There are some in the community who would have you believe that downtown Scottsdale is perfect, that there are no derelict buildings chained off from use and that it is a bustling place for business.
Unfortunately, that is completely untrue. Although downtown Scottsdale has seen a significant resurgence over the last 10 years, there are entire areas that are run down where merchants cannot “make do,” where tenant turnover is high and where rejuvenation is needed because foot traffic is inadequate to support small businesses.
Fred Unger was an icon in Scottsdale who made silk purses out of sows’ ears.
He redeveloped the Royal Palms Resort and Hermosa Inn in Phoenix to, once again, be spectacular. He worked his magic in Scottsdale with the Southbridge One project which connects shoppers from Fashion Square and the Waterfront to Old Town where they work, shop and eat.
His work changed the atmosphere of what was a deteriorating area of the city on the banks of SRP’s Arizona Canal. Before Southbridge One, it was a wretched eyesore. Afterwards, it became a location for art shows.
Fred Unger’s next dream, which is being fulfilled by his son Carter, was SouthBridge Two, a half-billion-dollar renewal project in downtown Scottsdale that would generate approximately $300 million annually in economic activity for Scottsdale.
Our property taxes are low because we benefit from sales taxes paid by business visitors and tourists; SouthBridge Two would generate $4 million in taxes annually in an area that now generates less than $400,000. It would include residential condominiums, a 200-room hotel, office and retail space, restaurants and an urban grocer.
In addition, it would provide not only adequate parking for itself, but also provide hundreds of additional spaces for public use on nights and weekends.
It is important to note that critics of SouthBridge Two include councilmembers who, in 2018, voted for the Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan.
This is a classic example of bait and switch; a classic example of the kettle calling the pot black. The unbridled truth is that SouthBridge Two meets the criteria of the two plans which the critics voted for.
In addition, outlandish, untrue statements have been made about SouthBridge Two:
•Open Space. Although SouthBridge Two is not required to provide any open space, it would dedicate 30% of its total area to open space rather than the minuscule 3% that critics claim.
•Density. SouthBridge Two would involve a density far less than the vast majority of newly approved condo and apartment projects and floor areas far less than the allowances allowed.
•Height. The building heights on all buildings are less than, and in some cases significantly less than, the maximum heights allowed by the two plans voted on by the current critics in 2018 and 2019. .
•Parking. SouthBridge Two would provide $3.4 million in new public parking more than required by city code and hundreds of additional spaces for use at night and on weekends.
•Downtown economics. Presently downtown Scottsdale does not have enough foot traffic to make its merchants economically viable. That is a fact. SouthBridge Two would be a tremendous boon to both downtown merchants and the city as a whole in terms of taxes generated and overall economic activity.
•Downtown property owners support SouthBridge Two. Fifty of the 55 property owners within and neighboring SouthBridge Two support the project.
For all of the above reasons, I urge Scottsdale residents not to sign any petition that would refer this issue to the 2020 ballot.
Let the mayor and City Council do their jobs.
Editor’s Note: Jim Derouin is a lawyer who has lived in Scottsdale since 1985. He proposed, in 2005, the Scottsdale Ethics Code applicable to all employees of the City including the Mayor and City Council. He represents no clients before the city of Scottsdale.