PHOENIX (AP) — Nearly three decades after the closure of a federal boarding school for Native American children, a long-vacant part of its former site in midtown Phoenix is slated for a major development.

A developer's plans for the parcel have cleared the City Council, setting the stage for construction of six high-rise towers for 2 million square feet (0.2 million square meters) of offices, hundreds of condominiums and other housing units, retail space, hotel and movie theater.

Phoenix officials say the nearly $1 billion project on about 18 acres along a light rail line on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Indian School Road, represents a big step forward for the city, the Arizona Republic reported.

"It's going to rival anything we have in the state of Arizona," Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio said at a July 3 council meeting when zoning changes were approved for the project dubbed "The Central Park."

The development will include three outdoor public plazas for events and a public walkway to adjacent Steele Indian School Park.

Jason Morris, a zoning attorney for Pivotal Group, said the developer hopes to begin construction within two years.

Morris said Pivotal Group's project will include nearly $1 billion in development when completed.

The park sits on part of the former school site originally acquired by the federal government in the late 1800s, and the portion now tabbed for development has sat vacant since the school closed in 1990.

The school was used for nearly a century for housing and educating Native American children who in early days were forcibly removed from their tribes' reservations.

Pivotal Group obtained the development site in an auction after the federal government took back the property following a legal dispute with a different development company that obtained the land in 1996 under a three-way deal that also involved the city.

Morris said there's been a hiatus in development in midtown but that the project will spur other development in the area and help connect downtown Phoenix on the south with uptown Phoenix to the north.

"It's both a catalyst and a linchpin," he said.

Rebecca Wininger, a member of a city planning committee, said the project could be a game-changer for midtown.

"I think this has the ability to be an architectural anchor for Phoenix not just in the years to come, but perhaps the decades," she said.

The council approved the zoning changes unanimously.

"From my perspective this is an enormously exciting project," Mayor Kate Gallego said.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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