Old Town Scottsdale plan could help downtown sector reach new heights

A view of Old Town Scottsdale, which is oftentimes a destination of those who visit the city of Scottsdale throughout the year. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Officials at City Hall have gained city council’s blessing to implement Old Town development criteria ultimately being injected into the Scottsdale General Plan, which will help to serve as a guideline to how the area will evolve into the 21st Century.

The decision was unanimous on July 2 to adopt the Old Town Character Area Plan Non-Major General Plan Amendment minus a policy regarding an artist in residence program.

Changes in the plan included introducing new types of development — type 2.5 and type 3 — to identify existing areas where the highest scale development can occur in Old Town. The new types of development will allow developers an opportunity to ask for heights up to 150 feet, city officials say.

City officials say, overall, the proposed changes include:

  • Aligning the plan with other city plans that have been reviewed or adopted;
  • Updating maps and graphics; and
  • Providing clear, understandable and direct goals and policies.

In June, Scottsdale Long Range Planning Manager Erin Perreault presented an update to the 2009 Downtown Plan seeking feedback and discussion. On July 2, Ms. Perreault presented changes made to the update based on council’s direction.

“We did tweak the plan — I say tweak because these have been minor adjustments based on what we heard at the council study session,” Ms. Perreault said at the meeting.

Changes made between June and July included enhancing shade-and-tree-plan language, adding public outreach components to the public art process and adding Scottsdale Stadium to the Civic Center district.

Included is a new pedestrian and open space master plan, and the public facilities chapter within the downtown criteria has been deleted to remove repetition.

A few Scottsdale residents and Arts District members spoke during the public comment period in support of deleting the artists in residence program from the Old Town plan.

“I think that it is not our responsibility or job to foster an artist in residence program,” Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield said. “I appreciate the fact that it will be taken out — I think that’s a real big step in the right direction.”

Additionally, a hard boundary has been given to the area officials call the “Entertainment District,” where several night clubs, bars and establishments are housed.

Outside of City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (Photo by Arianna Grainey)

Blue chip bargains?

There was little opposition coming from the dais, with only Councilman David Smith expressing concern for allowing more height in areas of Old Town, which he called the city’s bargaining chip.

The type 2.5 development could include intermediate, higher-scale development on approximately 10 acres in the downtown area, a city staff report states. Type 3 development is the highest scale development to be considered, allowing up to 150 feet in structure height.

“In very generic terms having the authority amongst ourselves to grant that type 3 designation was our negotiating advantage,” Mr. Smith said to city staff.

“I cannot for the life of me understand why as a council we sit here tonight and grant the same concession on height and density, and whatever for two other sites designated type 3 now, when we have yet to have negotiations with anybody. We have yet to see the plans.”

Senior Planner Randy Grant says the city isn’t losing any leverage, while Ms. Perrault pointed to additional ground in those areas as one reason to allow for requested height.

“What this is doing is making it possible for people to come in and make proposals that council may or may not choose to accept, and may or may not be awarded any bonus height,” Mr. Grant said.

“You mentioned the Loloma proposal, this is the result of that process. If we do not make it possible for others within the downtown area to do this, in appropriate places, we entertain those on a one-by-one process. We’re hearing that people are ready to move more quickly than that.”

Mr. Grant says the city wanted to make the ordinance agile enough to take advantage of those opportunities, “if they present themselves,” he said.

Ms. Perrault said that when considering the type 3 areas throughout downtown, staff looked at a variety of criteria, one of which being the Downtown 2.0 recommendations wanting more feet — residential and office worker — on the ground in the day time.

“If you go up in height you get more open space at the ground level, versus horizontal type of development,” she said. “We would get more public open space in those areas that we have deemed appropriate, or where we’re looking to achieve that in downtown over the next 10 years.”

The areas with type 3 designation is generally north of the Arizona Canal, south of Main and Second streets along both the Goldwater and Drinkwater boulevards’ southern curves, and east and west of the intersection of Scottsdale Road and Drinkwater Boulevard.

“That negotiation piece is really about the public benefit of what the applicant is providing, and that would occur in that new type 3 area as well,” Ms. Perrault said.

Downtown Scottsdale 2.0 was a 10-month long study aiming to plan the future of downtown and Old Town Scottsdale. The study was born out of a five-year strategic plan for the city’s tourism and events department.

On Jan. 24, the city of Scottsdale unveiled its new Old Town Scottsdale brand. Public input for the 2.0 plan was first solicited in December 2016, before the city hosted three meetings in May 2017 to discuss the findings of their study. The 2.0 study was reportedly conducted over a 10-month period, aiming to plan the future of the downtown area.

Ultimately, Downtown Scottsdale 2.0 aimed to provide a longterm sustainable environment that will attract multiple generations of visitors and an additional downtown residential population.

The downtown Scottsdale residential population goal is 8,200 residents by 2025, which would require an additional 1,050 residential units, Independent records show.

“I’m hearing we ought to have three other areas, two of them east and west of Scottsdale Road, that we should do this for two reasons: No. 1, because developers want it, No. 2 it was proposed in the tourism recommendation plan 2.0 which we have not yet approved,” Mr. Smith said.

“I’m not persuaded that’s a reason to do this.”

Councilwoman Linda Milhaven said she sees the Old Town plan with new development types as a guide.

“From my understanding this is simply saying if we consider a rezoning here are the conditions we’d like to see, here’s where we think it makes the most sense. There’s no property owner tomorrow that can do anything different than they can do today,” she said.

Councilman Smith made an alternative motion to limit type 3 zoning, which died for a lack of a second. Vice Mayor Guy Phillips made a motion to adopt the resolution, without the artist in residence section, which carried 7-0.

A second vote on the text amendment to downtown, downtown overlay and planned block development overlay districts to correspond with the updates to the downtown and Old Town area plans passed 7-0 also.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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