By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
In short order, Landry convinced Phoenix officials to examine the effects Chandler Mills would have on their city. Phoenix also decided Chandler's planned improvements were adequate.
Though PDK and Taubman's efforts to stop Chandler Mills were not successful, the state transportation department eventually did require the City of Chandler to provide about $1 million more than the city originally planned to improve the Ray Road intersection with I10.
PDK and Taubman's traffic offensive didn't stop at local government.
Over the last few months, puzzled staff members at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., have been deluged with reports, studies and complaints about Chandler Mills--apparently generated by PDK and Taubman and their Arizona help.
And notable help it has been. Earlier thissummer, Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano, Guadalupe Mayor Anna Hernandez and County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox flew to Washington--on Taubman's behalf--to ask the feds to examine Chandler's plans for I10 improvements near the mall.
Taubman has even gone so far as to appeal to Transportation Secretary Federico Pe–a. The company enjoyed a close relationship with Pe–a when it developed a successful mall during his tenure as mayor of Denver.
Gilbert feels it is somewhat unusual for two mayors and a county supervisor to fly to the nation's capital--and for a developer to appeal to a member of the president's cabinet--for the purpose of slowing down the construction of a mall in Chandler, Arizona.
"Since when have officials of a city ever done that to the developer of a project in another town?" he says. "I've never seen anything like it."
So far, Taubman's tactics do not seem to be paying off. But that doesn't faze an architect of the developer's assault, Washington, D.C., attorney Neil Proto.
"We are confident that we will prevail in the race to build the mall we want," Proto says flatly. "And we are willing to do whatever we must, at every level of government, to do so."
It is not the first time Taubman has employed such tactics. The developer has been in similar scraps in Annapolis, Maryland, and Hartford, Connecticut. Each time, Proto has launched attacks on the competition on two fronts--traffic and air quality. And though Proto's strategy has yet to work, both he and Andrew Hurwitz, the big-name attorney he has hired to employ it here, say they think the third time may be the charm.
Gilbert doesn't think their plan will succeed--but he doesn't like being on the receiving end of their technique, either. He questions his opponents' motivation.
"I would have to say that ego plays a part here," he says. "Mills is more market-driven and doesn't have anything to prove. I think Taubman sees this as more than a market decision. They want to make a big splash."oRULEoWalt Petrie, president of PDK, is an excitable guy who loves to talk about himself, his company and his mall-building exploits. He says he also loves a good fight--and, despite the headaches it has doubtless caused him, he seems to be relishing this one.
"They [Mills officials] have done a lot of complaining about the way things have gone out there," he says. "But this is business. This is the American way.
"Mills knows that as well as anybody."
Petrie also hastens to point out--correctly--that for all his talk about the ferocity of the attack on his client, Gilbert can only credibly carry the babe-in-the-woods routine so far. He didn't get his corner office--or his reputation--by letting the other guy roll over him.
Gilbert has pulled off his gloves, too.
"All we were looking for was a level playing field," Petrie says. "Now Mills is trying to regain the unfair advantage that they had."
After Mills was slapped with PDK's lawsuit in July, Gilbert and other attorneys representing the Chandler project started poring through the details of the Great Mall's development agreement with Tempe. They found plenty wrong with it, and filed a countersuit in early September.
Mills' suit--eerily remindful of PDK and Taubman's--basically contends that Tempe, in its rush to beat Chandler Mills to groundbreaking, violated both city and state zoning laws, as well as Tempe's own general plan. The suit asks that the city and Great Mall developers be required to start their approval processes all over again, which would bump back their groundbreaking--and presumably spook unclaimed tenants into signing with Chandler Mills.
Petrie says Mills' efforts will go for naught. He says he has signed leases for space at the Great Mall from Oshman's Supersports USA, Linens N Things superstore, and Off Fifth, Saks Fifth Avenue's outlet arm.
"They [Mills] are claiming that Tempe forced through all these approvals because they can see that we're attracting a lot of attention from tenants," Petrie says. "They're scared, and they're worried. We beat them once [in Milpitas], and we're going to beat them again."
Tempe did act hastily to get the necessary approvals for the Great Mall, and here's why: The project is just the kind of development city planners want to attract--and soon, because they are running out of land.
Eighty-three percent of Tempe's land is filled; a third of it with homes, apartments or condominiums, and more by Arizona State University. Within a few years, almost 95percent of the available land in Tempe is projected to be developed. Tempe Community Development Director Terry Day says that within 15 years, the city will be "built out"--that is, totally full.