Salt River to build $60 million auto mall; first on tribal land in U.S. – azcentral.com
Located next to the towering concrete of a massive aquarium, the lush fields of a gleaming baseball complex and a 15-story resort hotel, the Salt River Reservation’s latest big-ticket development is less glamorous but likely to be just as lucrative.
A $60 million auto mall planned along Indian School Road west of Loop 101 could bring millions in tax revenue to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community while providing south Scottsdale auto dealers a location upgrade next to one of the region’s busiest traffic corridors.
Tribal leaders joined with national developer Jim Mullin on Friday morning to announce the project, which they said will be the first auto mall on native land in the United States.
The complex, called Scottsdale AutoShow, will cover about 70 acres just east of Scottsdale. Several dealerships are expected to relocate from the McDowell Road corridor in south Scottsdale, an area that has struggled in recent years.
The auto mall is expected to open in January 2017.
Tapping into a bustling traffic corridor
Roughly 247,000 drivers pass through the area at Indian School Road and Loop 101 Pima Freeway each day, making it one of the most visible locations in the Phoenix metro area, said Mullin, who has developed several auto malls in the Valley and across the country.
Of 13 auto-dealer clusters across metro Phoenix, Mullin said his research indicates the new Scottsdale AutoShow should rank in the top three for sales. The relatively close McDowell Road cluster, on the other hand, ranks near the bottom, he said.
“You have proximity to excellent demographics and a freeway that carries that much traffic,” Mullin said. “Then you have Indian School Road, which is a gateway into downtown Scottsdale.”
An auto park is more than a just cluster of dealerships, Mullin said. It’s designed to give customers a sense of place while employing a few key tricks to boost business. New streets at the Scottsdale AutoShow will be graded to climb 34 inches in some places to give drivers a better view of the merchandise beyond the first row of cars, he said.
“Research says you will drive on average 10 to 12 miles to shop for your car,” Mullin said. “But if I put Kia, Nissan, Honda and Ford — all of those into one place, research says you’ll drive twice as far. It provides that regional pull.”
Chapman dealerships the first to commit
Chapman Automotive Group, which operates multiple dealerships near 68th Street and McDowell Road in Scottsdale, plans to move its Ford, Volkswagen, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands to the new park on the Salt River Reservation.
The company will move about 250 employees and expects to gradually expand in the new location, CEO Eddie Davault said.
“We project an increase in both sales and parts-and-service volume,” Davault said. “Some of our projections show up to a 50 to 60 percent increase.”
Sales tax rates won’t change on tribal lands, meaning the relocation shouldn’t have any impact on vehicle prices, Davault said. The dealerships will pay sales tax to the state and the Indian Community while operating on tribal land, Mullin said.
Courtesy Volvo, a new dealership that is not relocating, also has committed to open in the park, Mullin announced Friday. With Chapman and Courtesy, the auto mall is already half full before construction has begun, he said.
A windfall for the tribal community
Auto malls are some of the most coveted development projects for local governments due to the significant source of sales-tax revenue they provide. For the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, that means more money for infrastructure, children’s programs and medical care.
Delbert W. Ray, Sr., president of the tribal community, said its council remains committed to a long-term diversification of revenue streams, something the auto mall should help achieve.
“We are confident that the Scottsdale AutoShow at Salt River will provide an exciting new reason to come to the East Valley,” Ray said. “This project enhances the vision we had when it came to smart economic development along the (Loop) 101 Pima Freeway.”
Other projects along the Loop 101 corridor on the Salt River Reservation include OdySea in the Desert, TopGolf, Talking Stick Resort and Salt River Fields, spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.