Scottsdale developer launches Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton bid

A graphic rendering of what the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton entryway could look like. (Submitted graphic)

A graphic rendering of what the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton entryway could look like. (Submitted graphic)

Paradise Valley planning staff are expected to complete their review Thursday, May 21 of a special-use permit amendment pursued by Scottsdale-based Five Star Development Inc. for the creation of a Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton resort community.

Five Star Development filed a preliminary application for an SUP Thursday, March 12. The permit, if approved, would allow construction of a Ritz-Carlton resort, along with a residential community, on 82 acres of a 105-acre swath of land at about Scottsdale and Lincoln roads.

The project will encompass land governed by both the municipalities of Paradise Valley and Scottsdale.

The final application filed last week comes nearly seven years after the town approved plans for a Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton project — plans that were never carried out Five Star and municipal officials agree was due to the Great Recession.

Five Star Development, which is owned by Scottsdale resident Jerry Ayoub, is represented by Jason Morris of Withey Morris PLC in this matter.

“On May 6, Five Star Development took the next step toward making the Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley project a reality by filing a new application for a Special Use Permit with the Town of Paradise Valley,” reads an official statement from the Five Star group.

“The application would allow for the development of the 105-acre parcel our company owns at Lincoln and Mockingbird Drive in a way consistent with recent resort development in the community, while taking into account new development in Scottsdale and changed market conditions in the area. We understand that the upcoming public process will result in refinements and modifications to the proposal, and we are confident that the end result will be a project the community can be proud of.”

Paradise Valley Community Development Director Eva Cutro says planning staff continues to meet with Five Star officials on their plan.

“We anticipate completing our staff review by May 21 and drafting a Statement of Direction for first council review on May 28,” she said in a May 12 written response to e-mailed questions. “The scope of the new submittal is different from what was approved in 2008. As stated in the applicant’s narrative — the plan is refined to reflect the realities of a new economic landscape and also the development that has occurred adjacent to the property in the City of Scottsdale.”

A graphic rendering of the intersection of Lincoln Drive and Mockingbird Lane in Paradise Valley. (Submitted graphic)

A graphic rendering of the intersection of Lincoln Drive and Mockingbird Lane in Paradise Valley. (Submitted graphic)

Ms. Cutro says new retail and commercial uses have been proposed in the final application.

“The plan is similar in that the uses remain predominantly resort and residential; however, additional retail/commercial use has been proposed for the Paradise Valley portion of the site,” she pointed out.

Community supposition has swirled around what commercial operations might be proposed — a rumor that has fuelled speculation over the possibility of a speciality grocer coming to town.

“The new owner bought this as a long-term hold, with new vacancies and new tenants,” said Jan Fincham of Lee & Associates in a May 5 phone interview of last year’s purchase of Lincoln Plaza Shopping Center where AJ’s Fine Foods now stands.

“I would be surprised if they go anywhere. I have heard these stories and I am not sure where they are coming from.”

The shopping center was sold for $25 million or $330 per square-foot, according to Mr. Fincham, who brokered the commercial real estate deal last year.

“They are going to go through and add some tenants put a new face on it and hold it long-term,” Mr. Fincham said of his clients intentions with the property. “It certainly is a rumor as far as I am concerned.”

But the idea of AJ’s Fine Foods becoming a part of the Ritz-Carlton pitch are not totally grounded in fantasy.

“We are aware that the property where AJ’s is located along Lincoln Drive has recently been sold to a new owner. We would not want to comment or speculate on their future plans for their property,” said Tom Evans of Evans Communications who represents Five Star Development. “Our team has had some conversations with representatives for AJ’s in recent weeks. If AJ’s decides to leave its current location on Lincoln Drive, we would welcome the opportunity to ensure this important community entity stays in Paradise Valley and becomes part of our project.”

Initial plan reaction

Paradise Valley Councilman David Sherf, who is serving as a liaison between town council and Five Star officials, says the final application is a good view of what may come.

David Sherf

David Sherf

“The SUP submission provides a good vision of what Five Star desires on nearly each section of the site, as well as identifying the experienced team that has been engaged to implement the project,” Councilman Sherf said in a May 12 written response to e-mailed questions.

“As intended by the application, it provides town staff and the Planning Commission a good overall vision to evaluate the entire project. Lacking in the submission, though, was a specific description of the retail and residential component on the parcel in the northeast portion of the site.”

That planning vision has been a longtime coming as Paradise Valley Town Council in April 2008 unanimously approved a special-use permit application for the construction of the Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley Resort, Independent archives state.

The matter was put to a public vote in November 2008 and Paradise Valley residents overwhelmingly approved the resort project by a more than 2-to-1 margin, archives state.

The project approved on the 105-acre site was for a 225-room resort, spa, restaurants and meeting space as well as 100 resort patio homes, 46 luxury detached residential homes and 15 one-acre estate lots on adjacent vacant land, archives state.

The application proposal includes some changes to the original resort pitch, including:

  • 82 of the 105 acres to be developed are now planned;
  • 157 single-family homes compared to 161 in 2008;
  • 280 total hotel rooms compared to 225 in 2008;
  • The project will encompass 1.08 million square feet compared to 1.1 million in 2008.

Councilman Sherf says the proposal in-hand is one that could create a high-quality resort for the Town of Paradise Valley.

“The project would add another well known, high-quality resort to our town that would add resort bed and sales tax to our revenues. It would also provide more dining choices and smaller sized homes, though the residential densities proposed far exceed, I believe, what residents want,” he said.

The proposal meets market demands for a financially equitable project, Councilman Sherf says.

“The resort comprises less than 30 percent of the site and seems to meet the market demands for high-quality accommodations and should be welcomed by residents and visitors,” he explained. “While it is the focal point of the parcel, our attention should be on the remaining 70-plus acres of residential and commercial development and how they fit within the character and densities of our town.”

Councilman Sherf contends the housing element is not in tune with the Paradise Valley General Plan, a planning document overwhelmingly supported by residents of the town.

“The resort tracks with our General Plan, but the housing densities far exceed the General Plan, particularly the 450 units that would average 1,200-square-feet in size,” he said. “I believe this is a project that can get done because of what Five Star agreed to in 2008. In 2008 they agreed to a total of 161 free standing residences and a 225 room hotel with  no commercial. Their 2015 request is for 160 free standing residences, 450 attached residences, a resort and unspecified commercial.”

Sometimes in negotiations what is pursued is not always what is needed, Councilman Sherf points out.

“Economic conditions have not changed that substantially so that Five Star needs all the residential units and density proposed to have a viable project,” he said. “It is usually typical for a developer to seek maximum zoning as a starting point in negotiations.”

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

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