$1.4 billion SRP project reclaims a Tempe ‘Legend’

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The 58-acre site where The Grand will be built is just minutes from Downtown Tempe, Downtown Phoenix and Sky Harbor International Airport.
The 58-acre site where The Grand will be built is just minutes from Downtown Tempe, Downtown Phoenix and Sky Harbor International Airport.

By Diana Whittle

The face of the East Valley is about to change again, thanks to a new development called “The Grand at Papago Park Center,” which officials of the local utility provider the Salt River Project have announced.

Once constructed, the project will sit on the final developable parcel of 58 acres in Tempe, within one of the largest business parks in the state.

SRP claims the project will involve a total investment of
$1.4 billion dollars and net the area an additional 17,000 jobs.

The Grand at Papago Park Center is planned to be a high-profile, urban, mixed-use development with two hotels, office space, 550 apartment units, restaurant and retail space—all within the 350-acre Papago Park Center, in the heart of the Tempe-Phoenix metropolitan area, near the headquarters of SRP and Tempe Town Lake.

At build out, the ambitious project is predicted to substantially grow the business park, which is already home to more than 10,000 employees and residents. It is anticipated that the project will take between 15 and 20 years to complete, though it could be shorter or longer based on market conditions.

Remember Legend City?

However long you’ve lived in the Valley, you might observe that more development is really no big news—it seems that if you drive in any direction, you’ll see that a new home, a new business or a new retail site is bound to be taking shape.

What’s unique about The Grand’s future location is that its near the site of the former, popular amusement park known as Legend City.

Without many historic buildings or businesses in the area, one mention of the name “Legend City” to long-time residents of the Valley—especially to those who were kids between its opening in 1963 to its closing in 1983—and you’ll usually illicit a nostalgic and wistful sigh.

Originally conceived as an Old West theme park, in the mold of Disneyland, by Phoenix artist and advertising agency owner Louis E. Crandall, Legend City endured a series of closings, bankruptcies and ownership changes throughout the 1960s and 1970s; and, unfortunately, was never a financial success.

But, Legend City did feature a number of popular and memorable attractions—none more beloved than the regular appearance of television-show hosts “Wallace and Ladmo.” 

The duo, well-known for their kids program, appeared at Legend City virtually every weekend for the entire run of the park.

Legend City opened to much public fanfare on June 29, 1963, but ultimately fell into financial difficulty.

After a series of owners and the closing of the park in 1983, the land was purchased by SRP, and became the site of their new corporate offices. 

Legend City is gone, but certainly not forgotten.

A year-long exhibit at the Tempe Historic Museum winds down at the end of October and a website, devoted to all things about the amusement park, can be found at legend-city.com

The past made way for the future

Fast forward to 2016 and the revelation that The Grand at Papago Park Center is named after the Grand Canal, a waterway developed in the 1870s to bring water from the Salt and Verde rivers to the arid Salt River Valley region.

The Grand Canal is the oldest remaining pioneer canal on the north side of the Salt River.

Mitch Rosen, development manager of Papago Park Center Inc., said the Grand Canal was redirected as the focal point of the project, with construction plans including a legacy water feature that features a simulated water release in tribute to Roosevelt Dam and its significant place in Arizona history.

“The Grand Canal and Roosevelt Dam were vitally important to the initial growth of the Salt River Valley, just as they are to the sustainability today of our more than 4 million residents,” Rosen said.

“Without a reliable water supply that came from investments made more than a century ago, Phoenix would not have the kind of economic development that we enjoy today.”

Construction of The Grand actually started in 2014 with the relocation of the canal, creation of the water feature to run through the development, which was followed by multi-use-path improvements along the north and south sides of the canal.

Papago Park Center Inc., The Grand project’s master developer and a subsidiary of SRP, selected Lincoln Property Co. and Goldman Sachs in 2015 after an extensive vetting process to develop the first four-story Class A office building.

SAP, a German multinational company with regional offices in 130 countries, makes enterprise software to manage business operations and will bring approximately 275 employees to The Grand.

The Grand is part of Papago Park Center, which was started in 1988, and is home to the corporate offices of SRP as well as First Solar, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Towers Watson, Union Bank, Sonora Quest Labs, State Farm Insurance, Western Refining and Parsons Brinckerhoff, among others.

More information, including photos of the project, can be found online at
thegrandatpapagoparkcenter.com.

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