By Recker McDowell —
Restaurants have been a big real estate, economic development and consumer spending driver throughout the current economic cycle.
New cool restaurants filled empty and foreclosed properties right after the Great Recession. That helped Culinary Dropout and others sprout on Seventh Street in Phoenix.
Restaurants have been the linchpin of the growth and popularity of Gilbert’s Heritage District and the town hopes to parlay the popularity of Barrio Queen, Postino, OHSO Brewery and Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row into attracting offices and a hotel to the area.
Old Town Scottsdale continues to add popular and cool food concepts including Toca Madera to its stable of popular restaurants and bars.
Popular restaurants and bars are increasingly economic development drivers. They attract not only tourists to Old Town but also have proven to be economic development drivers. The likes of Indeed.com, Yelp and Zillow landed jobs at the revamped Scottsdale Galleria in part because of the nearby amenities (shopping, restaurants and happy hour spots) for their workers.
So, it is not logical that other cities are also looking to attract and grow cool restaurants and bars as part of their own economic development and downtown plans.
Chandler is starting to make progress on this front fostering a stable of restaurants and bars in its downtown area at Boston Street near Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard. Popular concepts such as the The Original Chop Shop, Over Easy and San Tan Brewing Co. have landed there. The city of Chandler is looking at bringing new and revamped developments as well as events to the area.
Chandler already has a strong business and technology base with technology firms led by Intel and Google’s self-driving car division Waymo. It also already has a strong sales tax base via Chandler Fashion Center. Chandler’s business and economic bases and demographics all have the ingredients for the next cool downtown.
But like other suburbs in sprawling Sun Belt metro areas like Phoenix, Chandler could use a walkable downtown where residents and visitors can hang out and walk around.
Downtown Chandler has a ways to go to catch up with Old Town Scottsdale’s offerings and Gilbert’s lineup of popular restaurant and bar brands.
But Chandler looks to be on the right path with growing its downtown. It will just take commitment and finding ways to encourage more food and beverage concepts to land there and getting developers to think more urban and walkable and less suburban.