Lewis’ Easy Street project met with enthusiasm

 ‘We’re prepared to cooperate to get this done. We need to find an attraction’
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ed lewisCAREFREE – Residents and business owners filled the council chambers last Tuesday to hear Ed Lewis’ presentation for his proposed Easy Street mixed use project.

Lewis (l) stated he has numerous real estate holding companies that are all family owned and introduced his daughter, Kirsten Brown, who was also present.

For a little background, Lewis stated he has built a number of Class A apartments, including the Palm Valley luxury apartment complex in Goodyear, and Class A office buildings throughout the valley.

Lewis said he won the Office of the Year award in 2001 for his Kierland Office Center in Kierland Commons, where he also developed luxury condominiums.

Joking about his real estate holdings in Carefree not making any money by renting it out for parking during special events and as a launch site for fireworks, Lewis said, due to the economy, putting his project on the back burner in 2009 was the best decision he ever made.

He said it was better to develop on the upswing rather than during the peak or downturn.

Lewis said people want a maintenance-free, secure place they can lock and forget as they travel.

“The luxury condo concept is coming back, said Lewis. “The town is a pedestrian environment with a resort type infrastructure layout.”

The proposed mixed-use project would include shops, restaurants and retail on the ground floor with two levels of luxury condos above, built on the south parcel of the two he owns.

Lewis said he has the entitlements to build the project.

While Lewis, the mayor and vice mayor had been working with the director of the Phoenix Art Museum to include an annex of the museum as part of the project, he said the museum board voted against it. 

He described the project’s amenities and said it would be the only such luxury project of its kind north of Kierland.

Lewis said he is willing to get going on the project. However, he said the town needs to do two things before he will proceed.

First, he said the town needs to secure some sort of draw or attraction, such as a museum or theater or movie theater, to create some synergy.

Second, stating parking is expensive to build, Lewis said the town needs to modify its parking code to allow for more shared parking.

Lewis said the project would bring an economic boost to the town without any impact to existing residential since there is no adjoining residential property.

Believing he has good support for the project, Lewis said they were looking for a new cultural amenity.

He said, “If we can get something like that going and the parking resolution, I can break ground by the end of the year.”

According to Lewis, development isn’t as easy now as it was in 2006 and 2007 and he would need presales for lenders to finance the project.

“We need an attraction and a couple of good restaurants,” said Lewis.

During public comment, Bob Gemmill thanked council for putting the item on the agenda and said, “It’s no secret I’m a supporter of this project and the huge impact it will have on Carefree.”

Harry Vardakis said if Lewis is willing to invest $90 million in the town, the town should cooperate to the fullest.

Vice Mayor Les Peterson responded by saying, “We’re prepared to cooperate to get this done. We need to find an attraction.”

Council held a first reading to update an ordinance passed in 1999 to register alarm systems with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, a service which, according to Town Administrator Gary Neiss, they no longer offer.

The ordinance will remove MCSO, and replace the term “Marshal” with “Code Enforcement Officer.”

Council will hold a second reading, during which they will vote to consider adoption of the updated ordinance, at the June 3 meeting.

Council voted unanimously to authorize an expenditure of $2,500 to be taken from contingency funds to hire local architect Mike Uhler to prepare a conceptual plan for adding town council chambers to the 8 Sundial building.

Once a conceptual plan is developed and approved by council, the town will solicit local contractors to provide cost estimates for the building expansion.

Council also voted unanimously to adopt a bottom line budget amount of $8.3 million, with a public hearing to adopt the final budget on June 3.

The budget includes funds that will provide council with some flexibility with respect to economic development opportunities for the 2014-2015 Fiscal Year.

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