The vastness of the windswept landscape, studded with native brush and trees, stands in contrast to the energies of manmade development that have emerged since 2013 just north of Interstate 40, 24 miles east of Flagstaff en route to the town of Winslow.
This is the evolving world of a modern Twin Arrows site that honors the legacy of the old Route 66 landmark trading post, while also marking the spot off Exit 219 where Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort celebrated its second anniversary of business in May.
The newest stage in the development of business locations in the Twin Arrows area came on Sept. 1 when the Coconino County Board of Directors paved the way for additional development by voting to approve a zone change for 70 acres next to Twin Arrows Resort and Casino.
Named the Outlook at Glittering Mountain in honor of the sacred San Francisco Peaks, the proposed development would include an entertainment pavilion, retail stores, restaurants, hotels, cultural center and housing, as well as an expanse of green lawn and the potential for hundreds of homes just west of the casino.
“Interstate 40, between Flagstaff and Winslow, is slowly attracting business development,” said Supervisor Mandy Metzger, who represents Coconino County District 4. “The Navajo Shopping Center’s Outlook at Glittering Mountain provided Coconino County and a forward-thinking applicant with the challenge of crafting a complex development agreement to address a large project in a more rural setting. It is my hope this portion of the I-40 Corridor will develop in a manner that provides solid opportunities for investment, tourism and employment while preserving values and view sheds in a mutually beneficial way.”
Nathan Begay, CEO of Navajo Shopping Centers Inc., a tribally chartered corporation that is spearheading the project, says the new development would be good for both Coconino County and the Navajo Nation.
The long-term goal for the whole area is to provide an all-encompassing destination for adults and families. To this end, strategic alliances are being made with festivals and other events in Flagstaff, Winslow and Williams.
The Navajo Shopping Centers corporation had requested a zone change from general to mixed use to allow for expansion plans. The vote by the supervisors allows the group to develop the property in four phases, to be completed in 10 years.
County approval was necessary because the project is on fee simple land, not tribal trust land.
Begay has commented that he thinks the Glittering Mountain project is a good one for the Navajo Nation because of its unique qualities.
The development agreement, which is a contract between Coconino County and the developers, was first submitted in 2013, with the Planning and Zoning Commission approving the zone change in October 2014.
Details in the agreement have been worked on, including those concerning fire, police and emergency services, as well as water and wastewater services (which will connect to those at the casino), preservation of cultural resources and installing sustainable business practices.
The contract form is considered to be legally strong and easier to be understood by contractors and others in the business world, according to Bill Ring, senior deputy attorney with the county. It is also more detailed and can show how a development will be rolled out over time.
“Any development agreement helps answer the question: How much certainty and predictability is the law going to allow those who have expectations surrounding a real estate transaction?” Ring explained. “The developer, the neighborhood, the greater community, the government, banks and lenders and the patrons of the establishment all have expectations. A development agreement is a good way to manage the outcomes so that all the expectations are met.”
Plans call for some 370 residences at Glittering Mountain. There are about 650 employees at the Twin Arrows casino and some of the housing units and retail stores at the development are designed to serve employees so they will not need to commute long distances to work at the remote resort destination.
Non-residential commercial space may well top 400,000 square feet when the project is completed.
Unlike the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, which is on Navajo Nation land, the Outlook at Glittering Mountain will be required to pay taxes to Coconino County.
The full-scale master plan for Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort includes housing, shopping centers, a bowling alley, a theater and a gas station by 2020.
“These strategic business expansions solidify Twin Arrows as an economic engine in Northern Arizona and allow us to showcase Navajo art, cuisine and culture to a greater audience,” said Derrick Watchman, CEO of The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (Navajo Gaming)
Twin Arrows is located just north of Interstate 40, about 24 miles east of Flagstaff, a proximity that promises benefits to larger population locations nearby.
“The expansions allow us to better serve a wider variety of guests and generate even more revenue and jobs for Flagstaff, the region and the reservation,” Watchman added. FBN
Story and Photo by Betsey Bruner