Bell Road in west Phoenix is one of the area’s busiest corridors. It connects traffic from the metro market and the 101 Loop to the vast retirement Mecca of Sun City, Sun City West and Sun City Grand, Arizona.
When Max Taylor and Company, LLC entered the market with its acquisition of Sun Bell Plaza, Bell Road was two lanes.
Sun Bell Plaza was the premiere gateway to Del Webb’s Sun City and there were few retail strip centers along the corridor, much less the now famed Arrowhead Mall with its renown mash-up of surrounding retail properties that make Bell Road a magnet for shoppers, Spring baseball and concert enthusiasts.
Sun Bell Plaza
Sun Bell Plaza, located at 94th Avenue and West Bell Road in Sun City, Arizona is an example of what I call a “Gateway Retail Center” as it straddles both sides of the main corridor (north and south) at the very entrance to Del Webb’s Sun City retirement community.
Gateway properties can be ideal retail property investments as alternatives to higher end, larger retail malls and prime frontage properties located in more dense retail corridors, such as West Bell Road.
Local neighborhood retailers and some national brands, such as insurance companies prefer gateway properties not only for their typically more attractive pricing structures but also because they give a community an alternative retail opportunity on high traffic corridors.
However, gateway properties are not without their drawbacks; such as signage and traffic ingress and egress off main corridors like West Bell Road where the traffic moves in excess of 45 mph. Rapidly moving traffic can make access to a retail center more difficult, thus elevating the need for highly visible signage.
In the case of Sun Bell Plaza, there is a traffic light which creates a necessary stop-and-go scenario, improving exposure.
Then and Now
When Sun Bell Plaza was built West Bell Road was a sleeping two lane road connecting metro Phoenix with Sun City. That has all changed now and changes in traffic and retail density diminish the effective retail value of a gateway property and therefore, a more refined approach to marketing and leasing is called for.
Correctly positioned local tenant mix that targets residential users, competitive pricing, creative marketing and long term property value strategies can continue to make gateway retail centers valuable to local residents.
While the overall commercial retail market continues to lag, gateway property owners can capitalize on this weakness by being more aggressive in competing for neighborhood tenants. Having better-than-market lease rates, incentives and a “cash flow” posture is the key to helping owners ride through this down cycle.
Sun Bell Plaza continues to perform because it is a true Gateway Retail Property with well balanced tenant mix that serves the needs of residents in Sun City, Arizona. But the surrounding market continues to redefine its place and function in the retail community.
As with all retail centers, the marketing factors that currently exist are in a constant state of flux. Redefining a gateway property’s position, retooling its performance and re-marketing it with a unique and contemporary message can be a key to success.
Donald Teel is a Senior Associate and Principal with Arizona Commercial, an Arizona commercial real estate brokerage and property management firm, headquartered in Prescott, Arizona. Need more information? Please call 1-877-777-9100 or, if you prefer, you may email Donald Teel