Scottsdale City Council considers next steps at SkySong, McDowell Corridor

A view of SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center in the heart of the McDowell Corridor. (Photo courtesy of the city of Scottsdale)

A view of SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center in the heart of the McDowell Corridor. (Photo courtesy of the city of Scottsdale)

Department leaders are expected Tuesday, Oct. 13 to deliver a McDowell Corridor revitalization update to Scottsdale City Council seeking clear direction on next steps the municipality ought to take in spurring the rebirth of the area.

Over the past year the city of Scottsdale has held a series of public meetings to learn what resident and proprietors of the area say would help fuel revitalization efforts. Last March Scottsdale City Council approved Resolution 9990 — the McDowell Corridor Fee Schedule — that temporarily modifies certain residential and commercial development fees. The new fees would be in place for two years, the resolution states.

Now a major consideration may entail where and how to develop 1.5 acres of “floating” land at SkySong the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center in the heart of the McDowell Corridor, city leaders say.

City leaders refer to the McDowell Corridor as an eight-square-mile area spanning McDowell Road from Pima Road west to Phoenix and including surrounding neighborhoods north to Osborn Road and south to the city limits.

As the city begins to develop next steps toward revitalization the Scottsdale Gateway Alliance continues its re-branding exercise.

The Scottsdale Gateway Alliance has been given a $50,000 shot in the arm from the Scottsdale Industrial Development Authority officials say is being used to pay for a new branding exercise for the southern Scottsdale area.

The Scottsdale Gateway Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, seeks to advance investment and revitalization opportunities in southern Scottsdale and along the McDowell Corridor, its mission statement reads.

While the Scottsdale Gateway Alliance is not a city-driven endeavor, two members of Scottsdale City Council — Councilwomen Virginia Korte and Suzanne Klapp — say they played a role in spurring resident interest in the effort.

Economic indicators look positive along the corridor, according to Scottsdale Economic Development Director Danielle Casey.

Danielle Casey

Danielle Casey

“SkySong is moving forward rapidly with the launch of building 4 and others at 95 percent occupancy and Papago plaza has been purchased by a group that will be remodeling it with a fresh look and some new commercial pads,” she said in an Oct. 6 written response to e-mailed questions.

Taxable sales in the corridor have increased 45 percent from 2010 to 2014 while sales tax revenues have increased from $3.7 million to $5.1 million over the same period, an Oct. 13 city staff report states.

“Incremental property improvement is occurring and revitalization of larger properties — former auto dealerships — is in the planning stages, including the Auto Mall, Earnhardt Lexus and Scott Toyota properties,” the report states. “Numerous small businesses such as Fate Brewing, Pho Cao restaurant, Plato’s Closet and Delicious Deliveries have chosen to locate in the corridor.”

Scottsdale City Council has identified the revitalization of the McDowell Corridor is its No. 1 priority.

The SkySong connection

In 2004 when the city of Scottsdale leased the land now known as SkySong the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, 1475 N. Scottsdale Road, the municipality retained an undefined 1.5-acre parcel of land now known as a “floating parcel,” city officials say.

SkySong is expected to reach 50 percent buildout in 2016 with the culmination of the restaurant product coming online, a staff report states.

“Options for a location for the 1.5-acre parcel are becoming limited, leading members of council to express an interest and a desire to gain clarification on the location of the parcel and determine plans for its use or disposal,” the report states.

Plans call for the buildout of the property at Scottsdale and McDowell roads to be additional office buildings and a hotel.

Linda Milhaven

Linda Milhaven

“As I understand it when we leased the property we leased all but 1.5 acres of the land,” Scottsdale Vice Mayor Linda Milhaven pointed out. “As the site is planned we need to figure out where those 1.5 acres are. I have been thinking about it and does it make sense to be a park and ride to connect with the regional system?”

Vice Mayor Milhaven says elected leaders and residents alike need to have an open mind when assessing how the city ought to use its 1.5 acres at SkySong.

“I think folks are going to afraid we may miss an opportunity if we don’t do something now,” she said. “We certainly know there has been a lot more activity along McDowell Road.”

Revitalization taking hold?

Vice Mayor Milhaven says she could not be more thrilled with the progress in the McDowell Corridor.

“SkySong is 90 percent leased up and they are moving forward with Phase 4,” she said in an Oct. 6 phone interview. “Mark Taylor, they are getting rents that exceed what their expectations were.”

Two 2014 city council-approved south Scottsdale multifamily housing projects is spurring the rebirth of the McDowell Road Corridor, proponents say.

  • The first, a Mark Taylor Homes project, allowed by a rezoning amendment of 24.5 acres of land at the southeast corner of 74th Street and McDowell Road, facilitates a mixed-use development of a new, three-story, 536-unit multifamily residential community within the existing commercial district at 74th Street.
  • The second, a Scottsdale Mar, LLC project, has been approved to construct a 154-unit apartment complex at the northwest corner of 68th Street and McDowell Road where a Pitre Buick auto dealership once stood.

Vice Mayor Milhaven says an influx of people is brining a vibrancy to the south Scottsdale area.

“For a long time we couldn’t find people willing to invest along McDowell, Now it is finding uses compatible with the neighborhoods,” she said. “I look back over the last five years and it is now a revitalized McDowell Corridor. We wont recognize it until SkySong is built out. It will bring a sense of vibrancy.”

Representatives of the Scottsdale Gateway Alliance say the reimagining of south Scottsdale is coming full circle.

“This is a proud moment for all of us who belong to Southern Scottsdale,” said the SGA board chairman, Jeff Berghoff in a prepared statement. “For years there has been so much talk about the need to redefine this area and we’ve just taken the first big step toward achieving that goal.”

The effort is picking up steam as SGA volunteers will be visiting parks, retail locations and walking neighborhoods to gather opinions of Southern Scottsdale residents, officials say. Community data and opinions will be collected through various surveys, focus groups, community meetings, and online, SGA officials say.

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

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