Ask the candidate: What will become of Old Town Scottsdale?

Posted 6/10/20

In the third installment of the question-and-answer series provided by Independent Newsmedia, those running for Scottsdale City Council are asked to explain their views of the small but mighty Old …

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Ask the candidate: What will become of Old Town Scottsdale?

Posted

In the third installment of the question-and-answer series provided by Independent Newsmedia, those running for Scottsdale City Council are asked to explain their views of the small but mighty Old Town Scottsdale area.

Leading up to the Aug. 4 primary election, Independent Newsmedia is hosting weekly questions with council and mayoral candidates to offer readers a better understanding of the names on their ballot. A general election could be held if needed, which would be Tuesday, Nov. 3. To be elected at the primary election, a candidate must receive a majority of all of the legal votes cast.

Nine individuals are running for Scottsdale City Council, while five people are vying to win the mayoral election.

Guy Phillips is the only current City Council member seeking re-election. The challengers are: Mike Auerbach, Tammy Caputi, Bill Crawford, Tom Durham, Betty Janik, Becca Linnig, John Little and Kevin Maxwell.

Read below to see read about their desires and priorities if they’re elected to council.

Bill Crawford

•What do you believe will be the future of Old Town Scottsdale?

The future of Old Town will retain the character, history and heritage that makes it a special place, while also growing to meet the demand for housing, tourism accommodations, class A office space and retail. There will be more residents and customers for our existing and future businesses. Scottsdale’s brand and lifestyle has evolved into so much more than just the “West’s Most Western Town” --- it is an unmatched, luxury destination, and I believe that 10 years from now there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

•There are many opinions on what is right for Old Town. If elected to council, how will you balance all of the different view points as the area evolves?

It is a fine balance between maintaining Old Town’s character and allowing for future growth. I believe this balance was achieved when our City Council in 2018 smartly approved the Old Town Area Character Plan, which allowed for urban growth and higher density in very specific areas of downtown while protecting the core that houses our oldest and most historical properties. I will fight vigorously to keep the historical portion of Old Town the same while requiring developers earn privileges and exceptions to overachieve in the areas where they are allowed by law to apply for exemptions to the plan.

•Multi-use development --- residential units, hotel, office space or a combination of the three --- appears to be a trend occurring in Old Town in recent years. What are your overall feelings on these large-scale projects?

There is one important distinction that I think people all-too-often miss: Downtown Scottsdale was renamed “Old Town” as a marketing exercise in 2018 --- nothing more. It was not a historic preservation movement. These mixed-use developments are not occurring in what is known as Historic Old Town, but next to and around it. This misinformation has been used by the anti-development fringe to spread a false narrative, build a political base, and divide Scottsdale. I support much of the quality new development that has been approved in Downtown Scottsdale because it replaces populations that once frequented downtown but now shop elsewhere in the city because of new competing developments in the north. Every economic development study that has been done on our downtown in recent years shows a need for more residents and visitors in order to make the area economically viable, and developments that contribute to a robust economy and our quality of life will earn my support. These are things that benefit us all and these tax dollars support critical city services like public safety and infrastructure.

•Is there a problem with Old Town Scottsdale? If so, how would you propose to fix the area?

I love Old Town for so many reasons, both for what it is and for its potential. It has been my home and business location for more than 22 years. When it comes to determining its trajectory and solving its challenges, the biggest problem has consistently been lack of representation. So many times during campaigns I have heard candidates say they have a real interest in downtown and they will address our issues --- but their idea of “the issue” is fighting good development and demonizing those who invest in our city, not addressing the pressing needs of this core, more established area of our city. For most of council, it is “out of sight, out of mind.” I have worked on downtown issues non-stop since I moved here, making significant contributions without a council seat. If I have a seat, I can do even more to help Old Town remain a safe, successful source of pride for everyone in our city.

Tom Durham

•What do you believe will be the future of Old Town Scottsdale?

I think Old Town will continue to be a draw for tourists and people who live here as well. Arts events will continue to draw crowds. And many great restaurants are located there. The Scottsdale Collective, if built, would transform a large area on the fringe of Old Town and this would undoubtedly affect the future growth of Old Town. The completion of Museum Square will add vitality to the area.

•There are many opinions on what is right for Old Town. If elected to council, how will you balance all of the different view points as the area evolves?

I would try to listen to as many voices as possible from across the city. Some people have expressed views that only the people who live and work in the surrounding area get a “say” in what happens in Old Town. I strongly disagree. Old Town is the heart of Scottsdale and I think everyone should get a say in what goes on there. The city could conduct open meetings and forums to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

•Multi-use development --- residential units, hotel, office space or a combination of the three --- appears to be a trend occurring in Old Town in recent years. What are your overall feelings on these large-scale projects?

I am in favor of the live-work-play model for Old Town, otherwise known as multi-use development. I think it is a good fit for Old Town. But it needn’t be massive. The problem with Southbridge II is that it was much too massive for Old Town. By way of contrast, Southbridge I, which was much more modest in scale than Southbridge II, appears to be a success. I would favor more developments on this scale. Larger scale developments, such as Museum Square, fit better on the outer fringes of Old Town

•Is there a problem with Old Town Scottsdale? If so, how would you propose to fix the area?

Parts of Old Town are a bit rundown and need some TLC. This problem has been exacerbated by COVID-19. More foot traffic is needed. As I have expressed above, I would like to see some modestly scaled live-work-play projects. And more hotels are in the works, as well as Museum Square, and possibly the Collective. These should bring needed foot traffic.

Betty Janik

•What do you believe will be the future of Old Town Scottsdale?

I believe Old Town has a bright future but some work needs to be done. Many of the buildings need a facelift. Some of them have not had any improvements for years and it shows. This is a gem and the history needs to be preserved. If done properly, it will remain a tourist mecca.

•There are many opinions on what is right for Old Town. If elected to council, how will you balance all of the different viewpoints as the area evolves?

All of the stakeholders including property owners, business owners, and citizens, need to sit down and design a plan for the renovation of Old Town. I would keep the zoning as is in the Old Town area at 36-feet-max height, a generous three stories. I believe that all parties involved can come to a compromise on Old Town and the rest of downtown.

•Multi-use development --- residential units, hotel, office space or a combination of the three --- appears to be a trend occurring in Old Town in recent years. What are your overall feelings on these large-scale projects?

Please don’t confuse Old Town Scottsdale with downtown Scottsdale. Referring to downtown Scottsdale, not Old Town, I believe there is a place for multi-use development. Plans should accommodate view corridors and open space. Southbridge II was an overreach. It was too tall, too dense, and not in harmony with the surrounding area. I question why all the developers feel they are entitled to the bonus height of 150 feet. That is not a given and is to be granted only if it has proven benefit to the citizens. Obviously, Southbridge II did not show benefit. I am against 150 foot tall buildings in downtown Scottsdale and I believe most citizens agree with this position. I would bring all parties to the table and work on a reasonable compromise plan.

•Is there a problem with Old Town Scottsdale? If so, how would you propose to fix the area.

There is currently a problem with Old Town Scottsdale as mentioned above. It needs renovations due to deferred maintenance. See above for my ideas.

Becca Linnig

•What do you believe will be the future of Old Town Scottsdale?

As a historic tour guide it is fun to bring our guests into the “Wild West” with pictures of our city in the early 1950s. I would like to preserve the western image and our Historic District (think Central Park). Let’s honor it and create a robust arts and culture area around it.

•There are many opinions on what is right for Old Town. If elected to council, how will you balance all of the different viewpoints as the area evolves?

Last year our city made the decision to call all of Downtown Scottsdale “Old Town.” That decision was made after significant research and citizen input. Scottsdale belongs to its citizens and their voices will be critical to creating an Old Town that appeals to diverse viewpoints. It starts with preserving elements of our western heritage while allowing the potential for redevelopment of distressed areas.

•Multi-use development --- residential units, hotel, office space or a combination of the three --- appears to be a trend occurring in Old Town in recent years. What are your overall feelings on these large-scale projects?

If we follow the lead of Macerich (Fashion Square) we will realize that the way to draw foot traffic (i.e. tax dollars) is to create an “experience”. This means it has to be many things to appeal to many people. Mixed-use development allows Scottsdale the ability to address multiple city needs within a single project. Old Town is the heart of our city and we need to keep it beating.

•Is there a problem with Old Town Scottsdale? If so, how would you propose to fix the area?

The biggest problem we have with Old Town is the seasonal revenue rather than a year-round income stream. Many shops earn the entire years revenue in a few short months. If we can build a diverse city to allow for year-round income it would support all the local businesses.

John Little

•What do you believe will be the future of Old Town Scottsdale?

Old Town Scottsdale is a term that is widely misunderstood. The real Old Town Scottsdale is the relatively small area bounded by Indian School Road on the north, 2nd Street on the south, and is between Main Street and Scottsdale Roads east and west. It is home to iconic shops that sell western wear, kachinas, and western art and collectibles. At its heart is the venerable Rusty Spur Saloon. It is bookended north and south by the Grapevine and our charming Old Town Rodeo Museum on Brown Avenue. The future of this historic area should remain secure. It should remain inviolate in terms of redevelopment or rezoning. If I could, I would build a wall around this area and preserve it, as is, into perpetuity.

•There are many opinions on what is right for Old Town. If elected to council, how will you balance all of the different viewpoints as the area evolves?

Downtown Scottsdale is not the same as Old Town. While there have been extensive and expensive efforts to re-brand all of downtown as Old Town, it only takes a quick look to immediately realize there is nothing at all old about Fashion Square, the luxury condominiums at Optima or the Waterfront. Like the rest of the city which is proud to boast distinct character areas in the General Plan, downtown also has its own character areas with different rules that apply to development and design. Old Town on Brown, Main Street arts and galleries, the 5th Avenue shops, the Waterfront and Canal, the nightime entertainment area, Fashion Square, and Marshall Way with the Museum of the West and Museum Square. We successfully manage our residential character areas which are not “one size fits all”, and there is no reason to try to make our downtown a “one size fits all” area either. The best way to manage these areas is to help them pursue their own distinct identities and connect them with better wayfinding, enhanced pedestrian and bicycle connections, streetscape design and trolley circulators.

•Multi-use development --- residential units, hotel, office space or a combination of the three --- appears to be a trend occurring in Old Town in recent years. What are your overall feelings on these large-scale projects?

I support the re-investment in our downtown. Right now it is suffering like never before. I am an enthusiastic supporter of Museum Square and the recently unveiled Collective, which will anchor the southeast corner of Camelback and Scottsdale roads -- one of the most important intersections in the desert southwest. Re-investing in the right areas of our downtown is analogous to re-investing in our homes. Simply yielding to the status quo will give us decay and decline --- which we can ill afford.

•Is there a problem with Old Town Scottsdale? If so, how would you propose to fix the area?

Of course there is a problem in our downtown. It is called complacency. While we must preserve the real Old Town with every fiber of our energy, we must with equal fervor aggressively seek new opportunities for revitalization in the right parts of downtown. Some people in Scottsdale fear that downtown development will cause the demise of downtown. Actually, the lack of new investment is the very thing that will cause its failure. This is called the paradox of fear. People who oppose re-investment downtown will unintentionally be responsible for its failure. Working together and striking a balance between preservation and progress will give downtown its best chances for success.

Kevin Maxwell

•What do you believe will be the future of Old Town?

In many ways, Old Town has grown and matured. In other areas, Old Town is showing its age. The next 24-36 months will be a crucial time for the future of Old Town. We have two options before us. Old Town can move forward and be a thriving economic catalyst where tourists and locals mingle together in shops and restaurants. The other is we can neglect Old Town, and it will go down the path of shuttered businesses, declining tax revenue, and vanishing tourism interest. A pedestrian centric model is what will be necessary for Old Town to continue to be a favored destination. The aspirations of visitors and new residents are changing. To coin a technology term, we must remain agile if we hope to maintain Old Town as a destination for employers, visitors, and residents.

•There are many opinions on what is right for Old Town. If elected to council, how will you balance all of the different viewpoints as the area evolves?

I think community dialog is crucial for the success of any future development in Old Town. We have several examples now where investors have previewed their vision of what they want to offer by way of development. We have seen citizen feedback and participation provide iterations of projects. This process may repeat several times before just the right equilibrium of investor commitment and community benefit can be reached. This model of citizen input, along with investor transparency, may take a little longer for development to happen, but in the long run, it is well worth the effort to realize better projects in Old Town.

•Multi-use development --- residential units, hotel, office space, or a combination of the three --- appears to be a trend occurring in Old Town in recent years. What are your overall feelings on these large-scale projects?

Combined multi-use is a trend because it makes sense for both the investor and the community at large. It takes all three elements to create a vibrant urban core --- Places where people want to make a home, business centers where employers want to locate and an abundance of actives for the community to enjoy. That is the recipe for success in Old Town. One or two of the three without the other element will lead to a stagnant section of town.

Neighborhood retail would not be feasible unless there was a resident or worker population to support businesses. Just like an abundance of jobs without somewhere close to reside will make for more traffic. A perfect blend of these three elements, residential, office, and retail, is needed for the long-term viability of Old Town.

•Is there a problem with Old Town Scottsdale? If so, how would you propose to fix the area?

There is a fair amount of aging structures in Old Town that will need to be addressed soon. Many of those aging buildings are also some of the same structures that provide character to the Old Town area. I will ensure that as we seek to redevelopment of these areas of Old Town that we do so with an eye for quality. We can replace these buildings and still maintain the charm and distinctive character of Old Town at the same time. Redevelopment does not have to be an all or nothing proposition. It will take some extra courage to demand quality as we move into the future. I believe our Old Town area, which is crucial to attract tourism, deserves the additional scrutiny and increased level of quality development standards to keep the city unique.

Guy Phillips

•What do you believe will be the future of Old Town Scottsdale?

Old Town is and can continue to be our economic engine as long as our City Council supports it.

•There are many opinions on what is right for Old Town. If elected to council, how will you balance all of the different viewpoints as the area evolves?

If re-elected I will support the revitalization of Old Town and protect it from the onslaught of commercial development.

•Multi-use development --- residential units, hotel, office space, or a combination of the three --- appears to be a trend occurring in Old Town in recent years. What are your overall feelings on these large-scale projects?

They are fine around the perimeter with public amenities to enhance the tourism aspect as long as it doesn’t replace the core of Old Town.

•Is there a problem with Old Town Scottsdale? If so, how would you propose to fix the area?

The only problem: Old Town has are those who want to bulldoze it for commercial profit. Old Town created our tourism industry. There are over 200 small businesses there with merchants who have owned their stores for over 40 years. This is what brings tourists. It can’t be re-created. It has to be genuine and it is.

I am proud to support Old Town and will continue to do so when re-elected.

Mike Auerbach

•What do you believe will be the future of Old Town Scottsdale?
Scottsdale. The city we love and chose!

We the residents of Scottsdale embody its rugged individualism and frontier spirit. I’m Mike Auerbach- a Scottsdale resident, small business owner in the hospitality industry, and lover of our city. Like many of you, I’m concerned about Old Town’s future. We face challenges on many fronts. To meet these challenges-we need; enhanced tourism, smart growth, and protection of individual liberties/small business owner rights. I believe the future of Old Town is bright! As the residents know “Old Town” is not homogeneous. The area is defined by certain boundaries or map locations. However, being in the entertainment district on the east side of Scottsdale Road, south of Camelback Road is not the same as eating at the Daily Dose. I promise that if elected, I will keep a balance between these two different sides of the street in Old Town.

•There are many opinions on what is right for Old Town. If elected to council, how will you balance all of the different viewpoints as the area evolves?

As we go into a new decade, we can preserve our unique character and grow for the future! I felt a deep connection to Scottsdale long before I moved here.

My father is also in the hospitality industry and worked with some of the vision planners and makers of Scottsdale, many of whom I have the pleasure of working with today. Scottsdale needs…a leader with the discernment to know how and where to grow --- and where not to, an advocate committed to protecting our signature events and open spaces. Let’s protect all that made us love and choose Old Town –-- and keep thriving and growing for the future.

•Multi-use development --- residential units, hotel, office space, or a combination of the three --- appears to be a trend occurring in Old Town in recent years. What are your overall feelings on these large-scale projects?

There are places where a 15-story building belongs and places is does not. It is important to note that just because a developer is granted a permit to build to max height of 150 feet, doesn’t necessarily mean they have to. I’m invested in Scottsdale’s future. I was the previous vice-chair of the Neighborhood Advisory Commission. As the only candidate who lives just outside of Old Town, in my daily routine of walking my dog and grocery shopping, I get to listen to the residents who live near here share their concerns with me. If elected, I promise that their voice will be heard on council.

•Is there a problem with Old Town Scottsdale? If so, how would you propose to fix the area?

The residents of Scottsdale all benefit when Old Town remains the Gold Standard of the Valley.

Tammy Caputi

•What do you believe will be the future of Old Town Scottsdale?

Scottsdale’s downtown is one of the most vibrant and popular neighborhoods in the Valley. Restaurants, galleries, public events, music, clubs, museums, Civic Center Plaza, and Fashion Square form the tapestry of Downtown Scottsdale. There is something for everyone. Downtown housing is in high demand, and the market will continue to push for Class A office space and premier hotels. This is great news for Scottsdale, as Downtown is one of our critical economic drivers and contributes substantially to our city sales tax revenue. This winning formula of economic vitality allows Scottsdale to have great amenities, high quality of life, and low property taxes.

As your councilperson, I will work to support appropriate world-class projects, large and small, that add value and bring public benefits to our Downtown and promote its live, work, play lifestyle. I will also support the Downtown bike plan that will provide greater bike and pedestrian connectivity to the Greenbelt, the canal and the city’s excellent system of bike lanes.

•There are many opinions on what is right for Old Town. If elected to council, how will you balance all of the different view points as the area evolves?

The General Plan, in conjunction with the well thought-out Old Town Character Area Plan, help provide a citizen-defined and approved vision for Downtown.

Hopefully we will soon have an update to the General Plan, more closely reflecting the needs and desires of our current population. These aspirational goals will help guide us, while the zoning code provides specific instructions on development. We can’t bubble wrap the city; we must keep evolving into the future, and we need to make sure everyone has a voice at the table. We’ve seen how effective collaboration and citizen outreach can produce outstanding results to move the city forward in the recent bond package and projects like Museum Square. We need to continue this model of involving the citizens in the process early and often.

•Multi-use development --- residential units, hotel, office space or a combination of the three --- appears to be a trend occurring in Old Town in recent years. What are your overall feelings on these large-scale projects?

Old-town is four square blocks and must be preserved as a historic district. Downtown Scottsdale is about 2 square miles: 1% of our land mass. The area zoned for Type 3 height is only a few square blocks. I support the Old Town Area Character Plan and the years-long process that developed it. Larger-scale projects are appropriate in a few very specific areas. Mixed use developments allow people to live, work, and play downtown, creating a thriving, walkable, year-round venue for residents and tourists. Downtown activity generates the crucial revenue that keeps our property taxes low and our quality of life high. A few select larger-scale projects are essential for maintaining our economic reality.

I can’t judge any project until I see it, but we have excellent examples of projects such as Museum Square that are beautiful, revitalize the area, achieve wide-ranging support, and provide enormous public benefits. We can strive to maintain excellence while improving economic vitality.

•Is there a problem with Old Town Scottsdale? If so, how would you propose to fix the area?

Downtown has seen declining revenues over many years, and its small businesses face competition from online shopping and other shopping hubs. Some of the buildings are over 50 years old and at the end of their usable lives. The land is so expensive that it’s a challenge to balance the cost of improvements with increases in height and density. We need to support our small businesses, and support efforts to make Downtown a year-round destination for tourists and residents of all ages. In some cases we should support adaptive reuse, in other cases spectacular new architecture. We must always prioritize the voices of our local residents, and make sure that any new development enhances the community and protects our established neighborhoods.

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