Obscure, Chinese-backed developer eyes $1.2B project on banks of Tempe Town Lake










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Aug 25, 2014, 2:55pm MST Mike Sunnucks Senior Reporter-Phoenix Business Journal

The city of Tempe is poised to sell 11 acres of land on Tempe Town Lake to a developer who claims financial backing from Chinese and commodities-trading interests. The plan? A $1.2 billion, 2 million-square foot development on the parcels.

Tempe is preparing to sell the lakeside parcels to Scottsdale-based TrendEx Holdings LLC for $17.6 million.

The project would include offices, condominiums, retail and a hotel on what be one of the largest in developments in the state — if it ever comes to fruition.

The land sits north Rio Salado Parkway and in between Rural Road and McClintock Drive.

The Tempe City Council took a step forward with the sale at its August meeting and has another public hearing scheduled for Sept. 4. There was no debate or discussion on the land sale at the Tempe council’s August meeting and the sale measure moved forward via a unanimous vote. TrendEx will still have to consummate the land purchase after city approval, and there is little known locally about the developer.

The land is part of the Pier 202 area of Tempe, which has seen development plans famously come and go over the years.

TrendEx was the only developer to submit plans after the city issued a requests for proposals last year.

Arizona Corporation Commission filings show TrendEx with a Scottsdale address and Robert Swagger as its corporate manager.

Swagger was also president and CEO of a company called The Trend Exchange Inc., according to ACC filings. The Trend Exchange is a sister firm to a company called Media Derivatives. That company once sought to sell futures contracts based on expected movie box office revenues.

Swagger is also listed in the corporate filings of several other businesses in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, including Veriana Ventures. Sean Bonini, a principal for Scottsdale-based Signature Real Estate LLC, is also part of the TrendEx effort. Bonini said he was meeting with other partners this week and they would be able to talk more of their plans soon.

In an Aug. 20 release, TrendEx said it was partnering with China International Development Investment Corporation Limited (CIDIC) and other partners.

“We are excited to be doing business with our Arizona partners and look forward to deploying substantial resources for a signature development in the dynamic Tempe market,” said Alan Tay, CIDIC North America CEO in the release.

The Hong Kong company also does commodities trading and has been involved in a number of construction projects in China. CIDIC officials did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.

There has been significant Chinese real estate investment in the U.S. of late, but most of that has gone to larger or coastal U.S. markets such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle — not Phoenix.

Phoenix land-use attorney John Berry is also quoted in the TrendEx release.

“I have had the opportunity to work closely with the principals of this project and am pleased with the positive results the proposed project will have for not only the Tempe community but for the state of Arizona at large,” said Berry, the founding partner of Berry Riddell and Rosensteel LLC.

Berry declined further comment.

The TrendEx development is just east of the $600 million Marina Heights project being built by Ryan Cos. and Sunbelt Holdings for a State Farm Insurance regional operations hub.

There’s also a planned new 159-room Marriott AC Hotel proposed by Woodbine Development Corp. on a Hayden Ferry Lakeside parcel north of Rio Salado and east of Mill Avenue. The Tempe council is looking at property tax breaks for that project. There are also apartment complexes and other potential real estate development in the area near Arizona State University’s main campus.

Mike Sunnucks writes about politics, law, airlines, sports business and the economy.

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