It seems like the Arizona Center has always been a part of downtown Phoenix, but the corner of Van Buren and Third streets was vacant land until 1987.
That's when the Rouse Co. began building the office, shopping and restaurant center in the heart of Phoenix.
The 16 acres was known then as the Superblock.
Supporters of the big mixed-used project hoped it would bring people back to downtown Phoenix, as other Rouse developments had done in Boston and Baltimore with urban shopping centers.
The Arizona Center opened in 1990 with much fanfare. The development brought big-name retailers and restaurants to Phoenix’s core.
But the proposed catalyst for downtown Phoenix’s recovery opened as the economy was hitting a recession. By the mid-1990s, as the economy was improving, many of the retailers couldn’t hang on and were closing.
The Arizona Center’s owners were still optimistic on the area, and opened an AMC movie theater in 1999, downtown Phoenix’s first new theater in decades and the only one then.
The theater helped, but wasn’t enough. In 2003, the second-floor food court was converted to office space.
Then came the real estate crash of 2007-12 that stalled most of the Valley’s real-estate projects.
Downtown and other urban areas of metro Phoenix began to draw more residents during the recovery and new developments followed.
In 2015, Parallel Capital Partners and Angelo, Gordon and Co. paid $126 million for the Arizona Center.
Now the 30-year-old office, shopping, and restaurant development has a new look, new tenants, and soon will have a new boutique high-rise hotel and an apartment tower underway.
After that, there will only be one vacant parcel for development left at the center.
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