A new 1.3-million square foot distribution center to bring upwards of 500 local jobs and an investment of more than $75 million in the community is officially coming to Buckeye.
One week after the Buckeye Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the project to bring a distribution warehouse for Five Below to a 69-acre parcel at the southwest corner of Miller and Durango roads, the Buckeye city council voted the project into action at its July 21 meeting.
The project is expected to break ground this month, with a targeted completion date of August 2021.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Five Below is a retailer geared toward tweens and teens with most products costing $5 or less. The company has recently expanded to Arizona with nine retail locations: five in Phoenix, two in Tempe, and one in Glendale and Chandler.
Chris Giannini, director of property development and management at Five Below, told Planning and Zoning that adding a Five Below retail store in Buckeye in the future is also a possibility.
The new warehouse is anticipated to employ 150 people in the first phase and eventually grow to 300 full-time positions, and potentially more when factoring in a potential eCommerce center plus part-time seasonal jobs.
“If you add up all the jobs it could be a lot closer to 500 total jobs,” Buckeye economic development director Dave Roderique told city council at the July 21 meeting.
Mr. Roderique said the city commissioned an independent economic impact study in June.
“That study showed the project should generate about $6 million in total new tax revenue over the first 10 years of operation,” he added.
The project, though, is not without dissension.
Some residents of nearby Westpark, a development bordering on the parcel’s east side, have concerns about the scope of the project, from added traffic and trucks as well as some misunderstandings over the parcel’s zoning.
Councilwoman Michelle Hess, who has served on the city council since 2012 as representative of District 3 residents, called the project’s location “a very sensitive issue.” Her vote was the lone nay in a 5-1 council decision at the July 21 meeting.
“We have one shot to create this city, and it concerns me that we are going to bog up one of our entrances with very heavy traffic that already has truck traffic. Some of the road issues aren’t going to get resolved by the time that this company would be up and running, and it’s no secret that I’ve got some very big concerns,” she said in her remarks. “As somebody that lives not far -- I mean I can hear the truck traffic now -- so as somebody that lives within sight of this location and represents the people of this district, I’ve got some very big concerns about approving this tonight.”
Mr. Roderique pointed out “this site has been general planned and zoned for industrial for over 20 years, and was zoned as such prior to any residential development in Westpark,” to which Ms. Hess asked for clarification on the parcel’s current industrial zoning as it relates to its “general commerce” status.
“The zoning is ‘GC.’ That is one of our more obsolete zoning categories,” Mr. Roderique explained. “It is really a catch-all zoning category that encompasses industrial as well as other potential uses. It could be office, retail and so on. It was a very broad category.”
The city will honor the zoning in place, he added.
“When we were looking at the General Plan in creating this it was ‘GC’ and we asked what could be there, it was very broad... and we were thinking light offices, office space. That was kind of the thought and ideas that were brought up,” Ms. Hess continued. “So I think that’s why there wasn’t a lot of push-back in the General Plan, because if they had heard manufacturing or very big commercial, I think you would have seen and heard more from the residents, especially the ones that live there.”
Another issue of concern is the potential of illegal truck parking along Durango primarily.
“PD has been notified, and they’re going to try to step up enforcement of that,” Mr. Roderique answered.
Another concern is the potential for increased traffic flow in the area.
During expansion, Miller Road will go from a single lane to two-lane road with a protected turn lane before it transitions back to one lane approaching Lower Buckeye.
“The applicant is required to do half-street improvements for both Miller Road that fronts this property, as well as any improvements that might be required on Durango,” Ed Boik, principal planner with city of Buckeye, said in his remarks to the P&Z commission July 14. “These half-street improvements will include additional lanes, protected turn lanes, both right-turn and left-turn lanes where allowed by city code and traffic report. And this will serve to improve traffic flow through that area, even with the increased traffic generated by the site.”
Buckeye mayor Jackie Meck, re-elected in 2016 to a third four-year term and who has served previously as town mayor from 1973 to 1975 and as a member of the town council from 1968 to 1975 and from 2002 to 2006, recalled when Walmart brought its distribution center, at 23701 W. Southern Ave., and when Cardinal Glass Industries brought its insulating glass plant, at 6415 S. Apache Road, to Buckeye in recent years, increased traffic also was a concern.
“That was the big issue in both of those developments when they started,” he said. “Certainly they have not come out to be a big issue since.”
Council member Tony Youngker was among those casting a yes vote.
“Going forward I’d be very interested to see the plan of how they plan on treading lightly,” he said of Five Below. “And with regards to people in that area not really being super keen on it, we don’t want to turn a blind eye to any potential employers or any new jobs or industry within the city.”
Mr. Roderique reported that the development agreement also calls for reimbursement of 49 percent of a construction sales tax that Five Below generates, which the city estimates to be about $450,000, and reimbursement of up to $750,000 in permanent plan fees.
“They also have agreed to build a regional water line along 247th and Durango that would serve the entire area, and would be reimbursed from that via impact fee dollars,” he added.
“I love economic development,” Ms. Hess said. “I want a Five Below here, I really do. I just don’t love this location.”