(Source: AZCentral): Paulina Pineda – As new restaurants and brewpubs move into once-vacant storefronts in downtown Chandler, the city center has become a hotbed of activity, with diverse dining and entertainment options.
Redevelopment outside the historic square, as well as a new mixed-use project with a movie theater and restaurant space, have helped transform the once sleepy downtown.
And it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Five restaurants and bars opened downtown in the first five months of the year and several more are expected to open by year’s end.
New offices are under construction, and developers are expected to break ground on a new apartment complex this winter.
Here are others:
- QuartHaus: Longtime downtown Chandler property owners Peter Sciacca and his wife, Sigrid, opened the taproom on Washington and Chicago streets in April 2018 with 25 beers and eight wines on tap. The taproom also features a large courtyard with a basketball hoop and games. Peter Sciacca said the couple plans to start making their own beer and spirits in the next few months.
- FLO Yoga & Cycling: The fitness studio opened on Frye Road in November and offers spinning, yoga and “flex classes,” which range from kickboxing-inspired circuit workouts to Pilates.
- Overstreet Chandler: The 77,000-square-foot mixed-use development on Chandler Boulevard and Arizona Avenue features the state’s first Flix Brewhouse, a dine-in movie theater with a gastropub and in-house brewery, offices and restaurant space.
- Mingle + Graze: The restaurant opened in January on San Marcos Place in the heart of downtown Chandler and offers cheeses and charcuteries. Visitors can bring their own bottle of wine or beer to enjoy with the food.
- Civic Market: A one-stop shop offering wood-fired pizza, coffee, local goods and salon services, Civic Market opened in April in the former ICAN youth center space on Washington and Chicago streets.
- The Sleepy Whale: Owner Justin Evans, the mastermind behind the Wandering Tortoise in Phoenix, opened the craft beer bar in May at the site of a former automotive business at Arizona Avenue and Frye Road.
- Craft 64: The newest brewpub and restaurant downtown offers artisan wood-fired pizza made with homemade mozzarella cheese and local beers.
In addition to the bars and restaurants that have opened, more are planned to open shop downtown in the next year.
Several new projects are also under construction, and the City Council recently approved an agreement for a new entertainment space at Arizona Avenue and Buffalo Street.
The Hidden House, a restaurant and event space from Gavin Jacobs, owner of the Brickyard Downtown, will open in the next few weeks inside a 1939 cottage on Commonwealth Avenue.
The city announced earlier this year that medical consulting firm Revint Solutions is opening its regional offices on the entire second floor of the Overstreet development. Tucson-based Truland Burgers & Greens and breakfast spot Overeasy also will open at Overstreet.
The first phase of the New Square Chandler development, a mixed-use project with a hotel, offices and restaurant space at Arizona Avenue and Chicago Street, is expected to be completed the first week of December, said developer Spike Lawrence.
Great Western Bank, a regional bank based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will lease 12,000 square feet of space in a three-story office building for its regional headquarters. DC Steak House, which has been in downtown Chandler for eight years at a location in the historic square, will relocate to the ground floor of the office building.
The 109-room Hilton Garden Inn will open in March 2020 at the location.
Lawrence said he is in negotiations with other companies to lease the remainder of the office building and is in talks with three restaurants for a stand-alone restaurant space, which opens to an event square with green space.
In addition, developers are expected to break ground this winter on a new apartment complex. The project, called DC Heights, will include 157 units. A second phase is expected to break ground 12 months after the first phase is completed, said Kim Moyers, the city’s cultural development director.
Moyers said the DC Heights project, as well as two apartment complexes that were completed in the past four years, is helping to drive development of new restaurants and businesses downtown.
Longtime business owners welcome the change
Despite the rapidly changing landscape, longtime business owners say they’re not intimidated by the new competition.
Ric Serrano is president and CEO of Serrano’s Mexican Restaurants, which has been operating in downtown Chandler since 1979.
Serrano said when he was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, the family owned a clothing store downtown. But as malls opened nearby, the family was driven out of business, he said. As independently owned businesses dried up, pawnshops and storefront churches moved in, he said.
“Downtown was not a desirable place,” he said, so former City Councils and the business community were forced to act to spur redevelopment in the area.
The growth that downtown is experiencing now is the fruit of that labor, he said.
Serrano said while he would like to see more retail, the restaurants and bars attract more customers downtown, which means more foot traffic for the local businesses.
Davey Saba is manager of Saba’s Western Wear, which has operated downtown since the early 1900s. He said he has seen the benefits firsthand. The more people come downtown to eat and drink, the busier his store is, and because his business attracts a lot of tourists, he expects the new hotel to be a boon for business.
New business owners also don’t see themselves as a threat to the established businesses in the area.
“We’re not here competing,” said Evans, of the Sleepy Whale. “We all complement each other. I say the more the merrier.”
Residents hungry for more
Like the business owners, many residents are also eager for additional downtown dining and entertainment options.
Stephen Bielecki, who has lived in Chandler for five years, said when he first moved to the area, downtown was “slow.”
“There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it, but it never had anything to really draw me downtown,” he said.
The new developments have brought a “new sense of life” downtown, he said.
Longtime Chandler resident Jennifer Valencia said while the library used to be the only thing that brought her downtown, the new locally owned and operated shops have created a “cool” and “hip” atmosphere.
But not all favor the transformation.
Some lamented the loss of historic character that new developments bring and said they preferred the “old Chandler” when the U.S. Air Force plane was on display at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park and Serrano’s Popular Store and Arrow Pharmacy were still open.
“I don’t care for all change. The overwhelming number of businesses and traffic eliminates the small-town feeling and personal touch,” resident Nadya Jackson said.