Guest Editorial: Chandler Looks to Grow Downtown, Become Next Restaurant Destination

By Recker McDowell —

Downtown Chandler is looking to make its mark by becoming the region’s next culinary destination.

That follows on the success of the restaurants and bars at Gilbert’s Heritage District and the popular food and entertainment scene in Old Town Scottsdale.

Chandler’s downtown is at Arizona Avenue and Boston Street. It already features some restaurants and has been trying to host more events such as farmers markets and yoga. The city hopes to attract more restaurants and businesses to the area. The Original ChopShop and SanTan Brewery have already landed there.

Such efforts take patience, good timing and some forward-thinking advocates that can show others the path and business model viability.

That is what happened in Gilbert where the town owned much of the land and buildings that turned into its restaurant row. The town has been selective in which restauranteurs and developers it has worked with. It also helped that Joe Johnston pioneered the area with Liberty Market and Joe’s BBQ.

Chandler certainly has the economic base to support a more vibrant downtown and restaurant scene. The Price Road Corridor is home to Intel, Google’s self-driving car division Waymo and other technology companies.

There are plenty of restaurants clustered around Chandler Fashion Center, but the Chandler’s downtown area has a plaza area and has some walkability to it.

Walkability is an important appeal in Old Town Scottsdale, on Tempe’s Mill Avenue and in Gilbert.

Offering a chance for diners and others to stroll around helps in place making in suburban and car-oriented metro Phoenix.

Chandler is not alone in its efforts to grow a more vibrant downtown and attract more restaurants. Mesa, Glendale, Avondale, Goodyear, Surprise and other cities have also been trying to bring increased life to their downtowns and attract more cool restaurants.

Of course, landing restaurants and cool coffee shops and bars depends on nearby consumer demographics and population.

Timing also helps. Many of the restaurants that sprouted along Seventh Street in Phoenix and other parts of the Valley were able to take advantage of lower real estate prices and availability of properties during the last economic slowdown.

Chandler has some ingredients to grow its downtown core. It might just take some patience and finding the right concepts and partners.