March 29, 2006 - In five years, lumber and cars have given way to tile and furniture.
The intersection at Orange Grove and Thornydale roads has fast become the Northwest's "home improvement corner," as many, including Marana officials, like to call it.
The collection of buildings in the northeast corner - called Marana Mercado - has stood the longest. Commercial broker and developer Larsen Baker bought the shopping center and spent millions to clean it up.
"We created a new center from an aged, rundown center," said Andy Seleznov, director of leasing at Larsen Baker.
The company has fully leased its property in Marana Mercado, most recently inking deals with Ferguson's Plumbing Supply, Shadow Furniture and Stadium Grill, a sports bar and restaurant that will open May 1 in the space formerly occupied by Famous Sam's.
Everything from Domino's Pizza to a coin laundry to a video game store - Game America - have been open for some time.
The northeast corner also features a Sam Levitz Furniture store, not owned by Larsen Baker. The plumbing supply and furniture stores will occupy the two vacant store fronts next to Sam Levitz in a matter of months, Seleznov noted.
Larsen Baker controls three corners of the intersection. Across Thornydale, workers have constructed the skeleton of a building that will house a Subway, Cutter's Point Coffee shop and an undetermined third tenant. The three-store shop will grab most of its business from people who visit nearby home improvement stores, which stand where the Payless Cashways lumber yard did business until closing in 2001.
Westar Kitchen and Bath and Tres Amigos World Imports have already opened at the northwest corner, dubbed the Northwest Design Center. A Bedmart store between the two will open in April.
"Business has been fantastic," said Tres Amigos President Keith Kramer.
Sales have increased 30 percent since the store abandoned its old location at Ina and Shannon roads, Kramer said. The new building gives the company about 5,000 more square feet to store its trademark Spanish Colonial and Mexican furniture.
Tres Amigos changed locations, because "we knew that (Ina and Shannon) was not going to be a great center," Kramer said. "The synergy of (Orange Grove and Thornydale) is unbelievable."
Canyon Cabinetry and Bassett Furniture stores soon will move into the Northwest Design Center.
That would complete the intersection's commercial development north of Orange Grove. The southern corners have much more to come.
Fresno-based Bedrosian's Tile and Marble moved from a location in the Tucson city limits to the southwest corner of Orange Grove and Thornydale last May.
"We were led to believe that this corner would be a home improvement corner," Manager Liner Boynton said.
While more wholesale than retail, the new 55,000-square-foot building gave Bedrosian's the opportunity to have a legitimate showroom, five times larger than the old one.
Business has more than doubled as a result, Boynton said, looking across the street one day last week.
"Just wait until that's done - that will be an explosion," he said.
Boynton means Marana Marketplace, another Larsen Baker plan to put more businesses on 29 acres at the southeast corner of the intersection.
Larsen Baker in January bought 12 acres, the former site of the Autonation Mitsubishi dealer that went out of business last June. The developer paid $2.75 million to get the final piece of land for its power center.
Seleznov hopes to complete deals with a specialty grocer, a bank, several restaurants and a major flooring company, though nothing is final. In all, Larsen Baker will lease 14 properties in Marana Marketplace.
"That is going to be a very exciting project," Seleznov said.
Marana officials await the plans for the power center. Construction could begin before the year is out, Seleznov added.
The Shoppes at Orange Grove across Thornydale right now appear barren, anchored mostly by the giant Bedrosian's store.
But the "piece of dirt" next to that store will welcome a DirectBuy, explained Debbie Heslop, broker for Volk Company, who owns the 10-acre commercial site at the southwest corner of the intersection.
Chriswell Classic Leather, a high-end furniture retailer, recently opened a 21,000-square-foot store at The Shoppes at Orange Grove.
Heslop has plenty more prospects for the corner, including an upscale home theater retailer, another tile store, a picture framer, and mortgage and real estate businesses. A few of the potential tenants should finalize deals in "a couple months," she said.
"The access is so great," Heslop said of the intersections' proximity to the interstate. "It's becoming the Northwest furniture district of Tucson. We're getting a lot of action out there."
Marana officials also have reviewed plans for a 136,000-square-foot RV storage facility that will be located just off the frontage road at the Interstate 10/Orange Grove interchange.