Papago Plaza rebirth seeks to be keystone to south Scottsdale revitalization

The Papago Plaza, built in the 1960s, is on Scottsdale City Council’s next agenda for redevelopment. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Papago Plaza — the site of what was once eye-catching pink stucco buildings on the corner of McDowell and Scottsdale roads — may soon be demolished to make way for modern infrastructure.

No one disagrees the sun-faded site of yesterday is in need of an upgrade, however, a new proposal for the area has one Scottsdale resident asking for more details about how the area will support a redevelopment that is seeking to bring in hundreds of new residents and vehicles.

A proposal is set to go before Scottsdale City Council Wednesday, Dec. 12 for a revitalization of the 11-acre site, which includes a mixed-use plan with a grocery store, four restaurant pads, a boutique hotel and multi-family housing.

The request to the municipality is to approve a zoning district map amendment, including adopting a development plan and amended development standards. The application states the request is to obtain entitlements necessary to develop the property with new, high quality mixed-use development that serves the needs of the community.

The site is across the street from the SkySong Center – The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, 1301 N. Scottsdale Road, which also includes newly built multifamily buildings. South Scottsdale resident Andrea Alley has concerns about how many residential units the area can support.

“I have very mixed feelings about it,” Ms. Andrea said of the Papago Plaza plans.

“I’m super in favor of the grocer, our community’s been asking for that for a while. Restaurants, retail, I’m excited about. For them to come forth with the project — with most of it apartments — everyone in the community is like, ‘why would you do this to us?’”

But representatives for the project say that a successful development needs the anchor of residential units in order to be successful.

Papago Plaza, 7047 E. McDowell Road, has long been emptying out, and is nearly vacant now, according to the city’s staff report attached to the Scottsdale City Council Dec. 12 agenda.

Tenants of the application include a proposed building height of 65 feet, remodeled parking areas, and a proposed density of 20.2 units per acre. The residential component is planned to increase from 50 percent of non-density based uses, to 360 percent, consisting of a five-story building that includes covered parking as the first level.

The property will include studios up to “roomy” three-bedroom units, the development application states. Also, the boutique hotel is planned to be five-stories in the center of the property.

Public affairs consultant, Kyle Moyer, a representative of the South Scottsdale Alliance and south Scottsdale resident, says the increase accounts for approximately 270 residential units.

“There is an enormous sense of optimism,” Mr. Moyer said of the Papago Plaza redevelopment. “Dozens and dozens of residents attended these community meetings — it’s overwhelmingly supportive of this project.”

Papago Plaza is owned by Papago Marketplace LLC, while Withey Morris is leading the development plans on the project.

The Development Review Board heard this case on Nov. 1, and recommended approval of the proposed amended development standards with a vote of 7-0. Planning Commission heard the case two weeks later, on Nov. 14, and recommended City Council to approve the case with a vote of 5-0. Commissioners Larry Kush and Kelsey Young recused themselves.

Papago Plaza is at 7047 E. McDowell Road. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

A nervously optimistic neighborhood

Ms. Alley has lived in her current home for nearly five years, but says she lives only two miles from the homes she grew up in.

While she says she doesn’t understand the major increase in residential units proposed, she does want to see the plaza redeveloped into something that will benefit the community.

“Developers will say we need more residential, more density, to support businesses,” she explained. “And I know council can’t force businesses to come in and plant their flags here, but the demographics aren’t what they were five years ago.”

Andrea Alley

She says she doesn’t want to discourage the revitalization for the area.

“No one is seeing any kind of vision for it. Once that corner is filled, we won’t see anything else there — at least for our lifetime. I don’t want to discourage the good parts of it — it just feels like whoever is proposing it, is like ‘we’ll give you what you want, but also what we want.’ Can we please have some balance?”

Ms. Alley contends that she’s watched three-story condominium units go up across the street, and believes it is impacting the single family unit nearby, citing a neighbor who is having a hard time selling.

“I’m not anti-development, or anti-business — Papago Plaza needs to be replaced — nobody wants the pawn shops and strip mall bars, but we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Moreover, Ms. Alley has concerns about the already-congested roads supporting the busy area, and questions the safety of smaller thoroughfares when traffic tries to cut through their neighborhoods.

Ms. Alley explains that while the mixed-use areas popping up in Scottsdale and around the Valley — especially SkySong — are touted to be live, work, play areas where people will live so close to their job they can walk, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as the types of jobs offered at the areas don’t support the rent prices.

“I’ve observed it myself, people turn down our streets and they’re speeding down our streets to get around traffic,” she explained.

“Now let’s throw in more people with more cars, high rents — a lot of companies have planted their flags in SkySong, a lot of them are call-center-type jobs. People don’t make enough to live in the area. Traffic is a nightmare. I don’t know how many new units this proposal has, but that’s how many more cars we’ll have.”

Ms. Alley says herself and her neighbors don’t believe their kids are safe playing in the front yard and riding bicycles down the street because of the traffic that cuts through off of McDowell or Scottsdale roads.

“There’s literally nothing you can do to widen streets like 70th, 68th, Miller, because there’s already houses there. I don’t really know what that looks like to alleviate the traffic — it’s going to be stressed,” she said, noting the pressure it will put on police and fire department resources.

“Our taxes are going to go up no matter what we do.”

A view of Papago Plaza’s marquee sign. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

South Scottsdale Alliance support

Mr. Moyer, who works pro bono for the South Scottsdale Alliance, and contends the group represents a constituency of 2,000 south Scottsdale residents.

He says the South Scottsdale Alliance Board of Directors unanimously voiced support of the Papago Plaza redevelopment.

Kyle Moyer

“Our coalition is working to support the revitalization of Papago Plaza,” Mr. Moyer said. “Our board of directors voted unanimously to support these plans. We’ve been participating in the public process so far, and held three neighborhood meetings with the developer. We’ve worked with them to really help shape the project as it relates to height, density, and we encouraged them to expand the pedestrian portion.”

Mr. Moyer says there is a handful of outspoken people who are in opposition and anti-multifamily, saying they have been in contact with 100 participants and residents who are “overwhelmingly supportive.”

“It’s a vocal minority that are expressing themselves at this point,” he said, noting there was opposition to the Mark Taylor units at SkySong also.

Alliance Residential is the developer who will be building the multifamily units at Papago Plaza, if approved, Mr. Moyer says. The company has also built the Broadstone Waterfront in Old Town Scottsdale, near the Arizona Canal; as well as the property on the northwest corner of Scottsdale Road and Lincoln Drive, coined Lincoln Scottsdale.

The grocer is planned to be Aldi, which Mr. Moyer describes as a “phenomenal” grocer. According to the Aldi website, this may be their first location in Arizona. However, the chain has more than 1,700 stores in the United States, mostly in the east coast with some in Texas and California.

“They’re proposing a development very similar to Scottsdale and Lincoln, but much more pedestrian oriented,” Mr. Moyer said.

“The South Scottsdale Alliance was very instrumental in helping them develop the pedestrian promenade, so there will be pedestrian thoroughfares to restaurants.”

Mr. Moyer says the property will be a complete redevelopment — the pink stucco buildings will be no more — and even the Wells Fargo bank on the corner will be relocated.

“It’s the multi-family component that draws restaurateurs into an area to get the very best restaurants, operators, retailers, commercial, etc. —- high-end patronage anchors,” he said. “That’s what makes it successful, you have a secured patronage when you have a multi-family component. It’s a co-mingling of residential and commercial equation for success.”

Northeast Valley News Services 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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