Paradise Valley Independent, Northeast Phoenix, Arizona
September 27-October 3, 2000

Project symbolic of unique approach to development

By Tom Barry, Independent Newspapers

When Greg Kreizenbeck sought to develop a 2--acre parcel of land in northeast Phoenix nearly two years ago, little did he imagine the hurdles that he would have to overcome.

After all, the parcel, located on Cave Creek Road midway between Greenway Road and Waltann Lane, was ideally situated in a high-traffic area bypassed by an estimated 40,000 vehicles a day.

But he soon discovered that it had remained a vacant island in the fast-growing urban area for a simple reason: Homeowners in the adjoining North Town senior community wanted it left that way, despite having long been zoned for commercial use. Furthermore, Phoenix planning officials and staffers were reticent to override their objections.

So, for some 15 years, the privately-owned parcel was considered virtually useless and worthless, a victim of the NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard - syndrome.

Yet, prospective developers sought out new possibilities and angles, from fast-food restaurants to retail stores. Every last one was shot down by angry neighbors or city planners, and were denied any such opportunity.

Until Mr. Kreizenbeck and his wife, Dede, came along. He was confident that the parcel could be developed, and banked on his years as an accomplished developer, with resorts and retail developments scattered from Hawaii to Henderson, Nev., to Puerto Rico and elsewhere across the country. In the early 1990s, he'd served as president and CEO of Transcontinental Properties, which finished the final phase of Scottsdale's McCormick Ranch.

After a stint as an executive with Huco Pacific, a Washington, D.C. land development firm, he returned to the Valley in 1997 and settled in the Northeast Valley with high expectations.

At first, he met with dubious regard and resistance. "I approached the city's planning and zoning officials, and they said that piece of property was ill-fated, that no one could build on it because of virulent opposition among neighboring homeowners," Mr. Kreizenbeck recalled.

"It was very discouraging, to say the least."

But determined to make the best of it, he approach Joe Mascorella, then president of North Town's homeowners association. "The first thing we discussed were the homeowners' objections and concerns," he said.

Mr. Kreizenbeck considered various options, and ultimately settled on a self-storage business based on research that showed the area to be ripe for such a facility. The association almost immediately objected and vowed to fight it. They said they might consider an assisted living community of some sort, but not a self-storage facility.

Sensitive to their concerns, he shrewdly sought the HOA's input, counsel and advice on the future of the parcel and how best to mitigate any outstanding issues. "I believe that if we were going to be neighbors, we'd better establish a dialogue and understanding. Then, we could perhaps reach a mutually satisfactory resolution," he said.

Mr. Kreizenbeck explained the merits of a self-storage facility, citing the low noise, low traffic and low profile aspects of the business. It was a relatively benign commercial use that was likely to pose the least amount of problems for neighbors.'

At the HOA's insistence, he sought a height variance for the adjoining buffer wall, from six feet to eight feet. He then sought an abandonment of the alley between the homes and the parcel, which historically had harbored loiterers. Doing away with the open alley would rid undesirables once and for all, all agreed. He also addressed flood control and drainage as part of his master plan.

Seemingly, Mr. Kreizenbeck had managed a break-through, and the HOA wholeheartedly supported the venture.

But, surprisingly, it was the city's own planning staff that began to question the viability of the project. After six months of stonewalling, the proposal ultimately went to a final hearing before the City Council. To his amazement, the North Town residents showed up en masse - in wholehearted support of Greg Kreizenbeck's project. It was almost unheard of in city planning circles.

After three tense hours of testimony and debate, Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten, in whose district the project is located, weighed in with her appraisal, saying, "These people have set new development standards for the city of Phoenix."

Today, the 409-unit, state-of-the-art Cave Creek Road @ Greenway Parkway Self-Storage stands in mute testimony to the art of compromise and neighborly coexistence. With 24-hour electronic surveillance and on-site security, it's even enhanced the safety of its adjoining neighborhood. It is also a remarkable success story from which other would-be developers could learn a lesson, says Greg Kreizenbeck.

"It was a long and arduous road, but I'm grateful to the North Town homeowners for their trust and confidence. We've become very good neighbors."