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When a McDonald’s opened in a vacant historic tower in downtown Phoenix during the mid-1990s, it was a big deal.
The area finally had enough workers and visitors during the day to draw the world’s biggest fast-food chain.
The McDonald’s is long gone, replaced with one of more than 100 new restaurants to open in downtown Phoenix over the past few years. The tower featured in the movie “Psycho” is now home to a new Hilton hotel.
Downtown Phoenix is in the midst of a development boom, the biggest one for the area since the 1960s.
About 5.5 million square feet of office, housing, retail and hotels is under construction now, according to a recent report from Rounds Consulting Group for Downtown Phoenix Inc., a community development group.
More than 6.2 million square feet of those types of developments went up in downtown between 2008 and 2017.
“Downtown Phoenix’s development boom is a sign of the Valley’s maturation,” said real-estate analyst Mark Stapp, director of the Master of Real Estate Development program at Arizona State University. “The area’s redevelopment is critical for our economy.”
Almost 13,000 people now call downtown Phoenix home, compared to 2,000 in the mid-1990s. Projections call for another 7,500 people to move to downtown Phoenix in the next five years.
ASU continues to grow in the area, bringing more employees and students who want to live there. Millennials and baby boomers are moving downtown for the area’s restaurants, bars and new housing.
Developers in downtown are now building for that future growth, particularly apartments
Many of the cranes that dot downtown Phoenix’s skyline are on the sites of new apartment projects.
Almost 2,150 apartments have shot up in downtown Phoenix over the past few years.
Now, six complexes with a combined 1,420 apartments are under construction, and another 18 developments with a combined 4,200 apartments are on the drawing board, according to ABI Multifamily.
Some are concerned too many new apartments are going up. But others say that’s not yet the case.
“If there were too many new downtown Phoenix apartments, then the occupancy rate would fall,” said ABI’s Director of Research Thomas Brophy. “That isn’t happening.”
Almost 95 percent of downtown Phoenix apartments are leased. That’s a slightly higher rate than in central Scottsdale and Tempe.