South Scottsdale resurgence continues upward momentum

Steve McFate, owner of Fate Brewing Co., at his new south Scottsdale location where his business has made a $2 million investment betting the current resurgence continues in the area. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Steve McFate, owner of Fate Brewing Co., at his new south Scottsdale location where his business has made a $2 million investment betting the current resurgence continues in the area. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Everything old is new again, and south Scottsdale is living proof.

Proponents say the southern portion of the community has been reborn because attitudes have changed toward what was once the image of an old “south Scottsdale” past its prime. For the first time in decades, the area is attracting new businesses, new interest and most important, new full-time residents.

Drive through the neighborhoods and you’ll see homes being remodeled and new stores opening in buildings that have sat empty for several years. With SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, serving as a catalyst for the region’s rebirth, community members agree: South Scottsdale and the McDowell Corridor are poised for a comeback.

A newly minted business owner says he chose south Scottsdale to locate his million-dollar investment based largely on the affordable commercial space available, incentives provided and what he saw happening in the neighborhoods surrounding in and around the McDowell Corridor.

A homeowner says he has seen first-hand “incredible redevelopment” since he and his wife purchased their home in 2006 in the general vicinity of Scottsdale and McDowell roads — what many consider to be the heart of “South Scottsdale.”

Scottsdale City Council has commissioned the revitalization of the McDowell Corridor as its No. 1 priority and measures have been taken to aid that redevelopment effort including:

  • Over the past 18 months 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 Scottsdale Industrial Development Authority is providing a $50,000 grant for the Scottsdale Gateway Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the revitalization of the McDowell Corridor, to provide a branding exercise for the southern Scottsdale area

The idea of south Scottsdale revitalization, depending on who you ask, can be a tale of a city-inspired endeavor or, in contrast, a tale of a grassroots effort burgeoning from the collective love of community.

But everyone agrees on one thing: If South Scottsdale really is the “heart of the city,” than that heart is beating stronger and stronger every day.

Commercial real estate signs have been a common fixture along the Scottsdale McDowell Corridor. (File photo)

Commercial real estate signs have been a common fixture along the McDowell Corridor. (File photo)

Opportunities through revitalization

“I consider everything south of Indian Bend south Scottsdale. I have seen incredible redevelopment since I moved to the area in 2006,” said Scottsdale resident Sean Mortenson in an Aug. 19 written response to e-mailed questions. “It was creeping south in the frenzy of the time, but paused just north of my neighborhood, which remained untouched for a while. But it picked back up again a few years ago with SkySong, then the Mark Taylor apartments. That’s indicative of the general pattern in the area.”

Mr. Mortenson says at one time he was a north Scottsdale renter who wanted to be a Scottsdale homeowner. The McDowell Corridor offered the right home at the right price.

“My wife and I were living in an apartment in north Scottsdale when we got married, because my office was in the area. We wanted to maintain our community in the area but also wanted to buy a house. We couldn’t afford anything around North Scottsdale, but wanted to stay close to the (Loop) 101 for the sake of convenience,” he said of the factors impacting his move.

Mr. Mortenson says he believes there is a sense of resurgence in the air of south Scottsdale.

“It seems like a younger demographic is starting to look at south Scottsdale as a place to live and ‘do life,’ and is therefore asking questions about what the area could be,” he said. “It seems clear to me that south Scottsdale will be something very different five or 10 years from now.”

Mr. Mortenson says it is time for the community of south Scottsdale and the municipality to create a new vision of identity.

“I would like to see leaders embrace a more forward thinking vision for the area. Many are still tied to the ‘West’s Most Western Town’ as the driver for tourism. That needs to go away.

“It is, candidly, a joke,” he said. “But there is more than enough substance to build on if the image shifts toward desert craft (Soleri), mid-century modernism (Valley Ho), tourism, and tech. Things like bringing the light rail into Downtown Scottsdale could go a long way as well. But there seems to be a bit of an ideological battle going on between the old guard and new.”

The idea of who the community of south and downtown Scottsdale is needs to be more reflective of the present day, Mr. Mortenson contends.

“The density of interesting restaurants, parks, etc. is unrivaled in the Valley, with the possible exception of Downtown/Uptown Phoenix,” he said.

Steve McFate, owner of Scottsdale-based Fate Brewing Co., is betting south Scottsdale will continue to grow into a marketplace all its own.

“I grew up here,” Mr. McFate said Monday, Aug. 16 at his soon-to-be-opened south Scottsdale brewery at 1312 N. Scottsdale Road.  “I live closer to what people would call ‘south Scottsdale’ compared to ‘north Scottsdale.’ Financially, it made a lot sense.”

The south Scottsdale location will be Mr. McFate’s second brewery. The first being at 7337 E. Shea Blvd. in north Scottsdale.

“Breweries tend to go into areas that are a bit underdoggish,” he said. “That was one of the reasons why I liked this location. When I was a kid one of the things you would do is go to Los Arcos. This was a major consumer corner. At one point this was the center 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.

Mr. McFate say his $2 million investment in the 11,000-square-foot facility is in an effort to be a part of the revitalization of the McDowell Corridor and surrounding community.

“The real estate is very reasonable,” he said of commercial space along the Corridor. “The thing that really stood out to me was how many people were renovating their homes in the neighborhoods around here. This is definitely home. My passion is here. We don’t have any grandiose ideas for large-scale distribution.”

Local business leaders call SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center a central part of south Scottsdale resurgence. (File photo)

Local business leaders call SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center a central part of south Scottsdale resurgence. (File photo)

The keystone to resurgence

Members of the Scottsdale business community point to SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, as the keystone to the future success of the continued resurgence of the commercial side of the McDowell Corridor.

Eric Larson

Eric Larson

“I think they are all very definitely good things,” said Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce interim President and Ceo Eric Larson. “With the centerpiece being SkySong, an awful lot of the romance is budding in the neighborhoods around there. A lot of that has to do with the continued and growing success of SkySong.”

SkySong is an incubator-type facility designed to help companies grow by providing business services and programs offered or facilitated by Arizona State University, according to www.skysongcenter.com.

Mr. Larson says as new businesses come online at SkySong, auxiliary businesses will emerge with them.

“There will be trickle-down effects because of new exciting businesses coming online,” he said in an Aug. 18 phone interview. “Other businesses that will service them will be able to grow and expand. Growth in a major new company just expands that even more quickly.”

The idea behind SkySong, Mr. Larson says, is to help that process along more swiftly.

“There is a very positive attitude that change can be constructive and done in a positive way,” he said. “Whether it be refurbishing neighborhoods or improving infrastructure, the city’s attitude for that has been encouraging. Everyone is pulling the wagon in the right direction.”

While the air of resurgence continues to pull efforts along, Scottsdale Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield says she is still mulling the city’s latest effort to spur community and economic interest in south Scottsdale along the McDowell Corridor.

Kathy Littlefield

Kathy Littlefield

“I am not sure how I like that program; it is a lot of money to be spent on banners,” she said. “I am not sure that is how I want to identity ourselves and I sure don’t want to identify south Scottsdale that way.”

Scottsdale City Council at its Tuesday, Aug. 25 meeting has a measure before it to initiate a McDowell Corridor Revitalization Street Banner Program where, for a two-year period, the city will promote government efforts along the city’s right-of-ways in the area.

Cost for the project could be either $18,210 or $33,810 depending on the frequency of banner placement along the McDowell Corridor, which would be at 26 locations between 64th Street and Pima Road, a city staff report states.

“I don’t want Scottsdale to be identified that way,” Councilwoman Littlefield said. “That is my initial thought, but I know there is more to it that I am seeing initially. I am trying to keep an open mind.”

Scottsdale City Council is expected to render a decision on the matter at 5 p.m Tuesday, Aug. 25 at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

Councilwoman Littlefield says a movement to create a new sense of community in Scottsdale is growing.

“South Scottsdale is not blighted and it isn’t a dump,” she said.

“It is just older and that makes it more viable for redevelopment. For the most part one of the things I am happy to see is people are trying to stay within the character of the neighborhoods. There is a definite trend toward making south Scottsdale vibrant and alive and that is fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with the people who live there — that is something I am keeping an eye on.”

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

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