West Valley Leaders See Development Potential Along Loop 303
So, I'm driving southbound on Loop 303, just underneath a sign for I-10 in one mile….coming up to the exit ramp now – we're gonna go up a little ramp here, and here I am on I-10, headed toward Phoenix. West Valley leaders are really optimistic that the ability of residents to do just what I did, go from Loop 303 to I-10, either east or westbound, will be a major economic driver, a major benefit for this area.
"Loop 303 is a really big deal to the West Valley," said Michelle Rider, president and CEO of Westmarc, the Western Maricopa coalition.
She compares the potential for economic development along Loop 303 to that along Loop 101 in the West Valley. And, she says the recently-opened connection to I-10 only helps that effort.
"The I-10 connection means everything. It really means everything there because that is the main connection to the rest of the Valley, and that’s what the rest of the Valley sees as the connection to this part of the region," Rider said.
That connection also means direct access to California. Litchfield Park Mayor Tom Schoaf says it makes the Golden State a much closer market.
"And, it's a lot more competitive to locate on the west side as compared to the east side, because it's so much quicker to get into the Orange County area off of I-10, and now 303 makes that same convenience as you go north into Surprise," Schoaf said.
Just on the other side of a drainage canal from the highway is a development known as PV 303 – there are some large buildings here. Officials say there is plenty of more room to build, and they're hopeful that having the 303 here, and its connection to I-10, will lead to more development like this along the highway.
"'How do I get to it?' is the first question we’ll get when we're selling any sort of vacant land. So, it’s number one priority," said John Finnegan, a senior vice president at Colliers International who specializes in selling land for development.
Finnegan says businesses looking to re-locate always want to know about the transportation options.
Westmarc's Michelle Rider says firms have been moving to the area even before the highway was built, knowing it was planned. She’d like to see the corridor become a manufacturing hub.
"We see it as being a lot like the 101, but we see it as being more focused on job centers, and less housing, there's definitely housing there and that’s definitely something that’s important, we need places for people to live, but it’s really focused on the job centers," Rider said.
Rider says the highway will be good for the entire region. Litchfield Park Mayor Tom Schoaf agrees. But, he also says, it will be good specifically for his city.
“If you draw a line east to west, halfway between I-10 and Northern Parkway, and another line north to south, halfway between 303 and 101, those lines literally intersect in the middle of Litchfield Park," Schoaf said. "We believe it becomes a very desirable place for businesses to locate."
Schoaf agrees the corridor will draw manufacturers – he'd also like to see high-tech companies there. And, he thinks new jobs along the highway will lead to more people moving to West Valley cities like his.
"As we try to attract the kind of businesses that we want in Litchfield Park, we can make the argument of a lot larger potential market for those businesses, because people are able to get into our city much easier," Schoaf said.
And, other West Valley leaders also hope to keep their residents closer to home. Surprise Mayor Sharon Wolcott says the vast majority of her residents have to leave the city to go to work. She says too often, transportation is built as a reaction to congestion.
"Fortunately with the 303, what we’ve done is proactively built a facility that actually informs where development should go. So, it was pretty much bare land, open desert. The 303 was planned to go there, and now that tells development where it needs to go," Wolcott said.
Wolcott says she wants to protect the 303 corridor as an employment center, and make sure it isn't sold off to build more houses. Westmarc’s Michelle Rider calls the area a blank canvas for companies that want to come in and create their own space. Collier’s John Finnegan expects a lot of development along Loop 303.
"So, the residential is there, you've seen the retail development construction. The industrial will come and the office will follow," Finnegan said.
Finnegan expects the area to be developed within three to five years. Litchfield Park Mayor Tom Schoaf would like to see that timeframe sped up just a bit, and have a good foundation in place in the next two to three years.