Korte eyes formal Scottsdale entertainment district creation

This iconic downtown sign along Scottsdale Road signifies entering into what many consider the city's bar district. (File photo)

This iconic downtown sign along Scottsdale Road signifies entering into what many consider the city’s bar district. (File photo)

Scottsdale City Council may be creating a formal entertainment district to better corral the robust downtown nightlife scene from spreading to new corners of the municipality.

Virginia Korte

Virginia Korte

Scottsdale Councilwoman Virginia Korte at the May 12 city council meeting asked staff to schedule a formal discussion on the creation of an entertainment district boundary area where the city could impose better controls for patrons and operators in downtown Scottsdale.

The city’s undefined entertainment district, which is in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, attracts thousands of patrons daily and provides a steady stream of dollars and cents into the city’s General Fund.

Noise ordinances have been crafted, building stipulations created and community associations on both sides of the issue have been formed. The issues surround the amount of noise emitted from popular Scottsdale clubs and the kind of people attracted to and around the local bar scene, two issues which draw ire from both local proprietors and residents.

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

The alleged actions of those who frequent the Scottsdale entertainment district — ranging from public drunkenness and urination, vandalism, drug use and sex in public places — has spurred a public debate that refuses to go quietly into the night.

“How are we as a city going to better manager of our resources and what do we want the downtown to be in 20 years,” Councilwoman Korte said in a June 9 phone interview. “I think an entertainment district is a good use, but I don’t want that to spill over in other areas.”

Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips, who seconded the motion that carried 7-0, says he was very surprised when Councilwoman Korte proposed the measure at the May meeting.

“I can’t say, ‘no’ to it because it is a good idea,” he said in a June 9 phone interview. “I don’t know why she brought it up. It was a shock to me that she brought it up.”

Councilman Phillips says the idea of a downtown entertainment district is nothing new — he and others in Scottsdale have made the same suggestion.

“To create a formal district you can then create taxes for that district — there are all kinds of things you can do,” he pointed out. “Bar owners are going to say things like, ‘We don’t want this because we don’t want to have to pay for it.”

The city council discussion will likely come in the fall, Councilman Phillips says.

“I really don’t know what her (Councilwoman Korte) thought process is on this,” he said. “I know the bar owners don’t want it. They are probably looking at the same question of ‘why?’ because there is always a reason.”

Creating a sense of place

Councilwoman Korte says downtown Scottsdale has untapped opportunities for future growth — and creating a sense of place is a big part of that, she contends.

“If we can look at the existing entertainment district and create something or make some mechanism to create a better sense of place I think we are going to be better in the long run,” she said. “That is my vision.”

Downtown Scottsdale wasn’t always the nightlife hotbed it has evolved into, Councilwoman Korte recalls.

“If you go back 12 to 15 years, in the early 2000s, if you look at what was down there, it was boarded up; it was dark and there was vandalism going on and everything else,” she said. “It was not a viable district.”

Councilwoman Korte says over the years new ideas have come in the shape of community facility districts where those districts could be taxed whether it was in Old Town or the art gallery district.

“They were able to market and create a sense of place,” she said. “That all went away for many reasons and the uses of the then-boarded-up-area we now call the entertainment district investors started to see opportunity in the area. The downtown area has been evolution and it will continue to be an evolution.”

With new housing options coming online in the downtown Scottsdale area — most of which have been branded luxury multifamily dwellings — Councilwoman Korte says the next evolution of downtown Scottsdale is on its heels.

“I believe with the housing options that are going into this area there is going to be a shift of the uses once again,” she said. “While we have experienced great success in the entertainment district by not only revitalizing the area that was dark and blighted this is going to change everything about downtown.”

Councilwoman Korte says the future residents of downtown Scottsdale are going to want a community — not a club scene.

“Those 24/7 residents are going to need different things like a deli and a community market,” she said. “They are going to want to be able to walk to work or walk to amenities. I think we have an opportunity to better define the entire area.”

Councilwoman Korte says she wants to create a safe place where people want to live, work and play.

“I want to understand better some of the needs of downtown business owners,” she said. “But quite honestly, I don’t know what this is going to be.”

Councilman Phillips says the city needs more legislative teeth to chomp down on Scottsdale’s nightlife scene.

“Right now the city just doesn’t have strong enough authority to do anything,” he said. “Once you have a district then we can start creating ordinances that define the area. It puts us in control. The bar owners should not be in control of Socttsdale, we should be in charge of Scottsdale.”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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