Demand Soaring for 62-and-Over High-Rise on ASU's Tempe Campus, Company Says

The Tempe/ASU Mirabella will feature a design similar to other PRS Mirabellas, including this one in Portand, Oregon.
The Tempe/ASU Mirabella will feature a design similar to other PRS Mirabellas, including this one in Portand, Oregon. Pacific Retirement Services
Nearly 500 people have reportedly put their names on a waiting list for homes in a seniors-only high-rise expected to break ground next year on Arizona State University's Tempe campus.

ASU expects the $270 million Mirabella "continuing care retirement community" to offer older people a chance to live out their golden years in one of the most urban parts of metro Phoenix.

It also aims to be a key fundraising tool for the ASU Foundation, which is ASU's independent fundraising arm and the project's co-developer along with the Oregon-based Pacific Retirement Services (PRS).

Residents will need to be 62 or older to live in the 20-story building, which is slated to rise in the next two years on the university's development-challenged property near University Drive and Mill Avenue.

If everything works out, people could be moving in by 2020.

New Times reported in June 2016 that the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) had approved a lease deal for the project.

"This will be an iconic project," said Paul Riepma, PRS vice president of marketing. "Everyone in the Valley can take great pride in this."

PRS has developed about a dozen similar properties across the country.

Riepma said the project has a financing commitment from Cain Brothers, an investment bank focusing on health care, which will loan the money for the project.

ASU would lease 1.5 acres of land at the southwest corner of Myrtle Avenue and University Drive for 99 years to ASU Foundation for the deal. The lease is based on a value of $85 per square foot for the project, according to June 2016 documents provided to the ABOR, which approved the deal last year.

ASU believes the project will show "financial returns with little debt and maximum cash flow," and "create an environment for significant individual and family philanthropic funding."

Officials at the ASU Foundation refused to comment or answer further questions about the project. The foundation's CEO, Rick Shangrow, didn't return messages.

Riepma said that 315 households, representing about 475 people, have each paid $1,000 to put their name on a waiting list for a founding membership in Mirabella, which he said was a "clear indication" that the project is popular.

The project would contain a total of 252 dwelling units. Some of the would-be residents who signed up won't move in when the building opens, but instead hope to live there someday in the future, Riepma said.

Brian McLemore, the CEO of PRS, told an Oregon newspaper last month that the Tempe project could see groundbreaking this year. But Riepma said last week that groundbreaking is slated for early 2018, as originally planned.

Tempe's Mirabella would be similar to other PRS continued-care towers, like the Mirabellas in Portland and Seattle, offering extensive healthcare services and "lifelong learning" opportunities.

The high-rise's first floor would feature a restaurant and retail space for the public, and a health club and indoor/outdoor pool for residents. Three more restaurants are expected to inhabit the building's 14th floor, giving patrons dinner with a view.

Greg Patterson, ABOR chair, says things are "on track" for the development of an Omni Hotel and ASU-funded conference center.
Arizona Board of Regents
The second floor, by contrast, will be more like the wing of a hospital, dedicated entirely to health-care services. The facility would offer the services of physicians and nurses, provide access to on-site medical equipment. One-fifth of the homes would be classified as "assisted living" units.

Mirabella wouldn't add to the area's parking problems — it would boast its own underground parking lot.

Seniors citizens with walkers on University Drive, together with young people on skateboards and bicycles zooming to class — will this really work? According to an ASU press release from last year, the idea is to "engage older alumni and retired faculty, staff, and friends by providing lifelong learning, a continuum of health-care services for aging adults and an environment rich in performing arts, social, athletic, and research activities."

Residents could walk or take shuttle buses to Gammage Auditorium, night life on Mill Avenue, or the grocery store that could open on Ash Avenue and University Drive as soon as next year.

On top of everything, Mirabella represents a major step toward developing the prominent, but beleaguered, patch of ground at what could be considered ASU's front door. Most of the site consists of a parking lot, which was formerly needed for the long-gone Stabler's Market, Tower Records and other businesses.

In 2015, plans fell apart for "USA Place," an ambitious project centering on the relocation of USA Basketball, the Colorado-based governing body for the sport. It would have included an Omni luxury hotel, conference center, offices, apartments, and a basketball arena, but failed to lock in any financial backers.

Now, the university appears to have all the pieces in place for its new vision of the property.

Omni Hotels and Resorts plans to build a hotel just west of Mirabella, leasing 1.6 acres on the corner of University Drive and Mill Avenue from ASU. The university says it will fork over nearly $20 million for a conference center on the same property. Plans also call for a large parking structure on the same corner.

About a month ago, ASU, Tempe and Omni signed an agreement of terms related to the development of the hotel and conference center, said city of Tempe spokeswoman Nikki Ripley. The terms of the deal are not yet being made public, she said.

Morgan Olsen, ASU's chief financial officer, declined comment.

But Greg Patterson, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, tells New Times that everything is "on track" for the projects.

UPDATE April 18: After inquiring with Tempe Councilman Kolby Granville, the city's deputy director of planning, Ryan Levesque, responded with some more details about the Whole Foods and Mirabella projects:

"The Whole Foods project, by Alberta Development, is in review for structural phased foundation permits only. We are currently at 3rd review from revisions provided to Building Safety. They have been taking a little longer than expected, but they have suggested to break ground late Spring. Their initial plans were the beginning of the year.

"The Mirabella project (Senior Housing development) has yet to make a formal application with the City of Tempe. Once an application is made, with any necessary review by the city, the proposal will be scheduled a meeting with the Joint Review Committee for decision on the site plan, building elevations and landscape."

Below: A PRS rendering of what the ASU project would look like:

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.