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AZCentral | The Arizona Republic

High-rise apartments, proposed east of ASU Tempe campus, could displace popular sports bar

By Corina Vanek, Arizona Republic,


An apartment building aiming to be “the most luxurious in Tempe” will go before the City Council next month, with two towers proposed near Rural Road and University Drive.

Scottsdale-based Aspirant Development, a division of Empire Group, bought two parcels, totaling about 3.66 acres of land, for $16 million total, according to real estate database Vizzda.

The developer will combine the two parcels to build the 539-unit apartment complex, said Randy Grudzinski, partner and head of capital markets for Empire.

Plans for the site call for two apartment towers, one reaching 18 stories and the other reaching 15, with a mixture of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Most units in the complex will be studios and one-bedroom units. The ground floor will have 7,300 square feet of restaurant and retail space.

The group has been working with the city to determine what would be the best uses for the site, he said.

The buildings already on the sites are planned to be demolished for the new construction. Devil’s Advocate, a popular college sports bar, now operates on the western parcel.

Grudzinski said the complex will not be oriented toward students, but it is possible that students could rent there. While the complex is designed to be a high-end, luxury apartment, he said market studies will determine what the asking rents will be.

“We are trying to differentiate ourselves, not just in terms of geography but in terms of amenities,” Grudzinski said.

Plans submitted to the city show an amenity deck with a pool and green space connecting the two towers, with a high-end gym. Grudzinski said Empire is looking into amenities like a golf simulator and other activities to include in the project.

“Our intent is to make it feel like the Aria in Las Vegas,” he said. “It will be the most luxurious for-rent apartment in Tempe.”

Project driven by growth on east side of ASU campus

The project will be one of the first high-rises on the east side of Rural Road near the Arizona State University campus. Most existing high-rise development in Tempe is near Mill Avenue or along Tempe Town Lake.

Grudzinski said Empire was drawn to the site because of the growth happening in the Novus Innovation Corridor at ASU. The 300-acre corridor on the eastern side of campus is a mix of offices, apartments, hotels and sports facilities, from Mountain American Stadium, formerly Sun Devil Stadium, to a new college hockey arena that is also the temporary home of the Arizona Coyotes.

Construction has begun on office buildings where the Karsten Golf Course was, and some of the early Novus buildings, including a hotel and office building, are already open.

“Novus will be a big economic engine,” Grudzinski said. “We are right by Novus, with a two-minute walk to the light rail. This is an irreplaceable site.”

Devil’s Advocate building eventually to be demolished

Representatives from Devil’s Advocate did not return an email asking about future plans for the bar and restaurant, which has been a staple for ASU students for more than a decade.

The other building that will be demolished, on the eastern parcel, is a self-storage facility.

Grudzinski said no timeline has been set as to when demolition and construction could happen.

The project is scheduled Sept. 7 for a first hearing at the City Council. The city's Development Review Commission recommended the project for approval at its Aug. 22 meeting.

A Tempe site has been developer's goal for a decade

Finding a development site in Tempe has been a goal for Empire for about 10 years, Grudzinski said.

“We have gone in and out of escrow on numerous sites in Tempe over the last 10 years,” he said. “This location is just fantastic.”

Aspirant Development is also the developer of what is planned to be the tallest tower in Arizona.

Changes:Tempe approves new General Plan; residents remain divided on density issues

In June, Phoenix City Council approved a development agreement for Astra, a mixed-use development with apartments, a luxury hotel, office space and retail and restaurants. The proposal includes a 541-foot tower, which would be the tallest building in the state.

The company also is in the early stages of the redevelopment of an Olive Garden near Old Town Scottsdale, which is planned to be senior housing. Grudzinski said the company also is in escrow for another parcel north of downtown Phoenix, with plans to develop apartments.

Reach the reporter at Follow her on X, formerly Twitter @CorinaVanek.

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