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Bryan Watkins' Blog

By Bryan Watkins | Broker in Mesa, AZ

Opportunity in Phoenix Metro Light Rail Real Estate

While we read almost daily about news reports and articles that decry the state of Residential Real Estate in the Phoenix Metro marketplace, a bright star is about to shine. It is time to consider the benefits of investing and believing in Real Estate values on the Phoenix Light Rail line.

The Light Rail Starter Line is scheduled to start operations on December 27, 2008, more than a year from now. Changes to the character of the initial 20 mile Starter- Line will become more evident during the first two years of operations. At a cost of $1.4 Billion from taxpayer funds, the 20 miles will cost on the average $70 Million per mile. The direct benefit will be gained by private property owners. The trend will begin to move toward the following types of changes explained in the points below.

 1.  Residents will take 1-2 years to 'test' the Line.

Sporting events will continue to bring fans to the games. However, some fans will want to begin 'testing' the convenience of jumping on a scheduled Light Rail car before and after a ballgame. These early-adopters will become very important to the success of the Line. The local newspapers will carry stories about the success of commuters to and from an event, as well as unfavorable stories of what 'did not work'.

 2.  The Business makeup and mix will change along the Light Rail.

Phoenix has established what are known as Transit-Oriented Districts. In my opinion, there will be a shift towards Upscale and Service type businesses. Phoenix will enjoy 18 Stations that have the following characteristics as outlined in a recent publication entitled "Transit Oriented Development in Phoenix" from Valley Metro.

 As quoted directly from the Valley Metro publication,

 "Transit-oriented development is a development style that encourages transit usage by increasing the base of riders through complementary land uses - such as office, retail and housing - near transit stations. Mixed-use development, such as a multi-family housing project with retail at street level, is ideal, since it attracts

riders to the station areas. Compact, dense development is also important to transit-oriented development to increase riders near light rail stations.

 Catering to pedestrians and improving the walk-ability and connectivity between light rail stations and nearby development is a major component of transit-oriented development. The goal is a comfortable five to 10-minute walk from a light rail station to retail, office or housing. In addition, transit-oriented development strives to create a comfortable environment for pedestrians and bicyclists to encourage people to walk and bike to and from transit stations, by adding landscaping and other amenities. Recognizing that people will still use automobiles, auto uses are carefully integrated into developments."

 4.  The Light Rail will introduce new types of businesses to the Line.

Riders from different points in the Valley will be curious as they watch and pass businesses along the Corridor. There will be more interest as they explore new benefits in services that can be accessed fairly easily from a Station area.  Each new Station area will become more valuable in real estate values from a buy/sell perspective as well as a rent/lease to new types of businesses.  Entrepreneurs will study the pattern of other highly successful businesses in Light Rail Corridors in other cities such as San Diego, San Jose and Dallas. Phoenix will see similar patterns of success particularly around Station Stops.


The Light Rail Starter Line is a great opportunity to unify the Valley in ways that no other single construction project has been able to do up to this point. We will likely see complaining turning instead to compliments, dust and construction make way to pride and higher property values. We will also see efforts and business ideas find creative ways to cater to the new fashion look the Light Rail will bring. Similar to the way models walk the 'runway' at fashion shows, the Phoenix Light Rail Corridor will sparkle, smile and shine as it proudly but smoothly glides over the welded iron rails, welcoming new travelers at each stop.

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