Thanks To Phoenix Residents, Old Kmart Has Bright Future

By Christina Estes
Published: Monday, June 29, 2020 - 6:05am
Updated: Monday, June 29, 2020 - 8:06am

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front of vacant kmart building
Jeff Spellman
The former Kmart at the northwest corner of Interstate 17 and Northern avenue in Phoenix.

New life could soon be coming to an old Kmart building in Phoenix, and credit for the transformation is going to residents.

Since 2018, people who live near Interstate 17 and Northern Avenue have stared at a big empty building and acres of asphalt. The former Kmart site on the northwest corner equals about eight football fields. Neighborhood leaders along the 27th Avenue corridor, led by Jeff Spellman with the Violence Impact Project, pitched the idea of an innovation center.

Kmart I-17 Phoenix
Gabe Saia
Aerial view of the Kmart at I-17 and Northern Avenue before the store closed in October 2018.

After meeting with Spellman and others, Vice Mayor Betty Guardado, whose district represents the area, convinced her colleagues on the City Council to hire a consultant to look into options for the space.

On Thursday night, during a virtual meeting that drew nearly a hundred people, the consultant, Russ Yelton, presented a mixed use center. It could include a community kitchen, certification partnerships with local schools and colleges, and small business development.

“The whole reason for doing a center like this is to equip people with the skills to have good paying jobs so they can remain in the community,” he said.

Residents initially envisioned a center focused on food where people could share kitchen and storage space, house food trucks and catering companies, and offer dining experiences, but Yelton said the community kept stressing the importance of education. He said the vision includes the culinary process while emphasizing career pathways for high school and college students, along with adults.

“You may have, you know, a job doing X today but you want to have a pathway to get to Y and do something different and increase your skill set, and this is how we would see this particularly operating, and it really provides for a better future hopefully for the entire community,” he said.

big empty parking lot
Jeff Spellman
The former Kmart sits on a 10.5 acre parcel just off Interstate 17 at Northern avenue in Phoenix.

Christine Mackay, Economic Development Director for Phoenix, said the center could become a magnet to attract other development. Guardado praised residents for staying focused on revitalization and said, “Together we’ll build something amazing.”

Yelton said some educational partners could be operating by the end of the year, while a community kitchen could take about nine months to design. The private property owner will work with interested educational parties to determine space and leasing needs, and business plans could be shared with the community in about three months.

Former Kmart Location:

  • 2526 W. Northern Ave.
  • Building One: 1121,270 square feet.
  • Building Two: 10,715 square feet.
  • 10.5 acre parcel.
  • Opportunity Zone.

Source: Yelton and Associates

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