By Philip Haldiman , Independent Newsmedia
The P83 Entertainment District is not all fun and games.
In the last couple years, the city has brought in a university campus and offices to bolster the area’s economy.
Most recently, the city bought the 12,000-square-foot former Cock Diesel Country Rock Bar and Grill, 15814 N. 83rd Ave., and contracted a development firm to re-purpose the building for offices.
Economic Development Director Scott Whyte said the P83 District is a key investment zone for facilitating economic development activities for the city, and in order to become more competitive in attracting targeted industries, improved modern buildings and spaces are needed.
“A key component of creating building inventory that is attractive to targeted industries calls for property acquisition and market intervention strategies to ensure that buildings in key locations, such as the P83 District, are available for commercial or office opportunities,” Mr. Whyte said.
The city bought the property, which also housed the former McDuffy’s, in June 2016 for $2.6 million, and a year later the Council approved a development agreement and lease for $425,000 with NOVO Development to re-purpose the vacant building into an employment generating use.
NOVO will have the option to purchase the property, according to the contract.
Mr. Whyte said the property comes with a history of failed restaurants and the city wanted to break that cycle.
“The restaurant had routinely turned over in terms of restaurant management and we did not want to continue the pattern of another restaurant starting and failing and starting and failing, so we wanted to re-purpose the building to be used for employment generating uses,” Mr. Whyte said.
NOVO will promote the marketing and leasing of the property to targeted industries, redesign the property, and invest at least $2 million in build-out once a tenant is secured. Within three years, NOVO must secure a tenant with a minimum of 50 new full-time jobs at an average yearly salary of $55,000, according to the contract.
The city will provide priority permit processing at no additional cost and is responsible for major building system maintenance and repairs, such as the roof and HVAC. The city will also provide a tenant improvement allowance cap at $35 per square-foot due to the high costs of retrofitting the building to an office use, according to the agreement.
In 2015, the City Council approved the P83 Building Reuse Program that encourages the re-purposing of vacant or underutilized restaurant buildings, such as Modern Round and the former Diesel Country restaurant, into employment or entertainment uses.
Mr. Whyte said the program has served as a good tool to revitalize the area and re-invigorate private investment in targeted properties, by eliminating empty restaurant buildings and converting them into professional office, retail and entertainment uses.
Similar to other buildings in the P83-area, the city would like to utilize the former Diesel Country restaurant for high salary job creation in advanced industries such as advanced business services, healthcare or bioscience, financial services and regional corporate headquarters, he said.
“However, there aren’t currently any connections for a particular user to occupy the building,” Mr. Whyte said.
Huntington University, which is located at the former 30,000-square-foot Dolce Salon & Spa at 8385 W. Mariners Way, has its own economic development agreement with the city that was not approved under the P83 Building Reuse Program. The first year of classes started last August, and the second year of classes begins Aug. 28.
Jeff Berggren, director of Arizona operations at Huntington University, said the unique mixed-use opportunity at P83 offers amenities that are attractive to the school, and is a positive way to serve their students.
He said the location has afforded housing and employment for students and internships with companies including Major League Baseball the Diamond Club at the nearby Peoria Sports Complex.
He added it would be a bonus if the former Diesel Country restaurant ends up having a business entity closely connected with the digital media programs taught at Huntington. The city should continue with the theme of supporting or partnering with what already exists in the area, rather than replicating something already there, he said.
“We like the role Huntington University plays in being a collaborative member of P83 rather than a competitive member,” he said.
Additionally, at least two businesses have moved into the building housed by Huntington this year — the Peoria Chamber of Commerce and start-up production company CineForge Media. In June, the Arizona Small Business Development Center took residence at the chamber to provide services, including onsite one-on-one counseling for local business owners, networking opportunities, educational workshops and virtual counseling.
Chamber President/CEO Guy Erickson said the new non-restaurant additions to the southern end of the P83 district has great potential to serve as an entrepreneurial hub for the city.
“You have Huntington University, which is digital arts. You have the Small Business Development Center, and then you have the chamber,” Mr. Erickson said. “All said, you could have a student who graduates from Huntington and then works with the SBDC to formulate their business, and then goes into an incubator to get their business rolling, and comes back to the chamber to promote their business. The synergy in this area is huge.”
P83 in flux
Here is a partial update for the P83 Entertainment District.
June 2016: Peoria bought the property that housed the former Diesel Country and McDuffy’s, 15814 N. 83rd Ave., for $2.6 million.
August 2016: Huntington University opened for first year of classes.
January: CineForge Media takes residence in Huntington building.
March: Peoria Chamber of Commerce relocated to the Huntington University building.
April: Arizona Small Business Development Center opens inside the Chamber building.
June: City council approved a development agreement and lease agreement with NOVO Development for $425,000 to re-purpose the vacant Diesel Country restaurant building into an employment generating use.
Aug. 28: Huntington University begins second year of classes.