The Kansas City Power & Light District in Kansas City, Missouri, is one entertainment district admired by the authority looking to do something similar near Wild Horse Pass.
Special to AFN

In a move designed to capitalize on the success of its existing assets, the Gila River Indian Community intends to develop a high-end entertainment district adjacent to Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino.

The Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, GRIC’s development arm, issued a request for qualifications in order to find a developer to work on the future mixed-use project.

The project would serve as a bridge of sorts between the area’s two most popular destinations, Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino and the Phoenix Premium Outlets.

Phase 1 of the project, as described in the RFQ, calls for the development of at least 68,000 interior square feet of restaurant, bar and entertainment as well as an outdoor patio and rooftop dining component. Traditional retail is absent from the request because the organization does not want to create competition for existing outlets.

The authority is interested in attracting a diverse array of restaurants reflecting different cuisines and multiple price points. It also is interested in attracting local and regional restaurants with fewer locations nationwide as opposed to larger chains.

Additionally, the project contains plans to create an indoor/outdoor concert-style venue like Stage AE in Pittsburgh  that can host music, comedy, mixed martial arts and other entertainment.

The RFQ calls for a venue with an indoor capacity around 3,000 seats and an outdoor capacity of roughly 6,000 seats.

Full buildout of the entertainment district eventually could encompass up to 59 acres.

Analysis included with the request for proposals pegs the investment in project after year one by GRIC and/or private developers at roughly $87 million. That will include development of the entertainment venue and the first phase of office, restaurant, retail, and hotel space.

By year 10, according to estimates in the RFQ, the project will cost around $245 million.

These numbers are only preliminary estimates and the real cost will likely not become clear until a developer and plan are selected, said Hunden Strategic Partners President Rob Hunden, who is advising the authority on the project.

The authority also will separately develop additional boutique hotel options adjacent to the entertainment district.

On a macro scale, the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority is attempting to create a walkable entertainment district, though it does not have specific designs for the property yet.

Rather, the organization will rely on interested developers to bring specific development plans to the table.

“This is basically a search for partners that would create something compelling – create a true destination,” said Hunden.

Hunden and Wild Horse Pass point to nationally renowned districts like Kansas City Power & Light District, Louisville’s 4th Street Live! and Charlotte’s NC Music Factory as inspiration.

Replicating the success of those projects will be no easy feat, though, as those districts are located in dense urban environments and Wild Horse Pass is still edge development, said Mark Stapp, Fred E. Taylor professor of Real Estate at W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University.

However, Stapp noted that the area surrounding Wild Horse Pass Casino will likely benefit from the Loop 202 expansion and become “less edge.”

“The [Loop 202 expansion] is going to change the dynamics of  West Valley and Southeast Valley, and this property is well-located,” said Stapp.

When the expansion is complete, there is potential for an increase in both consumer traffic and the employment pool.

The authority and Hunden plan to have the list of qualified developers narrowed down to a final few by this fall, and they do not yet have a timeline for when construction will begin.

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