Land Zo: Billion-Dollar Development to Rouse Recreation at Tempe Town Lake

Madison RutherfordMarch 3, 2022
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A brand-new billion-dollar waterfront development aims to rouse recreation at Tempe Town Lake.

A new development on the southern side of Tempe Town Lake may be the missing link in the manmade reservoir’s designation as a top tourism destination, or as the city’s economic development program manager Maria Laughner likes to say, “the hole in the doughnut.”

“We’re finally filling it in,” she says of the long-vacant parcel of land along Vista Del Lago Drive in Tempe. “This is going to take [the lake] to a brand-new level.”

The lakefront lot will soon be home to a $1.8 billion resort-inspired community complete with residential, retail and office space, restaurants and an entertainment pier featuring a Ferris wheel à la Santa Monica’s Pacific Park. The project is called South Pier at Tempe Town Lake, and the first phase is slated to be finalized in 2023.

Developing the 27-acre stretch of land was envisioned for Tempe Town Lake when it was first built in 1999. The proposed project included a Peabody hotel, but the dot-com crash and subsequent recession postponed its plans. “This plan is an even better version of that plan,” says city spokesperson Kris Baxter-Ging.

Washington-based real estate developer McBride Cohen – who recently built a similar waterfront property in Tacoma – is helming the project, which will include two residential towers called The Pier that are currently under construction.

“What you’re going to expect is open-to-the-public plaza areas, shaded green spaces, a lot of places for people to sit and hang out and enjoy being outside,” Laughner says. “What we’re envisioning is a destination development where people are going to come and spend time.”

She adds that, once completed, the development will activate more recreation and tourism at the lake, which is the second most-visited attraction in Arizona. Similar projects in the area have garnered pushback from the public, but Laughner says feedback for South Pier at Tempe Town Lake has been purely positive so far.

“It will be an amazing game-changer in terms of how people choose to use Tempe Town Lake,” Baxter-Ging says.