Tuesday, December 7, 2010

After long vacancy, Tucson, Ariz., lot sells for $53 million.

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Jun. 7--Fast food, decomposed dinosaurs and used tires all played their own little part in last week's $53 million land sale on Tucson's South Side.

KB Home, partnering with Lennar/US Home and East Coast developer Eastbourne Investments Ltd., bought the 350-acre parcel at East 36th Street and South Kino Parkway. Houses, businesses and tech park to come.

After the Sinclair land sat vacant for so long, just how did the deal happen?

After the land did a stint as the downtown airport in the 1950s and 1960s, Sinclair Oil planned to open a Little America resort but never followed through. As we grew and grew, and big chunks of land have become scarce, local and not-so-local developers tried to get Sinclair to sell. During a press conference last week, Tucson Councilman Steve Leal had a good line about that process.

"It was like a fairy tale: Suitors on the way to get the king's daughter. Many of them died on the trail," he said.

A broker in Salt Lake City told Picor's Rob Glaser and Peter Douglas last year that Sinclair was selling a prime 120-acre parcel in Scottsdale. They told John Bremond, president of KB Home Tucson. The pending Scottsdale sale "made us think they might have a change of heart" about the 350 acres here, Bremond said.

When Steve Heil of Sinclair came here to review environmental records about the property, Bremond and others met him at Tucson International Airport. To negotiate this multi-million dollar deal they went to I would you believe Burger King?

"We met with (Heil) and literally on the back of a napkin at Burger King, struck a deal. That's really how it happened. It truly was being in the right place at the right time," Bremond said.

Burger King? The last time I went to Burger King, all I got was a free onion ring in my bag of fries. (Thank you, drive-through window lady!) : From drive-thrus to gas stations: an underground gasoline storage tank on the property at 1850 E. 36th St. was first reported to the state Department of Environmental Quality sometime in late 1988, according to department files.

The tank, one of three on the site, was first installed sometime in the mid-1960s. A 1965 city directory shows the address as home to the Thunderbird Service Gas Station. Over the years, the station has had other names, including the EZFill II Service Station and the Gas-a-tron Station.

The supply lines were last certified "tight" in February 1988. But that month, about 1,500 gallons of fuel went missing from a tank. Borings found signs of hydrocarbons ethylbenzene (BTEX) and total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), a term used to describe a broad range of chemical compounds that originally come from crude oil. No motor oil, lubricants, diesel or jet fuels were detected at that location.

Tests indicated that the leaking fuel seeped less than 60 feet down. Inspectors determined that there was no threat to the groundwater supply, which sits about 175 feet below the surface.

They dug up the tanks and took them away. They did the same with more than 900 cubic yards of soil. All that's left are concrete slabs and mesquite trees.

Early this year, scuttlebutt said the site had environmental problems.

"Certainly, we were very concerned about the environmental issues relating to the prior use and wanted to be certain that all of the necessary analysis had been done to deem the property to be clean," said Bremond. "We're satisfied that it is environmentally clean. We have no significant issues to contend with from the environmental perspective." : Many eyes gazed upon the big parcel last week, including those of Jose Tapia, the "J" in O&J Tire Shop, across the street from the Sinclair parcel at the southwest corner of 36th and Park. The shop promises "fast service" and a $5 fix-a-flat.

Tapia doesn't own the property, just the business. He took the block building that used to be a fruit stand and a tire shop and added a chain-link fence, outdoor metal shelves and a metal-pipe canopy. Duct tape holds some of it together.

It may take a few years before any of the actual building on the site begins, but he imagines development across the street will lead to development on his corner. He thinks he may have to move. And he's preparing for it. He has a tow truck and he's thinking he might want to focus on that aspect of his business.

"It's going to be completely different. They're going to change it a lot. I don't know if they're going to let us stay," Tapia said.

Source Citation
"After long vacancy, Tucson, Ariz., lot sells for $53 million." AZ Daily Star [Tucson, AZ] 7 June 2005. General OneFile. Web. 7 Dec. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:CJ133065039

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