridor — specifically in Glendale and Goodyear — is one of the hottest areas for large-scale industrial development. 

The industrial logistics space in the 303 Corridor in Glendale and Goodyear is expected to grow by more than 200%, from 15 million square feet to 50 million square feet, in the next five to six years as the two cities add manufacturing and logistics companies, capitalizing on their location.

The most recent and active West Valley development area is along the 34-mile Loop 303. Recent wins for the area include Ball Metal Beverage Container Corp., Red Bull, Arizona Isotopes Corp., Daimler Trucks North America, XPO Logistics (which serves Boeing), SubZero, REI, Dicks Sporting Goods, 83 Marketplace, Prasada and Auto Show.

The cities of Surprise and Peoria have targeted residential development need-driven uses such as a retail/commercial corridor, healthcare and technology park employment opportunities.

“Most of the land along the Loop 303 is owned by the Arizona State Land Department and is as of yet undeveloped,” Buss says. “Our continued alliance with our regional partners and the Land Department on smart growth strategies remains vital to the region.”

The 400-plus-acre parcel at Loop 303 and Vistancia Boulevard, called Vistancia Commercial Core, for example, is an “excellent opportunity for commercial and mixed-use development,” he says. “There is also an opportunity to work with our neighboring cities in creating corridors resembling key industries of high-quality, head-of-household jobs.”

According to a January report in the Phoenix Business Journal, a joint venture between CRG, the real estate development arm of Chicago-based Clayco, and Phoenix-based Bird Dog Industrial also is planning a 335-acre industrial park that will eventually total 5.5 million square feet of space near Loop 303 in Glendale.

Just north of the Clayco project at the Woolf Logistics Center, both Red Bull and Mark Anthony Brewing have developed manufacturing facilities. That site is northeast of where a Canadian REIT bought 108 acres and plans to build a 2.25-million-square-foot industrial park called Sarival Logistics Center.

Also coming online is the first phase of the $115 million Park 303 industrial park, which includes 1.2 million square feet of Class A industrial space in Glendale, near Loop 303 and Glendale Avenue. The first phase is part of a larger master plan that will include 4.5 million square feet of new industrial space and cost an estimated $430 million.

There is no arguing that the Loop 303 freeway has helped bring more jobs to the West Valley, making farther out locations more desirable to buyers.

“You want to be near a freeway, not just for truck traffic, but for the attraction and retention of employees,” David Krumwiede, executive vice president for Lincoln Property Co., said in a November 2020 interview about Park 303.

Loop 101

With developments such as Desert Diamond Casino, the Westgate Entertainment District, Topgolf and a newly refreshed Park West, if you’re looking for a place to play, eat or shop, you will find a variety of options along Loop 101 in the West Valley. 

Kevin Phelps, Glendale city manager, says the Arrowhead Mall shopping corridor and the Sports & Entertainment District, both in Glendale, draw patrons from throughout the entire Phoenix metropolitan area. “The Loop 101 has helped make both of these areas easily accessible and thus successful. The extension of the Loop 202 freeway which opened in early 2020 now brings visitors to Glendale from the East Valley quickly and easily,” he says.

Phelps says Glendale’s Sports & Entertainment District is designed to have everything people would need for a memorable experience. Attending a sporting event or concert and then having dinner in Westgate or a day at Topgolf are great examples of that.

The entertainment and employment corridor has been in development for nearly 20 years, with the opening of Westgate in 2004. Westgate is home to both the Arizona Cardinals NFL and Arizona Coyotes NHL teams, as well as restaurants, retail and entertainment venues.

Spring Training also has been a big draw in the area, as Major League Baseball teams all play along the corridor in Phoenix and Peoria.

“Having been there for 20 years now, I’ve seen the difference and the economic growth that we’ve experienced in the West Valley as a result of the Loop 101 being completed, the Loop 303 being completed,” Hoffman says.

Additional office employment, retail and entertainment are planned along Loop 101, including a new family entertainment center called Crystal Lagoon. 

“Crystal Lagoons Island Resort is a very exciting upcoming project that will also be a great gathering place and it is something nobody in Arizona can replicate,” Phelps says. “The Sports & Entertainment District must draw people who live locally and be a destination for those who live in other parts of the Valley or even out of state.”

He says doubling the number of hotel rooms since the 2015 Super Bowl may be the most significant development to take place in Glendale. “The Sports and Entertainment District will likely be in the conversation for major mega-events like Super Bowls, Final Four Playoff games, NCAA College Football Championships and more, for years to come,” Phelps says.

Interstate 10

Because 36% of healthcare workforce lives in the West Valley, a well-planned medical corridor has been developed along I-10 that stretches from Goodyear to Avondale to Phoenix with major healthcare facilities and Fortune 500 companies.

The area’s growing medical corridor houses Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the Abrazo West Campus, Adelante Healthcare, AKOS Medical Group, Iora Health, Copper Springs Hospital and Integrated Medical Services (IMS).

As part of the Goodyear Medical Innovation Corridor, Franklin Pierce University’s expansion will add new health-sciences programs and grow its existing doctoral program in physical therapy. FPU also is launching a hybrid online/in-person master’s degree program for physician assistants in August 2022.

I-10, which is one of only three transcontinental routes connecting both the East and West coasts of the U.S. providing access to international ports of entry, runs right through the West Valley. Because it connects to other freeways, development along the interstate has been a key to the strategic growth of the region.

According to Lisa Lantz, economic development analyst for the city of Avondale, there are more than 3 million square feet of industrial product under construction within the Fairway 10 project fronting the freeway corridor in Avondale. The 720,000-square-foot project is adjacent to the new Fairway Drive exit that opened in January and is anticipated to be completed in summer 2021.

Additionally, there is speculation that Samsung is eyeing a 1,100-acre site in Goodyear just off the I-10 that the city recently designated a foreign trade zone for a $17 billion semiconductor plant. The Wall Street Journal reported that the proposed chipmaking plant could create almost 2,000 jobs.

Other planned uses for the I-10 corridor include retail, technology and industrial development.

“Pasternack and Associates continues construction of their 142-acre, 1 million-square-foot industrial park at I-10 and 83rd Avenue,” Perez says, adding that notable developments along Loop 101 include the Aldea Centre at Bethany Home Road and the Algodon Center at Thomas Road.

In the City of Buckeye, investments along I-10 and State Route 85 include new businesses such as Five Below, Parker Fasteners and Arizona Public Service. LGE Design Build also is constructing an 862,000-square-foot speculative industrial building at I-10 and Miller Road, and Boulders Realty Advisors Commercial Real Estate will be constructing a 260,000-square-foot flex industrial park at I-10 and Verrado Way.

“Access to these transportation systems are important factors for businesses locating in Buckeye as it connects them to their customers and suppliers, specifically those in Southern California and the Western U.S.,” says Annie DeChance, communications manager for the City of Buckeye.

Interstate 17

The I-17 corridor is another main trade connector for Arizona, linking the Phoenix metro area to commerce in northern Arizona and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. 

In the West Valley, this economic corridor is home to a number of finance and insurance employers. That may be because 32% of those industry employees in Maricopa County live in the West Valley.

Advanced business services in the area include USAA, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Farmers Insurance, as well as Karsten Manufacturing and Wells Fargo. 

Grand Canyon University and several other private colleges and public universities also are part of the I-17 corridor. Both Arizona State and Northern Arizona universities are easily accessible from the freeway.

Future Growth

“We are seeing tremendous growth because of the available workforce, quality of life and availability of developable land in the West Valley,” the City of Buckeye’s DeChance says. “As other areas of the Valley see less and less developable land, or are restricted by state land, the West Valley continues to be where people go to develop.”

The West Valley is well-positioned for economic opportunities along improved transportation corridors such as State Route 85 and State Route 30. Planned uses for these freeway corridors will include industrial and aerospace and defense.

In addition to connecting the region, economic development leaders also point to the CANAMEX corridor in the West Valley as an exciting opportunity to facilitate global trade opportunities for Arizona.

The strategic network connects international markets from Canada to Mexico via Interstate 11 — also known as the CANAMEX Corridor. The corridor was established under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and has been designated as such a parallel route, spanning the Western U.S. between Mexico and Canada through Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Montana. 

The high-capacity route is proposed to include an upgraded highway but could be paired with rail and other major infrastructure components — such as energy and telecommunications.

Development of the new north-south trade corridor through Arizona and Nevada could supplement the existing system and relieve freight congestion on Interstate 5, one of only two (including I-15) continuous north-south Mexico-to-Canada interstate routes west of Texas, according to ADOT. 

“Transformational growth is happening in the West Valley because there is room to grow with plenty of land, new jobs being created all the time, great infrastructure and quality affordable housing,” Phelps says. “It is also a model of cooperation between West Valley cities and groups like the Maricopa Association of Governments and WESTMARC.”

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