Scottsdale Gateway Alliance taps IDA to frame new McDowell Corridor community

Scottsdale Gateway Alliance Board of Directors President Jeff Berghoff in front of his design studio in October 2013 within the McDowell Corridor. (File photo)

Scottsdale Gateway Alliance Board of Directors President Jeff Berghoff in front of his design studio in October 2013 within the McDowell Corridor. (File photo)

The Scottsdale Gateway Alliance has been given a $50,000 shot in the arm to further revitalization efforts within the McDowell Corridor officials say will be enshrined in 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.

There was a time when portions of McDowell Road served as a major commercial artery pumping a constant flow of revenue into the coffers of local proprietors and the municipality of Scottsdale. Once referred to as the Scottsdale “Motor Mile,” the area saw an exodus of business over the past decade as low- and high-end car dealerships sought greener pastures in different parts of the Valley of Sun.

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.

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.

Suzanne Klapp

Suzanne Klapp

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.

The idea for funding from the Scottsdale IDA, which is a nonprofit corp. empowered by the Arizona Legislature to provide tax-free loans to entities that are unable to issue public debt, came from Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp.

The IDA receives funds off of fees assigned for issuing those tax-free bonds, according to Tim Stratton, Scottsdale Industrial Authority secretary and liaison to the Gateway Alliance.

“It was soon realized that this was a pretty big project for the SGA,” Councilwoman Klapp said in a July 7 phone interview of her funding suggestion made months ago. “That is why I thought the IDA was an excellent opportunity to find some dollars.”

SGA officials say they are hopeful the $50,000 grant will spur private donations to further the branding effort of southern Scottsdale.

“I believe that the SGA is working diligently to move forward with the project later in August,” she said. “They will take the project to the end. This is an actual effort to go out to thousands of business owners and residents to define what kind of development they want to see.”

You have to know where you are, before you can get where you’re going, Councilwoman Klapp says.

“It is still somewhat considered the ‘Motor Mile’ but there aren’t too many car dealerships there now — it is not seen that way anymore so it’s a good opportunity for the branding exercise,” she said. “They (SGA) are actually moving forward in a positive manner and they will continue to do that.”

Where the money will go

Jeff Berghoff, president of the Scottsdale Gateway Alliance Board of Directors, says the branding effort for southern Scottsdale will be a year-long plunge into the minds of the residents and proprietors of the area.

“SGA is proposing a year-long branding exercise that will unroll in phases as follows: Three to five community stakeholder brainstorming sessions — this would include individuals from the IDA, potentially the city council, the chamber, business leaders, community activists and other interested parties,” he said in a July 7 written response to e-mailed questions.

“Phase two consists of 3-4 focus groups with local businesses and local community/neighborhood residents of diverse representation.”

Following the focus group phases, Mr. Berghoff says the grass-roots effort will commence.

“The focus groups will allow the ideas and suggestions from the stakeholder groups to be distilled and vetted,” she said of the purpose of those initial meetings. “After the focus groups SGA will conduct three to five months of physical grass-roots canvassing of neighborhoods and business with the intent of knocking on more than 10,000 doors.”

Mr. Berghoff describes the neighborhood canvassing effort as a fact-finding mission.

“Neighbors will be asked far more than just branding issues; they will also be asked about why they chose to move to the area, what amenities they would like to see, what local issues are of concern to them, and an overall assessment of the community disposition,” he explained. “This element is perhaps equally important to the branding exercise itself.”

Mr. Berghoff contends community buy-in is essential.

“SGA hopes to build community support, pride and ownership with the residents,” he said. “Following the field work, SGA will host several public, town-hall-style meetings where further distillation will occur. Following the community meetings, SGA will bring the original stakeholders back together for further distillation and refinement.”

The end goal of the effort will be a public presentation of the effort, Mr. Berghoff says of the branding endeavor.

“Ultimately, one or more suggested names will be developed and several graphic representations will be created. SGA will prepared to present the findings to the public, the IDA, and potentially to the city council,” he pointed out. “The IDA grant will enable the SGA to proceed through the first three phases of the branding exercise: the stakeholder groups, the focus groups, and the grass-roots canvassing.”

A view of the early years of the Scottsdale McDowell Corridor. (Submitted graphic)

A view of the early years of the Scottsdale McDowell Corridor. (Submitted graphic)

A common mantra of redevelopment

The drumbeat of what many call “revitalization” typically hinges on the idea of creating a sense of place — not one that naturally develops but one that is created for a community.

“The exercise is about much more than just a brand,” Mr. Berghoff said. “It’s about creating a sense of community and a unique sense of ‘place’. We look to regions in the Valley such as Roosevelt Row, Arcadia and Willo as good examples of brand integration.”

Mr. Stratton, who serves as liaison to the Gateway Alliance for the Scottsdale IDA, agrees with the notion community buy-in is essential to the ultimate success of the branding effort.

“I think most of us on the IDA understand the city is not going to unilaterally create a McDowell Corridor — that is going to come from the private sector,” he explained in a July 7 phone interview. “There has to be a reason to bring investment into the area.”

From the IDA perspective, the opportunities are ample along the McDowell Corridor and in southern Scottsdale.
“I think the IDA and the city can play a positive role in this. It will not just be a name or a slogan,” he said. “What really jumped off the page for us was the data collection process and being able to articulate a vision for this area.”

Mr. Berghoff says southern Scottsdale lacks a true identify.

“Motor Mile certainly doesn’t fit anymore, and honestly, to some in our community the term “south Scottsdale” has a negative connotation,” he said of the delicate nature of perception. “The goal isn’t to create an identity for the region, but rather to extract or draw out the character, identity and sense of place from the residents and businesses. This will be one of the most comprehensive community outreach exercises ever done in the city.”

Mr. Berghoff says if the community is behind the effort economic development will follow.

“If SGA can successfully reach out to over 10,000 (maybe as many as 20,000) residents and businesses, I’m confident that we’ll be able to identify the area’s own unique sense of place and purpose,” he said. “Our hope is that by creating a sense of place and character, and demonstrating the community is desirous and supportive of new businesses and amenities, that new restaurants, retail, and commerce will want to converge in the area.”

The economic convergence in south Scottsdale is a priority for the IDA, Mr. Stratton contends.

“We want to make sure we are spending these dollars that are generated through bond fees are going back into Scottsdale,” he said of the IDA pledge to better the local community. “What came out about this project was the the goal of the SGA in this particular exercise is aligned with the mission of the IDA. We have this potential asset in the McDowell Corridor and that is what drew us to this project.”

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

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