GM sells proving-ground plat
Mesa parcel next to Williams Gateway
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 28, 2004 12:00 AM
General Motors has agreed to sell 1,800 acres of its Desert Proving Ground in southeast Mesa.
If the sale goes through, it will slice off more than one-third of the landmark facility where everything from the first Corvettes to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles has been tested for a half century.
The director of the proving ground, Al DeMeese, said Tuesday that GM has entered into an agreement with a major developer to sell the southern portion of the 5,000-acre site.
The deal will close sometime during the next 60 to 90 days, DeMeese said.
He would not disclose the name of the developer or the purchase price.
The 1,800-acre parcel is adjacent to Williams Gateway Airport, is zoned industrial and is part of Mesa's plan to broaden its employment base, Mayor Keno Hawker said.
"This is one of the job centers for Mesa," said Hawker, who does not know who is buying the land.
"Whoever buys that needs to know that is in our jobs plan, and our seated City Council is committed to seeing that happen.
"The only controversy would be if they (the developer) want to switch to residential. That would have strong opposition from me."
The developer must come before city officials for approval of any plan, the mayor added.
Most of the 1,800 acres is vacant land, DeMeese said, and the sale will not affect operations at the proving ground, where GM conducts hot-weather and endurance testing of automobiles, trucks and experimental vehicles.
The administration and service buildings and test tracks, including the signature five-mile circular track, are located on the remaining portion of the site.
"We have centralized our operations to the northern part of the property, which is adequate to our needs," DeMeese said.
The sale agreement comes as the automotive giant continues plans to close the proving ground at the end of 2005. GM announced in 2000 that it would close the facility in favor of a hot-weather testing site in Mezcala, Mexico. But the Mezcala deal fell through, and GM moved the closing date to 2005.
Currently, GM is preparing another test facility in central Mexico, DeMeese said, although it's uncertain whether the automaker will move all of its testing operations there from Mesa.
Hawker said he had hoped GM would sell the entire 5,000-acre site to be developed at one time.
"We had hoped ideally that they (GM) would develop the whole 5,000 acres," he said. "I'm a little disappointed that it is not being done as one master plan."
Still, Hawker feels that the sale of the 1,800 acres is a good move by GM.
"Selling it off and using it for something other than a test track would probably be positive for Mesa," he said.
Other major proving grounds in Arizona are maintained by Chrysler, Toyota, Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen.
GM says it tests 3,000 to 4,000 vehicles annually at its Mesa proving ground.
I guess there go the Arizona spy shots and sightings. Oh well.