Commercial closures 'eyesore' in city
Chandler officials look for funds to clean up locations
by Edythe Jensen - Apr. 18, 2012 09:43 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com
A gas station that has been vacant for eight years has become the poster child for commercial-corner blight in Chandler.
The former Exxon station on the northeastern corner of Dobson and Elliot roads sits with windows boarded and protected by a chain-link fence. The major intersection is close to the Price Freeway and some city officials say the deteriorating building could be deterring development.
"It's such an eyesore," Councilman Rick Heumann said. "Getting rid of it would probably help the whole area."
County records show the owner, Jonathan Palarz of Los Angeles, has not paid property taxes since 2008, and tax liens have been filed against the parcel. Palarz did not return phone messages.
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality records indicate underground tank leaks reported at the site, and agency spokesman Mark Shaffer said the state spent $187,000 cleaning up the problems. Although no city official knew exactly when the station closed, Shaffer said the fuel tanks were removed in 2004.
Heumann said Chandler officials are trying to figure out a way to include commercial properties like this one in the city's voluntary demolition program now available only for vacant homes. The residential program is funded with a $140,000 federal community-development grant, and the city is investigating whether similar grant money is available for commercial teardowns, he said.
"That building is pretty old and it's never going to be reused," Heumann said.
A temporary chain-link fence surrounds the parcel and gasoline pumps have been removed.
Chandler pays 75 percent of the demolition costs as long as the residential property owner comes up with the rest and agrees to maintain the vacant plot. A similar program for vacant commercial buildings would help the city eliminate eyesores like the vacant gas station, several officials have said.
Members of a City Council subcommittee discussed the vacant gas station during a recent meeting about code enforcement and overbuilt commercial corners.
Economic development specialist James Smith said chances for redeveloping that corner would be better if the former gas-station site and the surrounding 9 acres of vacant land were combined and sold as a unit. Bashas' grocery stores owns the vacant land and it is on the market, company spokeswoman Kristy Jozwiak said.
Smith said environmental issues like leaking gas tanks can make redevelopment of former gas-station sites more challenging. Shaffer said the Legislature recently cut funding for the state-financed cleanups.
But some former Chandler gas-station sites have become visible success stories. One at Chandler Boulevard and Alma School Road was demolished and has been replaced by a bank. At Chandler Boulevard and 54th Street, a Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q went up where another station stood.
Heumann said the Dobson and Elliot corner's central location and proximity to the freeway make it a prime corner for redevelopment "but there is no need for more retail, and I don't want to see another corner drugstore." Offices and residential construction would be preferable, he said.