The original vision of Prasada being Surprise’s mega-mall to rival Arrowhead Towne Center and Scottsdale Fashion Square is long gone.
Even the name Prasada no longer stands alone as the city and primary landowner Macerich try to market this ribbon of property on either side of Loop 303 from Greenway Road to Peoria Avenue. Surprise Economic Development Director Jeanine Jerkovic calls the area the Prasada/303 corridor as the focus of potential development shifts.
Originally approved in June 2006, the Prasada master plan featured the late 20th century model of the indoor mega mall with multiple department stores, a movie theater, destination restaurants and niche retail. And the phalanx of big-box retailers, restaurants and auto dealerships surrounding the mall.
During the past 14 years, that development model virtually disappeared in the Valley, owing to the explosion of online shopping and growing popularity of outdoor malls such as Desert Ridge and Tempe Marketplace. Whatever Prasada ends up looking like, it will not be another suburban Phoenix mall.
“We jointly came to the conclusion that there will not be 4 million square feet of retail as was the original vision,” Ms. Jerkovic said.
Instead the city and developer envision more of a high-rent district and medical campus that would fill a niche largely absent in Surprise and the Loop 303 corridor.
Most development along 303 has or will soon be filling in along the Glendale and Goodyear portions of the state route. While some name-brand companies have committed there, Ms. Jerkovic said Surprise — as well as the North Peoria portion of 303 — have the opportunity to fill in the last part of the corridor with that high-end employment.
“From a city perspective, when we talk to developers, Surprise can offer a higher wage opportunity as well as retail,” Ms. Jerkovic said. “This can be where that suburban Class A, health care and high-grade manufacturing can develop.”
It is not what the droves of people moving to Surprise in the 2000s expected. That includes District 3 City Councilman Patrick Duffy, who represents the area.
He arrived in 2009 and was pleased to hear of a mall similar to Arrowhead, but larger. With his finance background, Mr. Duffy realized before he joined the council in 2017 that Prasada would need a redesign.
“Shopping trends have changed — online shopping increased, big-box retailers were struggling. We witnessed the Amazons of the world gaining more steam, and the market shifting because everyone had to keep up with the online shopping competitors,” Mr. Duffy stated in an email.
Scottsdale-based Macerich acquired former Valley mall market leader Westcor in 2002. Prasada is now marketed as a 3,355-acre master-planned development and considered a joint venture between RED Development, Macerich Westcor and WDP.
Macerich officials did not return calls prior to press time regarding their plans for the Prasada area.
To get retail and upscale companies to consider planting a physical building in a shopping complex, cities need lures. And Surprise recently picked up two hooks near Prasada.
Costco arriving in September and Toll Brothers’ Sterling Grove community opened last year in the Prasada plan boundaries. Both should give the corridor — and city as a whole — more validation as a destination.
Costco is a barometer for a market’s arrival because of if its exacting requirements to plant a warehouse. As more upscale housing arrives at Sterling Grove, corporate decision makers should have something to relate to, both for their executives and their companies.
“If they can see themselves there, it is easier,” Ms. Jerkovic said. “Of course, the Costco corner will fill in. We’re talking to a lot of restaurants, entertainment destinations and shopping amenities.”
Mr. Duffy agreed, saying Costco and Toll Brothers are having a positive effect on recruitment.
While the city and Macerich are expanding the net as far as the type of businesses they try to attract, do not expect Surprise to ignore the need to add some destination venues.
“The mayor is already a part of my community meetings, and he understands the desire from our residents for more entertainment venues. I believe the council all agrees on this,” Mr. Duffy said. “More entertainment is what I hear the most from my constituents, and I completely support it.”
They may lack the brand name punch of Costco or Toll Brothers, smaller and midsize businesses have opened in the Prasada area during the pandemic. Those include Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt, Mr. Mesquite Taqueria and Tractor Supply Co.
When searching for comparable markets, Ms. Jerkovic zeroed in on Irvine, California; McKinney, Texas; and Centennial, Colorado. Those cities are exurbs for Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Denver, respectively.
One of these cities struck her in particular, down to a selling point nearby that is similar to Surprise’s Southwest Railplex Industrial Park, a designated foreign trade zone.
“I looked into suburban markets that turned into suburban employment districts. My favorite is the Irvine Spectrum area. They added about 100,000 people around the same time we did. And they also have rail close to that area,” Ms. Jerkovic said.
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