May 3, 2006 - With shopping centers popping up all over Oro Valley, one new development at the town's birthplace is a class above the rest.

Now under construction along Oracle Road, the Steam Pump Village development project in Oro Valley has already chosen several upscale stores to anchor its retail space.

Located adjacent to Oro Valley's point of origin, the historic and still operating Steam Pump Ranch, the 42-acre Steam Pump Village has been conceptualized as a high-end shopping center complete with a performing arts plaza that will feature classical piano concerts and other events.

Two of the shopping center's buildings will open this summer, said Gregg Alpert, chief operating officer for Evergreen Devco, a development company that shares ownership of Steam Pump Village with developer Diamond Ventures.

An 8,000 square foot Carpet One store will occupy the first building, Alpert said. The second building will house a Baggin's restaurant, a T-Mobile cellular phone store, and other stores now under negotiation.

In October, a second phase of business openings will begin. The shopping center by then will be home to a California Design Center and a Chili's Restaurant. By the end of the year, a three-story, 100-room Wingate Hotel will open on the site, Alpert said.

"Phases one and two of roughly 15 acres are actively under construction now and will be complete by year end. Phase three will be completed in 2008," Alpert said.

Steam Pump Village will provide an upscale shopping option that doesn't currently exist in Oro Valley, he said.

"We targeted businesses that supported the higher-end markets for the specific types of businesses we've both attracted and to whom we continue to market," Alpert said. "We also want to provide a variety of dining options including "high end," as well as family and business dining."

Steam Pump Village was the subject of a 2002 economic development agreement with the town of Oro Valley where developers would receive 40 percent of the town's two percent sales tax over 10 years. Alpert said the incentive agreement was needed to develop a trail along the wash behind the Steam Pump Village, make utility improvements, widen Oracle Road and add a traffic signal.

"It couldn't have been done without it. There were significant improvements needed," Alpert said.

The development will also feature a wide array of restaurants, Alpert said. Chili's is the only one to have officially signed on, but others are soon to be announced, he said.

"We're trying to bring in a full range of restaurants, everything from fine dining to family restaurants like Chili's," Alpert said. "We have locations for four to six restaurants."

Alpert said the proximity to Steam Pump Ranch wasn't a major factor in deciding to build in that location, but the development has nevertheless aimed to incorporate the history of the ranch.

"The logo for Steam Pump Village, which is utilized throughout the development and on all marketing materials, pictures the old steam pump. We are also working on a water feature in the second phase that will incorporate columns with images reminiscent of the old ranch," Alpert said. "It's a cooperative relationship, and we'll be linked together once Oro Valley acquires that property."

Simon Performing Arts Plaza

John Simon, owner of Steinway Pianos at 2850 E. Speedway Blvd., will soon be moving his piano dealership to Oro Valley. At Steam Pump Village, Simon plans to build not only the sole Steinway Piano Gallery in the western United States, but also a concert hall beside it to feature piano concerts, symphony orchestras, and other events.

Steinway pianos are among the most famous pianos in the world, and the company has licensed just 14 official Steinway Piano Galleries around the world, although Steinway has 69 dealers in North and South America alone.

"I wanted to move to Oro Valley because art and music are well represented in that area. It's a growth market, and our clients - the custom home builders - are moving out there," Simon said.

Adjacent to his piano dealership, Simon is planning a 4,000-seat, state-of-the-art performing arts center. Named the Simon Performing Arts Plaza, the venue will feature a covered stage and a large open plaza that will also serve as a central corridor for the shopping center. Simon said he chose a flat seating area over an amphitheater so he would also be able to host dinner shows and art shows in the plaza.

"I'd like to be a synergy point for the neighborhood," Simon said. "In the Northwest, there are a lot of people who don't want to drive all way downtown to see a concert. This way, we can have someone play a show in Tucson and also in Oro Valley."

Simon, a Steinway dealer in Illinois before he opened his business in Tucson in 2004, has worked closely with Evergreen Devco and Diamond Ventures on his part of the development but will nevertheless be the owner and developer of the piano gallery, performing arts plaza, and other areas of Steam Pump Village, including a planned fine dining restaurant. He plans to break ground on construction in May and have everything completed by January 2007.

"My interest is bringing the arts into the community. Every performance will be more of a social gathering with the plaza and the restaurant working together," Simon said. "A performing arts plaza is something Oro Valley really needs."

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