Now that the plan to build the Desert Discovery Center on pristine preserve land has been suspended for reconsideration, imagine, if you will, a world class compact complex featuring an expanded Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, the Desert Discovery Center and the Scottsdale Artists’ School all together, with “for sale” residential on the top and parking on the bottom. Not only is this practical and possible, it is also affordable.
Our representative democracy requires that you not only represent the people, but also through strong leadership, direct the city for the common good. This includes making the right choices regarding the McDowell Mountain Preserve and the Desert Discovery Center.
Mayor Lane, you, and three other council members did the right thing by placing the DDC issue on a path that allows Scottsdale citizens to ultimately decide the fate of what, if anything, can be built on the peoples’ preserve. This is appropriate, because it was through public votes that the dream became a reality. The people voted to tax themselves to pay for it.
To honor the commitment of time, energy, money and voter initiatives invested in the creation of our priceless preserve, we must not hastily push the development of a high impact tourist attraction that negatively impacts a peaceful neighborhood and desecrates land that was set aside for preservation only.
To be fair and consistent, this critical issue must be put to a public vote, allowing the real owners of the preserve to decide its fate. Additionally, prudent, fiscal municipal management and fiduciary responsibility demands it.
Not long ago, I presented a more affordable plan in a more appropriate location for the DDC in an editorial published in the Scottsdale Independent on Feb. 17, titled: “Could downtown Scottsdale be the right fit for the Desert Discovery Center?”
The city council voted to undertake an independent study on DDC issues, including its location, how to build it, where to build it and how much should be spent on it. In a related item, the city council has also hired a consultant to evaluate ways to improve our downtown.
Now would be the time in this complex evaluation process to include the consideration of this more modest and affordable DDC, located next to an expanded Scottsdale’s Museum of the West and the Scottsdale Artists’ School.
The challenge is to think creatively. How do we get a world class compact project (DDC, SMoW & SAS) built and paid for without cutting into our general budget, compromising operating expenses, capital projects and repairs citywide?
Here’s how: Clustering an expanded Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, the DDC and the Scottsdale Artists’ School on the La Loma site, with air rights sold to a “for sale” condominium developer (creating housing above the project with parking below), could in conjunction with tourism bed tax dollars pay for this DDC location, thus relieving stress on the city budget. There would also be plenty of room for the city’s desired public park.
Lessons learned from bad decisions in past difficult economic times requires creative leadership to guide the city now and in the future. Let’s put on our “big vision hat” and think outside the box, like previous leaders did with the Indian Bend Wash. This could be Scottsdale’s next “Big Idea”.
Editor's Note: Mr. Crawford is a local business owner and resident of Scottsdale