Asian-theme center planned for west Mesa
The Arizona Republic
May. 6, 2006
Demographics look good for Mekong Plaza
The Southeast Valley's growing Asian population is starting to play an important
role in the redevelopment of west Mesa.
A Sacramento developer cited the Asian community's emergence in proposing Mekong
Plaza, a major redevelopment project at Dobson Road and Main Street.
A closed Target store will turn into an Asian-theme shopping center, with a
large Asian supermarket and a variety of restaurants and shops.
Philip Ta, the developer, said many Asians are selling their homes and
businesses in southern California, fleeing the high cost of living for the
Valley's cheaper real estate prices.
"We made a few studies of the area. The population is growing as far as the
Asian community," Ta said.
Mekong Plaza will be a 100,000-square-foot indoor mall, anchored by a
45,000-square-foot Asian market, he said. It will also feature national chains
that are not Asian-related, including coffeehouses and sandwich shops.
"This is not only for the Asian community. This is for the whole community,"
The project is named after the Mekong River, which runs through China, Burma,
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, he said. Groundbreaking is anticipated in
about three months, with the plaza opening in about a year.
An Arizona Republic analysis confirmed the demographic trend, with one-fifth of
Maricopa County's Asian and Pacific Islander population living within a
five-mile radius of Dobson and Warner roads in Chandler, according to 2005
estimates from Claritas, a marketing research firm.
The analysis also shows that 16.3 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the
county live within a five-mile radius of Dobson and Southern Avenue, and
13.8 percent live within five miles of Dobson and Broadway Road.
"We're not going to gear toward that, but I understand a lot of our tenants are
Asian and Vietnamese," Ta said. "We've had a very good response from existing
businesses in California."
Mekong Plaza's Web site says 60 percent of the shops are rented. It also touts a
marketing slogan, "Where Arizona Shops Asian."
Mike Nguyen, 27, said he opened the Dragonfly Vietnamese Kitchen at Southern and
Dobson 1 1/2 months ago. The Vietnam native's family immigrated to Iowa in 1992
and Nguyen moved to Mesa five years ago.
"I think slowly but surely, there will be a Vietnamese community here,"
Nguyen said. "We have quite a few people moving here from California."
Penny Lau, 21, an Arizona State University student who work as server at nearby
Best Hong Kong Dining, said the market for Asian cuisine and other businesses is
saturated in California, and Arizona represents a better opportunity.
He said the Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket in Chandler and the Chinese Cultural
Center in Phoenix are big draws for the Valley's Asian population.
"If we have one more place in Mesa, it would be popular. I have one more place
to go," Lau said.
He said the large number of Asian students attending ASU likely would ride the
Valley Metro light rail to Mekong Plaza, near the end of the line.
Wendera Phung, a student adviser at Mesa Community College, said the school
sponsored Asian Cultural Month to break down stereotypes about Asians.
He said many Korean and Chinese students attend MCC as a first step to learn
English before they enroll at ASU.
"I think it's definitely growing," he said of the Asian community. "I see a lot
of Asian students coming to MCC."