Motorists traveling along Loop 101 entering and exiting south Scottsdale are watching dollars trickle out of the city’s coffers and into the hands of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community with each new nail hammered into a developing auto park.
The 70-acre property abutting Scottsdale city boundaries is Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s newest claim to fame: The Scottsdale AutoShow.
The automotive retail development between north Pima Road and the Loop 101, just south of Indian School Road, will be the first fully developed auto park on tribal lands.
It will also be taking an estimated $1 million out of the city of Scottsdale’s fiscal year 2017-18 budget, according to Scottsdale Budget Director Judy Doyle, who outlined revenue concerns at a January budget hearing.
SRPMIC owns and operates a number of successful enterprises neighboring Scottsdale including Talking Stick Resort and Golf Club, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Salt River Materials Group and the Salt River Landfill.
The Scottsdale AutoShow was developed by an enterprise formed specifically by the community. It is slated to begin selling cars in summer 2017 with the opening of Courtesy Volvo, and Chapman Ford, Chapman Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM, and Chapman Volkswagen.
The Chapman Automotive Group has owned and operated new and used car dealerships within the Valley for over 50 years. It’s current Scottsdale location on McDowell Road west of Scottsdale Road will be closing to move to the Scottsdale AutoShow.
The AutoShow has been in development for the last two years, according to Jennifer Giff, Sr. Counsel for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Corp. and Enterprises.
“The Community contemplated developing an auto park for a very long time, cautiously waiting until the timing was right,” Ms. Giff said in a March 9 written response to emailed questions. “New development today builds security for the generations to come.”
The AutoShow impacts community members
The Scottsdale AutoShow began construction months ago, with two large entry signs and a digital marque facing the freeway, standing tall above the mostly vacant surrounding land.
This winter construction has begun on the first dealerships on the north side of the property. Eight to 10 tenants with multiple dealerships are estimated to move in, creating the need for hundreds of employees, and providing and providing new economic opportunities to the surrounding Community.
“Community members and local residents from neighboring cities will have opportunities for employment,” Ms. Giff said. “The additional employees in the commercial corridor will drive the local economy for restaurants, and more goods and services in the immediate area.”
SRPMIC will be receiving transaction privilege tax revenue from the auto sales, plus the additional funds from the land leases. On an annual basis, the Community collects possessor interest tax — the Community’s version of property tax — from dealerships doing business on tribal lands.
“Our projections for sales tax revenue are not public information, but the Community expects the ideal location of Scottsdale AutoShow to be a win-win for the dealerships, the Community and surrounding businesses,” Ms. Giff said.
“The tax revenue goes into the Community’s general fund for government services and programs such as police, fire, health, education and infrastructure projects.”
These funds help improve the welfare of Community members in a number of ways, including sustaining the government and its services; promoting additional development and projects; and fueling the long term sustainability of the Community as a good neighbor to the surrounding municipalities and county government.
The Community’s leadership — past and present — has created the vision for current businesses, on-going construction and opportunities for future growth. More recently, says Ms. Giff, individual landowners within the Community have begun exploring business development opportunities.
“President Delbert W. Ray, Sr. and Vice President Martin Harvier and all council members are actively involved in the various tribal enterprises as well as planning, reviewing and ultimately having final approval on any potential third-party development project before any construction is started,” she said.
“The Community is in control of how its land is developed and is willing to wait for the right project and the right fit.”
The initial fixtures at the AutoShow include sidewalk and landscaping designs to mirror the SRMCIC cultural.
“We believe Scottsdale AutoShow to be the first fully developed auto park on tribal lands,” Ms. Giff explained. “The Community designed Scottsdale AutoShow at Salt River with subtle cultural themes to let the public know that they are within the homeland of the Pima and Maricopa tribes.”
The large project is a point of pride, Ms. Giff says, as she explained the Community will be closely watching to see if it succeeds or fails.
“It is a point of pride to be the first venture into new long term economic development for the use of tribal land,” Ms. Giff said. “People watch for your success or failure and respond accordingly. We feel we have fully prepared for Scottsdale AutoShow and that this will be a successful auto park for everyone.”
What was once known as the Motor Mile, the stretch of road Valley dealerships used to call home along McDowell Road, is now in the middle of a resurgence.
Scottsdale leaders have been working to revitalize the southern area of the city with updated transportation plans and encouragement for businesses to move in after seeing the auto dealerships and other businesses drop off one by one over the years.
Councilwoman Virginia Korte says prior to Valley freeways, McDowell Road was one of the busiest routes for motorists.
“It was the traffic running through McDowell that was a successful market for car dealer and retailers,” Ms. Korte explained in a March 14 phone interview. “In the mid-2000s that started going away so it is a changing market.”
The local city leader believes that McDowell Road is on its way to attracting additional retail and traffic by creating a 24-7 demographic.
“I think McDowell Road is on its way to a really successful future. I think it’s there,” Councilwoman Korte said.
While there is no one reason for businesses moving or closing in recent years, for Chapman Automotive Group Co-CEO Ted Chapman, the location played a big role.
“We felt that the 101 and Indian School gave us far greater visibility as well as accessibility,” Mr. Chapman said in a March 13 phone interview. “We are re-locating three of our dealerships, those three are currently under construction at the AutoShow.”
Mr. Chapman and his brother John are co-CEO’s of their father’s company he started in Chandler in 1966. In the past 50 years the Chapman group has grown to own and operate used and new car dealerships across the Valley of the Sun.
“This is a welcome project for us after all these years,” Mr. Chapman explained. We’re just excited to make the move and expect to have the project completed by the end of July.”
According to Councilwoman Korte the loss in city remits could be as high as $2 million.
“You just can not replace the power of tax-revenue generation from car dealerships with condos and single family homes,” she said. “You just don’t get the rate of tax revenue and we just have to make it up in different ways.”