courtesy of Paulina Pineda, The State Press, October 31, 2012

Tempe’s controversial housing project, Gracie’s Village, broke ground this morning after weeks of negotiation between residents and planners.

The Tempe City Council approved the 50-unit, four-story project at McClintock Drive and Apache Boulevard after scaling it down by a full floor and 15 apartment units.

The product of Grace Community Church’s partnership with Gorman & Company is expected to be completed in 13 months and will accept pre-lease applications in summer 2013.

Gracie’s Ministries Executive Director Paul Neighbors said the partnership addressed many of the overcrowding and safety concerns held by local neighborhoods.

“(The project) allows us an opportunity to provide affordable housing for an underserved portion of the Tempe population,” Neighbors said.

The housing units are intended for working families earning between $15,000 and $50,000 annually, said Brian Swanton, lead developer of Gracie’s Village and president of Gorman & Company’s Arizona market.

“Controversy is never fun, but at the end of the day we ended up with a project that 99 percent of the neighborhood folks and the town is happy with,” Swanton said. “Would I rather have built more units? Absolutely.”

Philip Amorosi, chair of the Hudson Manor Association, a neighborhood across the street from Gracie’s Village, helped reach a compromise between all parties.

Amorosi said the first plan was “over-the-top” and would not have passed.

“We are not against affordable housing, just against an overwhelming project,” Amorosi said. “We are in the densest part of the state already. We don’t want to overcrowd the area.”

Amorosi said residents are hopeful the project will add to the family-friendly environment.

“Maybe renters will see a nice family neighborhood and want to live there in the future,” he said. “These people can actually help our neighborhood.”

Apartments range from one to three bedrooms, and the complex will feature an Internet lounge, a playground and a picnic area.

The mixed-use development will have residential amenities, such as a fitness room and a business center. The first floor will remain Gracie’s Family Thrift Store.

Gracie’s Village will be a sustainable building featuring solar photovoltaic panels, hard surface flooring throughout the development, low-flow plumbing fixtures and porous concrete to reduce runoff water in the parking lot, Neighbors said.

The apartments will come with Energy Star appliances and lighting and front-load washers and dryers, which use about 55 percent less water.

To avoid traffic, street parking was eliminated, and residents will not be able to turn north out of the parking lot.

The building will have electronically controlled access, allowing only residents in and out of the building.

Swanton, the project’s developer who also teaches neighborhood revitalization at ASU, expects Gracie’s Village to lease faster than Gorman & Company’s other two Metro Phoenix projects, The Lofts at McKinley and Glendale Enterprise Lofts.


Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @paulinapineda22