Scottsdale City Council OKs building heights of 90 feet at Skysong

SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center is home to a global business community that links technology, entrepreneurship, innovation, and education to position ASU and Greater Phoenix as global leaders of the knowledge economy. (Photo courtesy of SkySong)

SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center is home to a global business community that links technology, entrepreneurship, innovation, and education to position ASU and Greater Phoenix as global leaders of the knowledge economy. (Photo courtesy of SkySong)

An ASU Foundation Grounds Lease amendment, which includes the Skysong Building Plan, has been approved by Scottsdale City Council for an additional 30 feet of height, bringing the maximum building height to 90 feet.

Scottsdale City Council voted at the April 14 meeting to allow changes to the original building plan; including increasing the maximum building height in exchange for more open space.

The vote passed 4-3, with Councilmembers Kathy Littlefield, Guy Phillips and David Smith dissenting.

Skysong is at the southeast corner of McDowell and Scottsdale roads. According to a staff report, most of the surrounding buildings have a maximum height of 40 feet or less.

This comes from an old rule, explained Councilman Phillips.

“In Scottsdale, you’re supposed to have a little skyline to see the mountains,” he said in an April 16 phone interview. “Once you start building that high, you become just another Phoenix. It destroys the character.”

The Skysong Building Plan asked for an additional 30 feet of height, raising the previous limit of 60 feet to more than twice that of the surrounding area, according to the staff report.

In exchange, the plan proposed providing an additional 500 square feet of open space for every foot of building over 60 feet tall, the report states.

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Scottsdale City Council this week is no allowing 90-foot buildings on the SkySong campus. (File Photo)

Councilman Smith said he heard many concerns from Scottsdale residents about the height of downtown buildings during his campaign. Many people are attracted to Arizona because it does not look like an urban center, Councilman Smith explained in an April 16 phone interview.

“I found it out of harmony with the neighborhood, and with the homeowners and citizens around there,” he added.

Councilwoman Korte also spoke to Scottsdale residents and heard no concerns from those she spoke to. Most, she said, understand the need to stay competitive.

Councilwoman Korte voted to approve the proposed changes to the Skysong Building Plan, saying competitiveness, flexibility and an ability to respond to market forces are what make Scottsdale successful.

A longtime Scottsdale resident, Councilwoman Korte witnessed the rise and fall of that area. The value of the buildings dropped and the area was not a place of pride, she remembered in an April 16 phone interview.

“Anyone who lived through these highs and lows understands the need to be flexible,” Councilwoman Korte said, adding that one or two businesses have already rejected Skysong for lack of square footage.

Skysong is a mixed-use development, states the staff report. This means a variety of buildings can be located on the property, such as residences and business offices.

Skysong is home to 325 multifamily residential units and 455,000-square-feet of office space.

Councilman Smith feels the height of the building has nothing to do with Skysong’s current or future success.

“(City staff) did not demonstrate (height) was necessary for Skysong,” he said, referring to the staff report.

“Do we want a higher building on a signature intersection in Scottsdale?” he asked.
Councilmember Phillips worried by allowing Skysong to increase building height, city council may have set precedent for other buildings to do the same.

“It’s pretty hard to say no when you’ve let one person build that high,” Councilman Phillips pointed out.

Ms. Walker is a freelance journalist under contract with the North Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA

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