19-acre, $75M Multifamily Mixed-use Development Coming to Gilbert’s Agritopia

Article Published via Phoenix Business Journal

When the Johnston family opened the first homes at Agritopia in 2003, it began to change how people viewed Gilbert.

“This whole part of the East Valley is growing because of how (Agritopia has) been designed and how it looks. It is very shocking when you see what kind of people live here because you wouldn’t guess it if you didn’t come here and see it,” said William Johnston, business manager for Johnston Properties. “Gilbert is changing, but not in a negative way, it’s becoming more than a suburb.”

Now the Johnston family is bringing one more major development to its farmland: Epicenter, a 19.7-acre, four-story mixed-use center on the northwest corner of Higley and Ray roads.

Whitneybell Perry is the architect, Terrascape is the civil engineer and Floor Associates is the landscape architect. Epicenter will break ground this fall, and the center is expected to open during first-quarter 2019.

“This is a model for densifying Phoenix,” said Joe Johnston, founder of Agritopia. “This is suburban urbanization, and hopefully it’s something others can emulate.”

The $75 million project has been in the works since 1999, when the Johnstons first created their land plan for Agritopia. Joe said they originally planned for a grocery-anchored center, but then realized that things had to be done differently.

“The grocery center model imploded, and during the downturn we realized we couldn’t curate something with different owners,” he said. “So we said, ‘let’s do a single project.'”

The residential space

The plans for the project came together in 2012, when Michigan-based IPA Partners opened its senior living facility Generations on a parcel in Agritopia.

“That added a very important piece to the community,” said William. “Because as people get older and they need more care, you don’t have to move away from your family, you can still live in the community. Really from birth to earth is what a lot of people say here.”

IPA, which also runs the Liv apartments throughout the Valley, “seemed like the ideal fit for a partner,” William said.

“We knew we needed to partner with someone else who had expertise in multifamily, and they saw the response for Generations and they wanted to do something in this community,” said William. “The great thing is the mindset and idea and desires for this project were very much aligned.”

It’s the first time Johnston Properties has ever done a joint venture.

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